Cover image for On bullfighting
On bullfighting
Kennedy, A. L.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Anchor Books, 2001.

Physical Description:
165 pages ; 21 pages cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV1107 .K45 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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An Anchor Books Original

One day, on the brink of despair and contemplating her own mortality, novelist A. L. Kennedy is offered an assignment she can't refuse-an opportunity to travel to Spain and cover a sport that represents the ultimate confrontation with death: bullfighting.

The result is this remarkable book, which takes Kennedy and her readers from the living room of her Glasgow flat to the plazas del toros of Spain and inside the mesmerizing, mystifying, brutal, and beautiful world of the bullfight. Here the sport is death: matadors (literally "killers") are men and, increasingly, women who, not unlike the Roman gladiators before them, provide a spectacle to the crowd, a dance in which their own death is as present as that of the bull. Wonderfully relaying the elements of the sport, from the breeding of the bulls and the training of the matadors to the intricate choreography of the bullfight and its strange connection to the Inquisition, Kennedy meditates on a culture that we may not countenance or fully understand but which is made riveting by the precision of her prose and the passion and humor of her narrative.

Author Notes

A. L. Kennedy lives in Glasgow, Scotland.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In 1998, novelist A. L. Kennedy was offered a chance to travel to Spain to write about its national sport, bullfighting. Having fallen victim to depression and feeling suicidal, she decided to take on the task to "see if she could write again." And, boy, can she ever. For those who can't resist the comparison, rest assured that On Bullfighting is no literary knock-off of Hemingway's well-read tomes on the Spanish blood sport. In fact, Kennedy is almost anti-Hemingway in her approach: instead of emphasizing physicality and machismo as Hemingway was wont to do, Kennedy writes with sensitivity on the more spiritual aspects of ritual bullfighting. Nothing better highlights this point than the introduction, in which Kennedy begins, rather unexpectedly, by describing her desperate flirtation with suicide. She failed to carry it through but, in that momentary confrontation with death, learned to appreciate what the bullfighter must experience every time he steps into the ring. On Bullfighting is Kennedy's graceful meditation on the horror and beauty of a blood sport--the kind that comes close to religious mystery. --Veronica Scrol

Publisher's Weekly Review

Perched on the brink of suicide, English novelist Kennedy (Original Bliss) clings to life by busying herself with an assignment to write about bullfighting. She treks to Spain, throbbing from the pain of a displaced disk, and tries "to discover if the elements which seemed so much a part of the corrida death, transcendence, immortality, joy, pain, isolation and fear would come back to [her]." Once there, she dives into the facts of the bullfight, describing its terms, tracing its history and plumbing its feeling. She examines the poetic and morbid ritual while studying Federico Garc¡a Lorca's legacy and dwelling in her own recurring despair. She strives to create what Lorca referred to as duende, "any piece of art with `dark notes.' " Thus, she parallels her personal crisis with the fear of the bulls, the precision of the matadors and the tragedy of Lorca's sacrifice in order to contemplate the connection between creativity and self-destruction. Unfortunately, Kennedy's own depression overwhelms the potential of her subject. At times she is so self-deprecating that it is difficult to continue reading, as when she writes: "Too many hotel rooms can cause depression if you count a room as empty with me inside it, which of course, I do." Still, although the reader never experiences the rush of invigoration inherent in the bullfight, Kennedy does find some solace in her project, illustrating that while life might be tenuous, it is also, thankfully, tenacious. (Mar. 27) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In many respects, it makes sense to assign a book on the ultimate blood sport to a creative writer who, critics say, isn't afraid to deal with pain in her work. Given Scottish novelist Kennedy's (Original Bliss, So I Am Glad) personal struggle with physical pain, her craft, and life itself, the book works successfully as a meditation on a sport that metaphysically deals with "urges to understand the termination of life and to celebrate survival." As an introduction to a sport, however, it fares less well. The author, who accepts the assignment of writing about bullfighting in the wake of the abortive suicide attempt that begins the book, spends much time reflecting on how the corrida ("bullfight") is less a sport than a religion. Readers may grow impatient with Kennedy's carping about present-day breeders producing more docile bulls, the animals' poor straight-ahead vision, tricks designed to slow or otherwise impair the beasts, and the excessive softening up of the bulls by the picadors' lances, complaints that leave scant room for any examination of other aspects of the sport. Recommended only for large sports collections. Jim Burns, Ottumwa P.L., IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 An Introduction to Deathp. 3
2 To Send a Bull from Heavenp. 18
3 Three Bad Daysp. 34
4 Drop by Drop--The Making of a Torerop. 58
5 Acts of Faithp. 76
6 Self-Portraitp. 103
7 The Gate of Fearp. 131
Glossaryp. 157
Bibliographyp. 166