Cover image for Shadow-box
Logue, Antonia.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Grove Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
308 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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Based on one of the greatest and most unusual love stories of the 20th century, this literary novel explores the life of Arthur Cravan--semi-professional boxer, influential art critic, legendary bon vivant, and nephew of Oscar Wilde.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

It is 1946, and a man and a woman renew their acquaintance through letters, each recalling their past histories and the one person--friend to the former, lover and husband to the latter--whom they have in common. The first remarkable thing about this debut novel is that those two people--seemingly plucked at random from the haze of early twentieth-century personalities--are Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world, and Mina Loy, the modernist poet. The man who is the link between these two is Arthur Cravan, himself a boxer, a con man, an art critic, and something of a cultural provocateur. He was also the nephew of Oscar Wilde. The second remarkable thing is that the voices of Johnson and Loy sound absolutely authentic. Loy's descriptions of Italian Futurist events, or of New York literary society in the late 1910s, are completely offhand and unapologetic. While Johnson's recollections of his bouts and his stormy life would make a tabloid sportswriter envious. These sound like letters; more to the point, they sound autobiographical. And when the enigmatic Cravan is brought into the story, there is just that touch of the uncanny that makes it all seem like life. --Frank Caso

Publisher's Weekly Review

The dual metaphor of shadow-box (a shallow container to display items/to spar with an imaginary opponent) figures luminously in Irish writer Logue's notable debut, an epistolary novel focusing on a trio of outrageous historical figures whose adventures span three continents and two world wars, spawning acquaintance with such notables as Marcel Duchamp and William Carlos Williams. Logue imagines the 1946 correspondence between celebrated modernist poet Mina Loy and Jack Johnson, legendary black heavyweight boxing champion. What could they possibly have in common? The answer is Arthur Cravan, writer, critic, surrealist gadfly, nephew of Oscar Wilde, semiprofessional boxer and either the prototypical performance artist of this century or an unregenerate con man. Among his finest "works" was a faux prizefight he and Johnson once staged in Barcelona to raise money for Cravan's passage to America. In New York, he courted Loy, their passionate affair culminating in a Mexican marriage at which Johnson served as best man. Shortly thereafter, Cravan disappeared, reportedly drowned off the Guatemalan coast. Decades later, Loy and Johnson's letters detail their life stories and many painful, nostalgic Cravan anecdotes, each trying to make sense of their cumulative losses and triumphs. This correspondence between a brilliant femme fatale and a debauched egotist veers toward self-justification, self-promotion and self-obsession. Johnson relates bitter, blow-by-blow accounts of his battles in and out of the ring; Loy counters with tales of her daring escape from societal and marital chains, and her assault on literary mores. Several missives are included from the notorious Cravan, and his and Loy's daughter, Fabienne, but it is Johnson and Loy's vivid, excitable voices that breathe life into characters who seem fully engaged only when they are on public display. Logue's depiction of their world, where even the shadows are shadowboxing, is imaginatively conceived and elegantly executed. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Logue, a young Irish writer, makes an impressive debut with this ambitious first novel. The story unfolds through the letters of celebrated modernist poet and artist Mina Loy and Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world. Mina and Jack met nearly 30 years earlier at Mina's wedding to boxer, art critic, and Dadaist Arthur Cravan, nephew of Oscar Wilde. Shortly after their marriage, Cravan left pregnant Mina on a Mexican beach and sailed off to Chile to avoid World War I. In their letters, beginning in 1946, Mina and Jack relive their lives up until they met Cravan and share what has happened since. The plot is far reaching and historically accurate; Logue is adept at giving unique voices to Mina and Jack and effectively conveying the story through their correspondence, offering the reader a unique perspective on the social, artistic, and political climate in the United States and abroad in the early part of the century. For all libraries.√ĄDianna Moeller, OCLC/WLN Pacific Northwest Svc. Ctr., Lacey, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.