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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pete Hamill receives A. J. Liebling Award

Journalist and author Pete Hamill has been selected by the Boxing Writers Association of America as the winner of this year’s A. J. Liebling Award. A masterful sportswriter, Hamill also has a special connection to Liebling: he was the editor of both Library of America volumes of his work, one of which was The Sweet Science and Other Writings. In an exclusive interview conducted shortly after the publication of that volume, Hamill spoke of Liebling’s appeal as a boxing writer:
LOA: In January 2003 Sports Illustrated ranked The Sweet Science as #1 of the 100 best sports books ever, hailing Liebling as “pound for pound the top boxing writer of all time. . . . Liebling’s writing is efficient yet stylish, acerbic yet soft and sympathetic.” What makes Liebling’s writing on boxing so great?

Hamill: Above all, he had sympathy for the fighters, and those rogues and craftsmen who helped shape them. As a young man, Liebling had taken his own lessons as a boxer. He learned the hard way how difficult an apprenticeship each fighter must serve, how much skill was involved, how much discipline and will. He knew that the toughest prizefighters could be the gentlest of men. He knew that the toughness they exemplified was not the same as meanness, nor still another version of the loudmouth with a pea-sized heart. The prizefighter was a living example of the stoic virtues Liebling saw growing up in New York, then during the Depression, and most of all, among those who fought World War II. He expressed that sympathy without ever lapsing into sentimentality.
Read the rest of the interview here (PDF).

Hamill has long been advisor to and supporter of The Library of America and has worked on several LOA projects. In addition to the two volumes of Liebling’s work, Hamill edited James T. Farrell: Studs Lonigan and wrote a foreword for Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing. One of his own pieces on boxing, “Up the Stairs with Cus D’Amato,” appears in the forthcoming LOA boxing anthology At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing.

The author of eighteen books, Hamill recent completed his latest novel, Tabloid City, which will be published on May 5—the day before he receives the Liebling Award at the BWAA’s annual dinner in Las Vegas. He was chosen for the award by a committee of veteran boxing writers that included George Kimball and John Schulian (both co-editors of At the Fights), as well as Pulitzer Prize–winner Dave Anderson, Bernard Fernandez, Richard Hoffer, and Ed Schuyler. Click here for the complete list of past winners.

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