Jeff Baker‘s feature in the Oregonian on Katherine Dunn is the kind of author profile I wish there were more of—a thoughtful, multisourced piece on a writer who truly deserves the long-form treatment (h/t Michael Schaub). Dunn’s most recent novel remains 1989’s brilliant Geek Love, and in the 20 years since she’s been busily writing about boxing, both as a journalist and a fiction writer. Her next novel is tentatively titled “Cut Man,” which will do further harm to her strange original plan to title her books:
“I was reading a lot of European history and I thought Attila the Hun had gotten a bad rap,” she said. “I had this notion that I would write books that over time would spell out ‘Attila.’ I had the A. That’s why the second book was called ‘Truck.’ I wrote a third book called ‘Toad’ that was rejected by my editor in a very ferocious fashion: ‘Nobody in this book is likable!’ Which was discouraging. But at that time I was already into a fourth novel … that would have been published, if it ever had been, as ‘Inquiry.’ So then I would have ATTI … In my ambitious days I even thought I would manage ‘Attila the Hun’ but at least I wanted ‘Attila.'”
Her new book is a collection of her boxing journalism titled One Ring Circus. In June she talked to Guernica magazine about the book and the appeal of the sport:
I hope that it’s an invitation to non-boxing fans to take a look at this very peculiar subculture which is built on and devoted to violence, but has a remarkably friendly and often quite hilarious aspect to it. I think many people nowadays have very little access to information about boxing and so they’re left with Hollywood stereotypes, and I think that far too often that gives them the wrong idea. But I think boxing really is a contribution to human culture, in the sense that humans are the most dangerous predator—probably with the exception of a few microbes—and boxing is one of those forms that human society has developed. It’s a kind of stove to keep that fire safe and useful.