The Wrestler's Cruel Study

The Wrestler's Cruel Study

4.5 2
by Stephen Dobyns
     
 

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Wrestling, kidnapping, subplots from the Brothers Grimm, and a young man's search for his missing fiancee are only some of the elements of Stephen Dobyns's dazzling new novel.

Fun and puns mingle with daring make-believe. Larger-than-life characters play out the crucial human questions: How do we live? How do we handle our demons?

Overview

Wrestling, kidnapping, subplots from the Brothers Grimm, and a young man's search for his missing fiancee are only some of the elements of Stephen Dobyns's dazzling new novel.

Fun and puns mingle with daring make-believe. Larger-than-life characters play out the crucial human questions: How do we live? How do we handle our demons?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Dobyns's 15th novel is a philosophical look at a young wrestler's search for his vanished fiance. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Poet and novelist Dobyns ( Body Traffic , LJ 10/1/90; The Two Deaths of Senora Puccini , LJ 5/15/88) has here penned a weirdly comic novel that is part philosophy, part epic, part surreal video. Ostensibly the story of wrestler Michael Marmaduke's search for his kidnapped fiancee, Rose White, this book offers the reader a world in which dualism is the order of the day. What is Michael Marmaduke (a.k.a. Marduk the Magnificent) really searching for--the missing Rose White or his own true self? Dobyns uses wrestling as a metaphor for the age-old struggle between appearance and truth, and his characters represent intriguing examples of human nature coping with lives out of balance. The poetic intensity of his imagery makes Dobyns a delight for lovers of good prose; there is a rich feast here. But those readers unwilling to digest large chunks of philosophy may not want to enter the ring. Recommended for literary fiction collections. For another work by Dobyns, see Saratoga Haunting , reviewed on p. 126.--Ed.-- Dean James, Houston Acad. of Medicine/Texas Medical Ctr. Lib.
Donna Seaman
A poet, author of the popular Saratoga mystery series, and an enticingly inventive novelist, Dobyns dons different hats and masks with aplomb. This capacity for alternate personas may have, in part, inspired this waggish, punning tale. Our hero is Michael Marmaduke, a gentle giant who becomes the hugely popular wrestler Marduk the Magnificent in spite of his fear of causing pain. But Michael is finding out that fame is a liability: his lovely, virginal fiancee, Rose White, has been kidnapped. In the grand tradition of myths and folklore, this catastrophe forces our reluctant warrior to toughen up, confront his enemies, and rescue his maiden. Michael's quest, which involves both mayhem and mysticism, takes us, literally, down into New York City's bizarrely combative spiritual underground, and, metaphorically, deep into the age-old dispute over the origin and nature of good and evil. Dobyns, as gleeful and tricky as a wizard, has a field day. A "lucky" coin with an angel's head on one side and a demon's on the other serves both as a deus ex machina and as a symbol of our inherent duality, while commercial wrestling is revealed as a cliched morality play and opiate for the masses. The rhetoric of Nietzsche plays in amusing counterpoint to a subplot based on the fairy tale about the greedy fisherman's wife, while a host of secret sects indulge in violent and orgiastic ceremonies. A marvelous creation: rambunctious and clever.
Kirkus Reviews
Two gorillas abduct a beautiful maiden from her Manhattan apartment; her fianc‚, a celebrity wrestler, seeks her recovery. His quest is the framework of the most ambitious novel yet from Dobyns (After Shocks/Near Escapes, etc.)—a kind of philosophical joyride that frequently invokes Nietzsche as it investigates such matters as dualism and causality. Michael Marmaduke is a humble Jersey bodybuilder until wrestling trainer Primus Muldoon transforms the gentle blond giant into Marduk the Magnificent. Michael's gentleness becomes his Gimmick; Primus excels at transforming Nietzsche's "bungled and botched" into extravagant heroes and villains, at manipulating images to satisfy a mass-market culture. Rose White's kidnapping, arranged by her malevolent twin Violet, forces Michael out of his cocoon of scripted dualism. Now he must initiate action; now he must think; now the pussycat must become a tiger (exactly what Violet wants). Guided and misguided by Jack Molay, a mysterious old pedant, and by Deep Rat, Violet's sinister emissary, Michael confronts a bewildering variety of physical and intellectual challenges: fights with hybrid men/beasts, rap sessions with the Disputants, street gangs whose beliefs are grounded in early Christian heresies. But this is far from being Michael's story exclusively. Beginning with a wrestling bout at the Garden (the non-Edenic variety), omniscient narrator Dobyns plunges into the Manhattan anthill with the same furious energy that Dos Passos brought to Manhattan Transfer, summoning up a slew of minor characters, many of whom are transfixed by the image of Marduk, and all of whom are at the mercy of chance. There's a fine smoke-and- mirrors climax inwhich Michael defeats the Pseudo-Marduk and arrives at a place far, far beyond good and evil. There are sluggish passages here, notably those involving the hairsplitting Disputants, but only a churl would linger over defects in a work that is so stunningly imaginative, so liberating in its sense of possibilities in life and art, and so much fun.

New York Times Book Review
“Stirs together Nietzschean philosophy, professional wrestling, fairy-tale scenarios and Gnostic speculation to produce what is at once a darkly humorous and gravely unsettling work of imagination.”— Sven Birkerts
Stephen King
“I was reading this book on the treadmill at the YMCA and got laughing so hard at the three wrestling brothers (Prime Rib, Prime Rate, and Prime Time) that I had to get off. Dobyns writes wonderfully surreal prose—it's like John Irving, Joseph Heller, and Norman Bates all rolled together. The Wrestler's Cruel Study is top-of-the-line entertainment: prime rib, prime rate, prime time.”
Robert Boswell
“Unlike any other book any of us will read this year, or next year, or the year after. . . . Dobyns is one of our most original, daring, and gifted writers.”
Sven Birkerts - New York Times Book Review
“Stirs together Nietzschean philosophy, professional wrestling, fairy-tale scenarios and Gnostic speculation to produce what is at once a darkly humorous and gravely unsettling work of imagination.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393347296
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/25/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
1,032,834
File size:
543 KB

What People are saying about this

Hayden Carruth
One hell of a book, believe me. Here we have comedy of every kind—of situation, types, manners, ideas, and language—all rolled seamlessly into one, and for the ultimate serious purpose, our sanity. It is the Supreme Fiction toward which the twentieth century has been steadily advancing from the start.
Stephen King
Dobyns writes wonderfully surreal prose—it's like John Irving, Joseph Heller, and Norman Bates all rolled up together….The Wrestler's Cruel Study is top—of—the—line entertainment.
Robert Boswell
This is a very dark and very funny novel, which is, at once, a mystery, a defense of western civilization, a cartoon strip, an examination of how to live, a thriller, an attack on western civilization, a farce, and a study on the nature of evil. Imagine an urban Twin Peaks but with an intellectual center. It is unlike any other book any of us will read this year, or next year, or the year after….Stephen Dobyns is one of our most original, daring, and gifted writers.

Meet the Author

Stephen Dobyns is a poet and a novelist. He holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught at various academic institutions, including Sarah Lawrence College, the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, the University of Iowa, Syracuse University, and Boston University. He currently resides in Rhode Island.

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The Wrestler's Cruel Study 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
a fantastic novel by an outstanding author. He creates a entirely nevoux world with and ensemble of various characters. Up lifting at times, very farcicle, but creating a highly intellectual overtone of philosophy. a must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Yes, it's rambling. Yes, it's indulgent. But it's also an amazingly intelligent and colorful foray into mythology, and the mythos of pro wrestling. At times dark, funny and inpsiring, ideas of philosophy mix with cartoon adventure and intrigue. I found it a bit long, but not unlike a good opera.