Sunday, November 26, 1995

Jack Johnson Is a Dandy

by Jack Johnson

The autobiography of boxing great Jack Johnson. The man had a fascinating life – marrying four women, two white; opening a cabaret that allowed both blacks and whites; escaping prison through a clever ruse; traveling the globe engaging in various business and athletic exploits; spying for the U.S. government; going back to prison willingly – and so on, all in the early 1900s. His book (and I don't see why he couldn't have written the bulk himself) is very repetitive, patchy, insufficiently explanatory in places, and jumps around chronologically so as to be very confusing. However, it's still readable, and I did enjoy it. There's one section that deals with moderation in diet, the role of "the new woman" and how she should stay home, and the decline of the world due to cabarets and jazz music; this section I cannot believe Johnson wrote as he lead a very strenuous life himself, was hardly temperate, took his wives everywhere with him, and was in fact a jazz musician and cabaret owner. Other than that passage, the book was interesting throughout, and had a touching epilogue by his last wife attesting to his gentleness with women. Now, of course, I have to read a biography of him, to find out what of what Johnson wrote were lies...

three stars

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