THE MAN GAME By Lee Henderson Viking Canada, 513 pages, $32 It begins with a handshake, a moment of solemnity and ritual before all hell breaks loose: A bizarre, cartoonish competition that combines ballroom dancing, ultimate fighting, wire-work kung fu and bare-knuckle boxing in a gracefully brutal show of, essentially, two men beating the hell out of each other.
Thanks to Caroline Skelton at the North Shore News for the nice profile piece! It runs under the slow-news-day headline: Rules of The Man Game hard to pin down. I’ll copy-paste the piece and put it under the perforated fold line because I have no idea how long things stay on the weird canada.com website system…
After a gruelling week working on the docks, the longshoremen would gather to fight. Convening in a ring in the middle of a rented legion hall in New Westminster, just outside Vancouver, they’d engage in a pastime some may think of as deranged but one they found cathartic: hardcore wrestling.
Lee Henderson visited these real-life fight clubs on an anthropological quest – and on assignment for The Vancouver Sun – interviewing the men about why they did what they did and learning the secrets of this spectacle, part gladiator match, part ballet.
On a recent Vancouver Sunday afternoon, a young man stumbles upon a secret sport invented more than a century before, at the birth of his city. Thus begins The Man Game, an epic tale of loved requited and not, that crosses the contemporary and historical in an extravagant, anarchistic retelling of the early days of a pioneer town on the edge of the known world.
In 1886, out of the smouldering ashes of the great fire that destroyed much of the city,Molly Erwagen—former vaudeville performer—arrives from Toronto with her beloved husband, Samuel, to start a new life. Meanwhile, Litz and Pisk, two lumberjacks exiled after the fire, and blamed for having started it, are trying to clear their names. Before long, they’ve teamed up with Molly to invent a new sport that will change the course of that fledgling city’s history.
Lee Henderson is the author of The Broken Record Technique, which was widely praised and went on to win the Danuta Gleed Literary Award. He has also won a Western Magazine Award for his short fiction and his work appeared in the prestigious Journey Prize Stories in 2000 and 2006. He is a regular contributor to Border Crossings and Contemporary, and he has curated numerous exhibitions of emerging Canadian artists. He lives in Vancouver, B.C. His eagerly anticipated new novel, The Man Game, will be published
August 5, 2008.