Photo by pmorgan used under a Creative Commons license.
A.L. Kennedy, On Bullfighting (Anchor, 2001).
Struggling with writer’s block and depression, Kennedy, a Scottish novelist, took a commission to write on bullfighting, eventually resulting in this book. Kennedy did some research and traveled to Spain, where she saw several bullfights in 1998 and 1999. The result is a short and personal account with an expansive treatment of the cultural meaning of the sport and ritual. Perhaps because of her own distress, Kennedy is particularly attuned to the spectacle of death in the corrida — the bull’s and often the bullfighters — and while not an expert, at least at the outset, she wrote a terrific book on the subject.
Here is Kennedy’s site, and here is Wikipedia’s bio. Stanley Conrad reviews it at Mundo Taurino, a site devoted to bullfighting — he calls On Bullfighting a valuable grounding for anyone new to the bullfights. Dea Birkett (The Independent) calls it informative, minutely observed and beautifully written, but also surprisingly cold. The book caught hold of Marla M. Mitchell’s imagination. The New Yorker appreciated brilliant descriptions of the action in the ring. Troy Patterson (EW) says Kennedy charges in with curiosity and a flinty wit. Monica Drake (The Portland Mercury) is put off by Kennedy’s writing about herself. Briar Grace-Smith (The Turbine) enjoyed it immensely (scroll down).Gavin J. Grant’s interview with Kennedy focused on the book. So did Julia Livshin’s interview with her for The Atlantic. Maud Newton interviewed her too. Kennedy wrote about an eleven-year-old matador for The Guardian about a month ago.