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A captivating biography about boxing's underdog-turned-hero, Rocky Marciano: Anna Stroud reviews Unbeaten

Published in the Sunday Times 

Unbeaten: Rocky Marciano’s Fight for Perfection in a Crooked World *****
Mike Stanton
Pan Macmillan, R330

He was too old by boxing standards when he started, his arms were too short, his stance too wide, his feet too flat.

And yet, when he retired from boxing in 1956, Rocky Marciano became the only undefeated heavyweight champion in history with a record of 49-0. His title fight with Jersey Joe Walcott in 1952 was marred by controversy, but was also testament to his indefatigable will and endurance. The guy could pack – and take – a punch.

Rocky was always an unlikely hero; the son of an Italian shoemaker growing up during the Depression in Brockton, Massachusetts. His mother never once watched him fight, opting to pray for him instead.

At first, the press and boxing critics ridiculed his lack of technique and called him a brawler, not a boxer. But time after time his thunderous right – dubbed Suzie Q by his manager Charlie Goldman – punched its way into the history books and the hearts of Americans.

When he died in an aircraft accident on August 31 1969 – the day before his 46th birthday – sportswriter Jim Murray wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Start the count, he’ll get up. A lot of us today are wishing there were an honest referee in a cornfield in Iowa.”

These small details make Unbeaten a captivating read. Mike Stanton not only paints a compelling portrait of an underdog-turned-hero, he captures the spirit of the time – from the shady characters who pulled the strings behind the scenes of boxing to the exquisite art of sports writing.

Throughout his career, Rocky had to contend with corrupt boxing officials, Mafia bosses and his own demons at ringside.

Stanton lays bare Rocky’s triumphs as well as his tragedies with crisp writing and rigorous research. Mohammed Ali’s biographer Jonathan Eig calls it “an irresistible story”.

Agreed. @annawriter_

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Selfies, seksklets & slimfone is die boek wat elke tiener (en hul ouers) móét lees

As ’n tiener in vandag se tegnoverslaafde wêreld van sosiale media en internet dink jy dalk jy is piekfyn en jy weet presies wat jy doen.

Tog: selfs JY weet nie van al die wetlike struikelblokke, verskuilde gevare en toekomstige implikasies van alles wat jy nou aanlyn doen, sien en plaas nie.

Selfies, seksklets en slimfone is die boek wat elke tiener (en hul ouers) móét lees.

Dit dek al die belangrike kwessies wat tieners in die digitale era in die gesig staar, insluitende kuberboelies, seksklets, verslawing, internetveiligheid, pornografie, angstigheid, depressie, veiligheid en reputasie.

Die boek is boonop spesifiek vir die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks geskryf.

Hierdie boek sal jou op ’n verstaanbare, interessante en selfs prettige manier help om ’n gelukkige, bevredigende en – belangrikste van alles – veilige lewe aanlyn te hê.
 
Emma Sadleir is Suid-Afrika se voorste kenner op die gebied van die wetlike aspekte rondom sosiale media. Sy is die stigter van die Digital Law Company, wat spesialiseer in die opvoeding van maatskappye, werknemers, skole, ouers, onderwysers en universiteite rakende die wetlike, dissiplinêre en reputasie-risiko’s van sosiale media. Emma is ook medeskrywer van die boek Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex and Other Legal Advice for the Age of Social Media.

Boekbesonderhede

Discussion: The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela (22 November, Bridge Books)

Have you ever attended a launch sans author? Try something new and join The Cheeky Natives for a discussion on Sisonke Msimang’s latest book, The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela – Thursday, 22 November at Bridge Books. ‘Til then, Egoli!

The death of Winnie Madikizela Mandela on 2 April this year unleashed a hailstorm of opinion.

On one side, her legacy was cast by the media and public in the shadow of her sanctified ex-husband. Winnie was history’s loser. She was damaged goods; Nelson Mandela was whole and pure.

A younger generation, in particular women, took a different view and so a battle of ideas began that sought to reframe Winnie’s career and reclaim her identity as an extraordinary woman and fierce political activist.

Sisonke Msimang, an acclaimed author and public commentator, wasted little time in jumping into the fray.

And when the dust settled, what emerged is this short but razor-sharp book which reflects critically on the turbulent yet remarkable life of Winnie.

Msimang situates her political career and legacy in the contemporary context, what she means today in social and political terms, by exploring different aspects of her iconic persona.

The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela is an astute examination of one of South Africa’s most controversial political figures, of the rise and fall – and rise, again, – of a woman who not only battled the apartheid regime, but the patriarchal character of the struggle itself.

In telling Winnie’s story, Msimang shows us that activism matters, and that the meaning of women’s lives can be reclaimed.

SISONKE MSIMANG currently lives in Perth, Australia, where she is Programme Director for the Centre for Stories.

She is regularly in South Africa where she continues to speak and comment on current affairs.

Sisonke has degrees from Macalester College, Minnesota and the University of Cape Town, is a Yale World Fellow, an Aspen New Voices Fellow, and was a Ruth First Fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand.

She regularly contributes to The Guardian, The Daily Maverick and The New York Times.

Her first book, Always Another Country, was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award for 2018.

Event Details

Verandah lunch with Vanessa Raphaely, author of Plus One (29 November)

The Book Revue invites you to lunch on the verandah with Vanessa Raphaely, author of Plus One.

 
Raphaely’s long career in women’s media included years in London, where she launched and edited a major health and beauty magazine, and in South Africa, where she was the multi-award-winning editor of Cosmopolitan and long-time content director of Associated Media, publisher of O, Good Housekeeping and Marie Claire, amongst others. Vanessa currently lives in Cape Town. Plus One is her debut novel.

Plus One is an exciting novel set in the fast living world of magazines and the jet set. This glamorous life comes at a price and as the friend to a gorgeous and up and coming film star, Lisa Lassiter has to learn to play second fiddle.

It’s a well written and exciting story with a twist in the tail and we promise you, you will be hooked. Perfect holiday reading!

Event Details

Launch - And Then Mama Said... by Tumi Morake (15 November)

Tumi Morake modelled her public persona on her mother, a charming and contentious woman who used her big, bold voice to say what others were afraid to utter. It’s the personality that Tumi took on stage in the mostly male space of stand-up comedy, and the one that gave her the courage to join a white, Afrikaans radio station and comment about apartheid on air.

But there’s only so much you can find out about Tumi from the stage, the screen and the internet. And Then Mama Said… is the voice of Tumi in private, as well as a behind-thescenes perspective of a pioneering South African star who has been both deeply loved and viciously hated by her audiences.

Tumi gets frank about the race row at Jacaranda FM; the Jaguar car accident that cyber bullies said she deserved; the body-shaming she endured on the set of Our Perfect Wedding; and her tumultuous relationship with her beloved husband. Throughout her story, she carries the voice of her mother, and with it the indispensable life lessons that made her who she is today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tumi Morake is an award-winning South African stand-up comedienne, television host and actress. She also wears the hats of TV producer and writer. Morake cut her teeth as a writer on SABC’s flagship sitcoms and broke into television acting through those channels. She is dubbed as one of South Africa’s queens of comedy, headlining on local and international stages. She is a mother of three and wife of one. Morake has dabbled in radio and remains one of South Africa’s most sought-after acts. She also sits on the board of directors at Summat Training Institute and St. Aquinas College.

Event Details

Township Violence and the End of Apartheid studies the conflicts between the ANC and the IFP that took place in SA's industrial heartland surrounding Johannesburg

A powerful re-reading of modern South African history following apartheid that examines the violent transformation during the transition era and how this was enacted in the African townships of the Witwatersrand.
— Roger Southall, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

In 1993 South Africa state president F.W. de Klerk and African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize ‘for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime’.

Yet, while both deserved the plaudits they received for entering the negotiations that led to the end of apartheid, the four years of negotiations preceding the April 1994 elections, known as the transition era, were not ‘peaceful’: they were the bloodiest of the entire apartheid era, with an estimated 14,000 deaths attributed to politically related violence.

This book studies, for the first time, the conflicts between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party that took place in South Africa’s industrial heartland surrounding Johannesburg. Exploring these events through the perceptions and memories of combatants and non-combatants from war-torn areas, along with security force members, politicians and violence monitors, offers new possibilities for understanding South Africa’s turbulent transition.

Challenging the prevailing narrative which attributes the bulk of the violence to a joint state security force and IFP assault against ANC supporters, the author argues for a more expansive approach that incorporates the aggression of ANC militants, the intersection between criminal and political violence, and especially clashes between groups aligned with the ANC.

Gary Kynoch is Associate Professor of History at Dalhousie University. He has also written We are Fighting the World: A History of the Marashea Gangs in South Africa, 1947-1999 (2005).

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