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“I remembered losing fights. That feeling of being squashed by someone else’s not quite so squashy flesh. Blood in the cheeks and sometimes in the mouth. I didn’t want that again. But maybe I had to face it. Because if I was going to do some wrestling myself – to find out what William was on about – this is what I’d be up against.” Toby Litt's father wanted him to find abou “I remembered losing fights. That feeling of being squashed by someone else’s not quite so squashy flesh. Blood in the cheeks and sometimes in the mouth. I didn’t want that again. But maybe I had to face it. Because if I was going to do some wrestling myself – to find out what William was on about – this is what I’d be up against.” Toby Litt's father wanted him to find about their ancestor: William Litt, a champion Cumberland Wrestler. William was one of the greatest ever ‘kings of the green’ – a man who reigned undefeated in one of the nineteenth century’s most popular sports, taking home over 200 prize belts. William had other talents, as well. He was almost certainly a smuggler – and definitely published poet and novelist. But Toby knew that coming to terms with him would be hard. A huge and fascinating man, William was also troubling. He ended his life in poverty and exile. And as well as having to measure himself up against this apparent paragon of masculinity, Toby would have to uncover uncomfortable memories and hard truths. Would Toby like what he found out about himself along the way? As a novelist, as a son, and as a father in turn? Would he have to get in the wrestling ring? ... Would he even want to? Using the nineteenth century as a guide, Wrestliana asks vital questions about modern-day masculinity, competition, and success. It is a beautiful portrait of two men and their different worlds, full of surprises and sympathy, and a wonderful evocation of a lost place and time.


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“I remembered losing fights. That feeling of being squashed by someone else’s not quite so squashy flesh. Blood in the cheeks and sometimes in the mouth. I didn’t want that again. But maybe I had to face it. Because if I was going to do some wrestling myself – to find out what William was on about – this is what I’d be up against.” Toby Litt's father wanted him to find abou “I remembered losing fights. That feeling of being squashed by someone else’s not quite so squashy flesh. Blood in the cheeks and sometimes in the mouth. I didn’t want that again. But maybe I had to face it. Because if I was going to do some wrestling myself – to find out what William was on about – this is what I’d be up against.” Toby Litt's father wanted him to find about their ancestor: William Litt, a champion Cumberland Wrestler. William was one of the greatest ever ‘kings of the green’ – a man who reigned undefeated in one of the nineteenth century’s most popular sports, taking home over 200 prize belts. William had other talents, as well. He was almost certainly a smuggler – and definitely published poet and novelist. But Toby knew that coming to terms with him would be hard. A huge and fascinating man, William was also troubling. He ended his life in poverty and exile. And as well as having to measure himself up against this apparent paragon of masculinity, Toby would have to uncover uncomfortable memories and hard truths. Would Toby like what he found out about himself along the way? As a novelist, as a son, and as a father in turn? Would he have to get in the wrestling ring? ... Would he even want to? Using the nineteenth century as a guide, Wrestliana asks vital questions about modern-day masculinity, competition, and success. It is a beautiful portrait of two men and their different worlds, full of surprises and sympathy, and a wonderful evocation of a lost place and time.

45 review for Wrestliana

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    Edgar Linton is wild Cathy’s fake husband – a disgusting, sickly milksop who likes reading poetry; Heathcliff, you probably don’t need me to tell you, is a dark, virile destroyer who likes causing pain. In the mid 1840s Emily Bronte was dividing men into two types: mental and physical. For her, the physically weak are worthless. I still though I was more like Heathcliff than Edgar Linton. Toby Litt is known as an author of fiction, and was one of the 2003 Granta list of 20 'Best of Young British Edgar Linton is wild Cathy’s fake husband – a disgusting, sickly milksop who likes reading poetry; Heathcliff, you probably don’t need me to tell you, is a dark, virile destroyer who likes causing pain. In the mid 1840s Emily Bronte was dividing men into two types: mental and physical. For her, the physically weak are worthless. I still though I was more like Heathcliff than Edgar Linton. Toby Litt is known as an author of fiction, and was one of the 2003 Granta list of 20 'Best of Young British Novelists.' He is also a graduate of the UEA's famous Creative Writing program (alumni include a Nobel prize winner in Ishiguro as well as many other famous writers - http://www.uea.ac.uk/literature/creat...) and now teaches creative writing himself at Birbeck College. His great-great-great grandfather was William Litt, a champion Cumberland wrestler, one of Britain's most popular sports in the early 19th century, and also author of the definitive history of the sport, Wrestliana: An Historical Account of Ancient and Modern Wrestling / By W. Litt, as well as a, less successful, novel William and Mary. Toby Litt had been urged by his father to write a novel based on William's life, but was struggling to do so until: In the Autumn of 2014, I sat down and read William’s book Wrestliana for the first time – and I suddenly saw a way in. Through William. Even during his lifetime, a friend referred to him as ‘a kind of anomaly in nature’ – an unprecedented combination of athletic superiority and literary talent. William was like a combination of my father and I. Here was a man who was both a wrestler and a writer – who was both physical and intellectual. This both is absolutely not me, and it’s not many other men – men who work at desks. It seems that this – balanced – is something we’re not able to be. Perhaps because the two tribes, Jocks and Nerds, have become so far apart – their rituals and sacrifices; perhaps because we each of us have to hyperspecialize in order to become halfway good at any skill. If you’re an athlete, you train so many hours of the day that you never have time to read a book; if you’re a writer or a programmer or an administrator, you spend so many years at the desk that your muscles go slack, your belly grows and your spine gets crocked. And if you’re well-balanced, you’re a well-balanced mediocrity. But because William, somehow, was able – if only for a few years – to exist successfully in both worlds, physical and mental, he seemed to me an ideal figure: someone from whom I could learn things I needed to learn. I decided to write a new book and to call it Wrestliana – to take William on, on his home ground. Because all of this being a man stuff was something I needed to wrestle with. To be a better son and to be a better father. To be a better man. And from this inspiration was born Toby Litt's Wrestliana, published by the wonderful Galley Beggar Press (https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...), of whom I am proud to be a Galley Buddy, helping sponsor their high quality literary output. Wrestliana is a non-fictional account of William Litt's life and sporting career, but, more than that, an evocative account of an historical era and a fascinating sport (a sport which still continues to the present day, and the present-day sections are particularly interesting), as well as a meditation on masculinity and fatherhood, sport and competition, and also a discussion of creative writing. Litt proclaims I was starting to think of everything in terms of wrestling, and the concept of his treatment works very well. But Toby Litt is, as I said, both a graduate and teacher of creative writing, and so not surprisingly, Wrestliana almost writes its own critical review. Early on he muses that research uses stifles his novelistic creativity (For me to be say something alive about a subject, I need to be energentially ignorant and still enthusiastic rather than exhaustedly well-informed.) but that here he felt that he would have to do proper research. I am not in general a fan of family memoir as the author typically has more interest in their subject that the reader and at times I found myself indeed exhaustedly over-informed, in particular as to the methods of Litt's research in addition to the results. At another point, Litt suggests he found himself becoming overinfluenced by the florid prose of his ancestor - it was as if ... he was taking control of my pen. The rhythms I fell into were his. When I tried to produce simple, direct sentences, he started to add asides and sub-clauses. - and he includes an example of such a first draft of one section, that he subsequently simplified. To this reader, as someone who loves the circular prose of writers like Javier Marias and Javier Cercas - I actually rather preferred this sample of William-Littesque digressive prose to Toby's 'simple, direct' sentences. However the most striking aspect of the book is that, again in the author's words: I am aware that this is a very Male book, and that it seems to take masculinity very much on its own terms. At times this did seem a rather male public boarding school version of masculinity - particularly the desire to be both Nerd and Jock. I am a father of three daughters so it may be that I simply haven't had the experience of a father-son relationship from the parental side, but I struggled to sympathise with Litt's seeming pressure, as someone more from the sedentary side of working life, to also prove himself on the sporting side. To me the Nerds and Geeks have won and that is a good thing. Interestingly in the world of writing, Toby Litt pinpoints the consciously macho male writer as a peculiarly American thing (eg an oddly common fetish with sharpening a certain number of pencils before starting work), which may also explain my lack of love for the Great American Novel(list). The book also comes with a rather ill-timed choice of epigraph - ‘You wrestle with your family your entire life.’ - from Junot Diaz, a point Litt addresses on his website: https://tobylitt.wordpress.com/2018/0... So overall, a fascinating story and presented via an excellent concept, but not entirely to my personal taste.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jackie Law

    Wrestliana, by Toby Litt, is part memoir, part biography. It is an exploration of fathers and sons, and what it means to be a man, particularly in our modern world. I wondered whilst reading if I could be amongst its audience, if I could understand. Certain elements of the narrative made me uncomfortable. I found myself wanting to point out that girls play football and mothers stand on touchlines. Despite it being an intensely personal story I needed to step back from the author and focus on the Wrestliana, by Toby Litt, is part memoir, part biography. It is an exploration of fathers and sons, and what it means to be a man, particularly in our modern world. I wondered whilst reading if I could be amongst its audience, if I could understand. Certain elements of the narrative made me uncomfortable. I found myself wanting to point out that girls play football and mothers stand on touchlines. Despite it being an intensely personal story I needed to step back from the author and focus on the writing. Toby Litt’s forebears lived in Cumberland in the eighteenth century. One of them, William Litt, was, for a time, a local wrestling champion. He was also a writer and published the original Wrestliana – ‘a history of wrestling from its origins’. Toby grew up hearing his father talk of his great-great-grandfather: the wrestling; his time as a smuggler; the loss of a small fortune; his escape to Canada where he died. When Toby decided that he wanted to be a writer the only story his father wanted him to tell was that of William. This is also, however, the story of Toby. As well as exploring the lives of his wider family, he shares: how he was bullied at school; his time living in Prague; his hopes for his own two sons; how he teaches Creative Writing. When teaching dialogue he tells his class: “When two men say Hello in the street, one of them loses.” Toby describes himself as competitive and many of his musings are around whether, in any given situation, he has won or lost. This attitude overflows into his writing life, his thoughts on other writers and their work. I baulked at the apparently disparaging comments about John Boyne whose books I enjoy. I understood better when I read an interview Toby gave to The Word Factory from which I quote: “For other writers, the job is to entertain, to tell fulfilling stories. The writers you mention – you could also have included Henry James – are Modernists, Make-it-new-ists. They were the writers who got to me. I suppose I thought they were trying to do something more difficult and worthwhile. An entertainment doesn’t attempt to change its audience – it reassures them that, going in, they have all they need to understand and enjoy it. As a reader, I wanted to be changed by what I read. I didn’t want to be myself. Books were a way for me of moving gradually away from who I started as. I think that’s what books have done for me.” Following the John Boyne encounter, Toby mentions his reaction when a book he believed was amongst his best work was entered for the Booker Prize, and the crushing disappointment he felt when it was not longlisted. The pages on writers and literary prizes are enlightening. Toby has long eschewed sport but, once immersed in his extensive research about William, found himself considering the importance placed on a man’s physical size, strength and prowess. William’s politics, his beliefs, are described as “manly, patriotic, straightforward” Toby considers: his own life as a family man and writer, those moments when he ‘won’; if this is all that matters and if, in aging, the best times are gone. There is an undercurrent, a fear of, inferiority, or being seen as such. Perhaps a more competitive person than I will empathise. Everything that William wrote, of which there is still a record, is dissected and examined in forensic detail to provide a picture of the man, the life he led, and why. This includes gaining an understanding of the style of wrestling at which he excelled and which is still practised in the north of England. Toby visits to observe and talk to those involved. I found the sections describing in detail the sport the least interesting. The history on the other hand proved engaging, as did the comparisons and attitudes across the generations. Toby deploys the analogy of wrestling to life and this spills over into his relationships with his father and his sons. There appears to be a need to prove oneself different yet better, to escape from under the family shadow yet still be deemed worthy. Near the end of the book he regrets that his sons cannot compete in the traditional wrestling bouts he has been learning of. I wonder what they would think of this idea. Despite my inability to empathise with the author’s attitude to being a man in the modern world, the book offers an interesting history and perspective. I would have preferred the impact of the women involved to be taken more into account but understand it is intended to be only about the men. A need to feel macho may be beyond my comprehension but in presenting his thoughts and feelings so honestly the author offers insight into what can prove toxic concerns. It is an alluring read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    My Goodreads friend Gumble's Yard posted a review of this book when I was 50 pages from the end. He ended his review in the way that I planned to start mine: this feels like a literary version of the TV series "Who Do You Think You Are" where a celebrity traces their family history normally getting held up at a particularly interesting person where they stop to fill in the details. Occasionally, they do not get side-tracked and end up back at royalty and, by extension, God. In Gumble's Yard's cas My Goodreads friend Gumble's Yard posted a review of this book when I was 50 pages from the end. He ended his review in the way that I planned to start mine: this feels like a literary version of the TV series "Who Do You Think You Are" where a celebrity traces their family history normally getting held up at a particularly interesting person where they stop to fill in the details. Occasionally, they do not get side-tracked and end up back at royalty and, by extension, God. In Gumble's Yard's case, this comparison is not a particularly positive thing. I, however, am a keen fan of WDYTYA partly for the genealogy and partly for the history lesson that accompanies most of the individuals whose lives are explored. I have researched my own family tree back to the English Civil War. Toby Litt's book concentrates on his 3xgreat-grandfather who was, amongst other things, primarily a wrestler. My own 3xgreat-grandfather (the one with the family name - there are lots to choose from) was a baker in a village in Lincolnshire. A little like Litt, I have done some research, although he has clearly put a lot more time and effort into it than I have. I have visited the village and been invited into what is now a house but used to be (for many, many years) the George bakery. I have found and acquired a book containing some family history and transcriptions of recipes used by the George family (Pound of Fine Flower: Recipes from a Lincolnshire Village Bakery of the 1830s (sic)). So, I understand where Toby Litt is coming from with the genealogy (which therefore makes his genealogical sin of referring to himself as a ancestor rather than a descendant of his 3xgreat-grandfather more unforgivable). In an interesting twist, my wife's side of our family tree traces back "up north" in the UK and ends up, along one branch, with people with Lonsdale in their name. Lonsdale is an important title in Litt’s book, so my interest was piqued. I have not yet found out what the appearance of Lonsdale means for my wife's family, but we are on the trail. If I come across Litts, it will be very interesting, although unlikely as the Lonsdales and Litts are not blood relatives, just acquaintances. So far, so good. This should tick a lot of boxes for me. The other key aspect of this book is an exploration of masculinity. ”William was like a combination of my father and I. Here was a man who was both a wrestler and a writer – who was both physical and intellectual. This both is absolutely not me, and it’s not many other men – men who work at desks. It seems that this – balanced – is something we’re not able to be. Perhaps because the two tribes, Jocks and Nerds, have become so far apart – their rituals and sacrifices; perhaps because we each of us have to hyperspecialize in order to become halfway good at any skill. If you’re an athlete, you train so many hours of the day that you never have time to read a book; if you’re a writer or a programmer or an administrator, you spend so many years at the desk that your muscles go slack, your belly grows and your spine gets crocked. And if you’re well-balanced, you’re a well-balanced mediocrity. But because William, somehow, was able – if only for a few years – to exist successfully in both worlds, physical and mental, he seemed to me an ideal figure: someone from whom I could learn things I needed to learn. I decided to write a new book and to call it Wrestliana – to take William on, on his home ground. Because all of this being a man stuff was something I needed to wrestle with. To be a better son and to be a better father. To be a better man. As Litt is an author by trade, a lot of his thinking reflects back to the process of writing and what success as a writer means. He often seems, self-deprecatingly, to regard himself as a loser. And a lot of the talk about masculinity is in terms of winning. Or about combining these jock and nerd tribes. I was less convinced by this part of the book and it sometimes headed towards self-indulgence. This is the tricky thing with these family memoirs: they are fascinating for the family involved, but it is harder to maintain the interest of outsiders (so I apologise for all the stuff about bakers in Lincolnshire above). Overall, this is a mixed bag for me. As a man, I have to acknowledge struggling to relate to much of the talk about masculinity: it just didn’t seem relevant to my own life. But much of the book was interesting to read even if it headed off into Litt-land a bit too deeply for an outsider at times.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    I am aware that this is a very male book, and that seems to take masculinity very much on its own terms. It’s about wrestling, for goodness sake. There is a big subject here, but it presents itself flickeringly. If you are a man you are faced – moment by moment – with thousands of micro-conflicts. Unless you stay indoors, in bed, under the covers, you can’t avoid them. Who will win the Battle of the Zebra Crossing? Who will triumph in the Getting Off the Train first Sweepstake? Who will win the I am aware that this is a very male book, and that seems to take masculinity very much on its own terms. It’s about wrestling, for goodness sake. There is a big subject here, but it presents itself flickeringly. If you are a man you are faced – moment by moment – with thousands of micro-conflicts. Unless you stay indoors, in bed, under the covers, you can’t avoid them. Who will win the Battle of the Zebra Crossing? Who will triumph in the Getting Off the Train first Sweepstake? Who will win the Eternal Factoid Smackdown down the pub? Galley Beggar Press is a small Norfolk based publisher responsible which aims to produce and support beautiful books and a vibrant, eclectic, risk-taking range of literature and which declares an aim to publish books that are hardcore literary fiction and gorgeous prose. This description has been taken as the criteria for the Republic Of Consciousness prize for small presses (http://www.republicofconsciousness.co...) for which fittingly it has been shortlisted in 2016 (with Forbidden Line) and to date longlisted in 2017 with We That Are Young. Its most striking success though to date has been in being prepared to publish “A Girl is a Half Formed Thing” which had taken 9 years to find a publisher and of course went on to win the Bailey’s Prize. Recently it launched a non-fiction range – books which could, to date, best be described I think as literary non-fiction memoirs with a heavy influence from literature and writing. Ultimately also books which are to a very large extent about the writing process which lead to them. The first was the wonderful “Tinderbox” and this is the second of their non-fiction publications – by Toby Litt, a novelist picked (as he mentions in this book) as one of Granta’s 20 Best Young British Novelists in 2003 and a lecturer in creative writing (which also features in this book). This is (as the opening quote) suggests, though mainly a book about masculinity – one could say the crisis of masculinity. In fact this is the second book on this topic I read over a single weekend – the first being Tim Winton’s searing novel “The Shepherd’s Hut”. Winton’s novel looks at what he calls toxic masculinity and how an absence of sustainable role models leads boys to misogyny from an early age and leads to them being marginalised by society, so entrenching their behaviour. This book comes from a very different angle. Toby Litt, partly scarred by the macho-ism of Boarding School, took a conscious decision to reject violence, to take the sides of the nerd in the geek/jock stand-off, lives with a strong and independent feminist. However the widower-hood of his father causes him to re-examine his childhood relationship with him, and his own status as a parent of two growing boys also causes him to re-examine what masculinity means – and particular appears to give rise to a feeling of inadequacy that he has rejected a physical version of manhood for an intellectual one. While thinking of his son’s participation in sport and his own role as spectator on the touchline, he thinks: I too deal in a line, but a very different one, black not white; a long extremely broken line that is miles and years long, and passes through this sentence, as the tip of the pen loops and squiggles and zigzags …… I clove to this line and the line has come to cleave to me ………. my world was word-bound and had been for decades This feeling in turn leads him to pursue something his father had been urging on him since he first said he would be a writer – to write a novel about his famous ancestor William Litt – who was a famous Cumberland wrestler in the early 19th Century but also famous as a writer, in particular of a history of Cumberland wrestling (with the same title as this book) and a competitive writer as well (openly proclaiming the virtues of wrestling over its closest rival boxing and the then nascent sport of football). What perhaps was conceived by his father as a novel soon turns into the form of memoir/biography we have in our hands – Toby Litt traces the roots of his ancestor – initially via archives, but then more physically: visiting the church where he was married, following him to trace his late-life exile in Canada, and then getting to grips (literally) with Cumberland wrestling first as spectator and eventually as a participant. During his quest, he has cause to muse on his own life and history – perhaps most interestingly for me when he brings one of his key ideas of competiveness and winning/losing/failing into the world of literary prizes: Most writers are likely to feel oppressed by gaining rather than losing a prize, because it will be for something accomplished by an earlier version of themselves. Prizes are given to writers for who they once were. The winner of the Olympics 100 metres final was the fastest man on that day; the Booker Prize winner was the person whi completed the novel six months or a year earlier, and perhaps even more so they are the person who had the idea for that novel six or seven years before that. The writer may feel that they are struggling to get back to that previous self’s level. Almost certainly they will feel they have gone beyond that stage, in insight if not in quality of prose Booker, Pulitzer, Nobel – the future renders every literary prize null. All writers, in regard to posterity, are in the position of drug cheats – their glory can be taken away, found to have depended on falsity. That people in the past thought something great is of historical interest, nothing else. It’s what people in the present think that counts perpetually. Most of what us writers produce is, in this context, failed. And I sometimes feel that, within my lifetime, I have seen The Canterbury Tales and Paradise Lost, fading, failing. The present finds them too antiquated, too demanding, too ambitious, too Christian. Overall I found this an interesting book although with some caveats. I mentioned that I had read two books on masculinity in one weekend – the fact that I read one at a spa hotel, one of them while waiting for a facial treatment, and the second on returning home to my three young daughters (and female puppy) – all speaks to the fact that I was not really able to relate to the core subject of the book. I also felt that the book ended as a literary version of the television series “Who Do You Think You Are” - in which a “celebrity” traces her (or his) family tree – and I feel the same about it – I can understand the interest in genealogy but not in a stranger’s genealogy: it was hard too not to see the author’s attempts at Wrestling as the version of the kind of obligatory participation/re-enacting scene that apparently is now de rigeur for television documentaries.

  5. 4 out of 5

    enricocioni

    You often hear about authors finding it difficult to write the follow-up to a particularly excellent book. But something similar can also happen to readers. A few weeks ago, I devoured Flights, Jennifer Croft's translation of Olga Tokarczuk's Bieguni, and it is easily one of the best books I've read this year, maybe my life, and highly deserving of its Man International Booker Prize nomination. Shortly after finishing it, I read two books (one was Wrestliana, of course, the other Alicia Kopf's B You often hear about authors finding it difficult to write the follow-up to a particularly excellent book. But something similar can also happen to readers. A few weeks ago, I devoured Flights, Jennifer Croft's translation of Olga Tokarczuk's Bieguni, and it is easily one of the best books I've read this year, maybe my life, and highly deserving of its Man International Booker Prize nomination. Shortly after finishing it, I read two books (one was Wrestliana, of course, the other Alicia Kopf's Brother in Ice, translated by Mara Faye Lethem), and they were both in some way disappointing, at least at first. How could they not be? After all, I read them straight after one of the best books I've read this year, maybe my life, and they are both very different from it. The biggest shock was the difference in style. Croft's sentences are often long, ornate, elegant, while Litt's are often short and straightforward, each carrying its own little brick of information. Read straight after Flights, how could they not seem stunted, flat little things? I realise, of course, this is an unfair comparison. Especially as Litt eventually explains that he chose to write Wrestliana in as simple and straightforward way as he could, and the reason he gives is a good one: his great-great-great-grandfather's convoluted, showy nineteenth-century style had been seeping into his own. For my full review, i.e. the full account of how I ended up liking this book, head over to my blog, Strange Bookfellows: https://strangebookfellowsblog.wordpr...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Fail Fish

    This is not the sort of book I would usually read. It's part biography, part memoir, and is partly focused on the subject of wrestling - an area I have never really had a great interest in. However, the book has also been described as an exploration of masculinity, which I thought could be potentially interesting - as a woman, I have read several works around feminism but have never before explored the male perspective on what it means to be a man. Litt is clearly a good writer. 'Wrestliana' is e This is not the sort of book I would usually read. It's part biography, part memoir, and is partly focused on the subject of wrestling - an area I have never really had a great interest in. However, the book has also been described as an exploration of masculinity, which I thought could be potentially interesting - as a woman, I have read several works around feminism but have never before explored the male perspective on what it means to be a man. Litt is clearly a good writer. 'Wrestliana' is easy to read and the story seems to flow. It moves easily between the passages of memoir and the passages of biography. The descriptions of wrestling were also interesting and accessible to those who know nothing about it - and I liked the highlighted differences between traditional Northern English wrestling and the TV spectacle wrestling that is more famous today. That being said, I can't say I entirely enjoyed this book. It has an attitude towards masculinity that is old-fashioned and at times made me slightly uncomfortable. It had a distinctly 'sports are manly and for men' vibe, despite the fact that it notes women wrestling alongside and against men. I am not sure if this was a deliberate angle by the author to reflect the views of the ancestor he was writing about, but personally I found it unsettling. This is definitely a book that will appeal more to some people than others. 'Wrestliana' is also a book about writing a book. It is the second such book I have read by this publisher (Galley Beggar Press) this year - the first being Megan Dunn's 'Tinderbox'. Naturally, I kept finding myself comparing the two, and unfortunately for 'Wrestliana' it did not come out on top. I enjoyed the insights into the writing process, and empathised with the struggle over writing about a family member Litt was not sure he could relate to - but the writing was just missing that spark. Overall, this book was OK. I don't think I am its target audience, so the fact I am not rating it any higher is perhaps not surprising. I am sure there are people who will enjoy this book - but perhaps they need to have a different view on masculinity, or just greater understanding of the subject, in order to do so.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I don't want to write too much here, I'm actually reviewing this for a site and don't want to spoil that review. However I will say this is an interesting book that covers the work someone will go to to discover the life of their great great great great grandfather. It is also a look at rural England and the unique wrestling that goes on there. Finally, it is about fathers and sons.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Baird

    Wrestliana is a complicated book, on the surface it is a biography of Toby Litt’s great-great-grandfather William Litt, but it is also an exploration of his relationship with his own father, his sons, and representations of masculinity. I was lucky enough to receive this from Galley Beggar Press to read and I really appreciate the chance as Toby’s writing is clear and impelling. William Litt was a champion Cumberland and Westmoreland Wrestling athlete and writer and this book follows his life arou Wrestliana is a complicated book, on the surface it is a biography of Toby Litt’s great-great-grandfather William Litt, but it is also an exploration of his relationship with his own father, his sons, and representations of masculinity. I was lucky enough to receive this from Galley Beggar Press to read and I really appreciate the chance as Toby’s writing is clear and impelling. William Litt was a champion Cumberland and Westmoreland Wrestling athlete and writer and this book follows his life around the wrestling circuit and further abroad. It is the joining of these two modern day extremes, ‘Jock’ and ‘Nerd’ that Toby explores, both in William’s life and his own. Positing that William’s era was possibly the beginning of separation of body and mind as distinct social personas, body and mind was commonly combined. But with the rise of educational specialism and professional sports they became irrevocably sundered. A really great read written with understanding and passion.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Abaitua

  10. 5 out of 5

    Luisa

  11. 4 out of 5

    Roland

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  13. 5 out of 5

    John

  14. 4 out of 5

    John Bainbridge

  15. 5 out of 5

    Matilda

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lauren LaTulip

  17. 5 out of 5

    Phillip Edwards

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brian O'conaill

  20. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

  21. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  22. 5 out of 5

    Phil

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gabriela McKelligan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alexandre

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kim Becker

  26. 5 out of 5

    Fons

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Pool

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dominika

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sunita

  30. 5 out of 5

    Peter McCambridge

  31. 4 out of 5

    Tanja

  32. 4 out of 5

    Wil

  33. 4 out of 5

    Karolina I-ska

  34. 4 out of 5

    Dika Ojiakor

  35. 4 out of 5

    Andy

  36. 4 out of 5

    Pranav

  37. 4 out of 5

    Liz O'Sullivan

  38. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

  39. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  40. 4 out of 5

    Lee Bown

  41. 5 out of 5

    Gazmend Kryeziu

  42. 4 out of 5

    Bell

  43. 5 out of 5

    Kelly McMahon

  44. 4 out of 5

    WndyJW

  45. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

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