April 20, 1987 12:00 PM

by Joyce Carol Oates

She teaches at Princeton, sometimes publishes as many as four books a year (more than 40 to date) and looks thin and introverted in her rimmed spectacles. What does Joyce Carol Oates know about boxing? Everything she learned from her father, who loved it, and everything she picked researching a novel that is going to be published next fall. So she had all this information she had collected, and when Oates is bubbling over with information about anything, another book is on its way. On Boxing, with fine photographs by John Ranard, is a collection of musings on what Oates insists is not a sport: “One plays football, one doesn’t playboxing.” She is drawn to it because “Each boxing match is a story—a unique and highly condensed drama without words.” She touches on money, pain, books about boxing, movies, sportswriting, women, machismo, literature. She punctuates the book with quotations from all sorts of people, and some of these comments have a power of their own. Says Larry Holmes, former heavyweight champion: “It’s hard being black. You ever been black? I was black once—when I was poor.” But perhaps the most telling story she recounts is about actor Dustin Hoffman, who “recalls a boxing match he had seen as a boy: As the triumphant boxer left the ring to pass up the aisle, an ecstatic fight fan, male, followed closely after him, wiping all he could of the sweat from the boxer’s body onto himself.” In her way Oates has done the same thing, breaking out of her rarefied literary prison, wiping the sweat of fighters onto herself. (Doubleday, $14.95)

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