"Jonathan Eig’s masterful new biography of the champ is both captivating and highly relevant to the current discussions on race in America. The author’s comprehensive research included more than 500 interviews with more than 200 people from the boxer’s life, and material from recently discovered audio interviews with Ali."
Near the book's end, Eig recounts one of the most moving moments in the history of sports: Ali lighting the torch at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. (Fascinatingly, Eig reveals, the moment was the brainchild of an Applebee's waiter whose father had been the Ali family's lawyer.) It's a fitting coda to Eig's biography, and it's hard not to tear up reading about it. Ali's life was more complex than most other sports figures, and Eig's brilliant, exhaustive book is the biography the champ deserves: a beautiful portrait of a man whose name will never be forgotten, who carried a torch for equality and justice, and lit a fire that will never go out.
Until yesterday's publication of "Ali: A Life," there was no life of Muhammad Ali, no comprehensive account of the man who called himself -- and came to be called -- "The Greatest." Now, where once yawned a vacuum, there now stands a cinderblock, the product of 400 interviews conducted over five years of archival research and shoe-leather detective work. The Ali who emerges from Eig's biography is not the saint so many have made him out to be, but rather a figure whose humanity is earthy, complicated, fallible and thus, in these pages, restored.
Each blow echoes on the pages of Jonathan Eig’s relentless, image-altering biography “Ali: A Life,” ushering its charismatic but confounding subject toward the silence, illness and exile that preceded his death last year at 74. Though replete with tales of race, religion, war protest, sex, marital turmoil and skulduggery, this book is, more than anything else, an indictment of boxing. The cumulative damage of Ali’s boxing career is a terrible and haunting thing to read about, and it becomes all the more so when you remind yourself that Mr. Eig’s subject is one of American sports’ most beloved figures, not some luckless tomato can.
… Eig takes the story much further, providing fascinating details on Ali’s childhood and, later, on his career as a boxer, both the well-documented triumphs but also the gradual diminution of his skills, which led to the embarrassing last fights and, eventually, to the brain damage and Parkinson’s that defined Ali’s later years. (Eig even provides a running count of all the punches Ali took in his career, a toll that increased exponentially toward the end.) And yet, after his unsparing recounting of Ali’s bad decisions and moments of cruelty to loved ones and opponents, Eig finds enduring humanity in Ali’s lighting of the Olympic torch shortly before his death and in his many acts of spontaneous kindness, noting that somehow he had “always remained warm and genuine, a man of sincere feeling and wit.” A fine biography of one of the twentieth-century’s defining figures.
"Ali" is a big, fat, entertaining and illuminating read.
Much of the story of Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay Jr.) is widely known. Some of us remember his life unfolding on television; others grew familiar with him when he lit the Olympic Torch in 1996, his arm trembling from Parkinson's. There have been many biographies, full and partial, including one published in May.
What makes Eig's book stand out is its broad scope, its detailed reportage and its lively, cinematic writing.
Eig’s book is a fine read on the great boxer’s life, taking him on as he was and always seeking the truth that hits closest to bone. It covers the tumultuous middle, and then the oddly sanitized and bland second half of the American Century, an era in which Muhammad Ali was among the biggest and brightest players on the stage — living a life that, far from signifying nothing, will in its outrageous grandeur and stunning humanity, stand the test of time.
Jonathan Eig’s “Ali: A Life” is the first comprehensive biography worthy of this titanic figure. The author of acclaimed books on Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson, Eig weaves together Ali’s athletic feats, cultural significance and personal journey. Fortified by hundreds of revealing interviews, “Ali” vigorously narrates the story of the man who transformed the landscape of race and sports.
Drawing on interviews with Muhammad Ali’s friends, family, and colleagues—as well as recently discovered recordings from the 1960s and extensive FBI files—Eig tells the life story of the legendary boxer, political radical, and hero in all its complexity.
This hefty biography may be the deepest dive yet into the life of Muhammad Ali — “the son of an uneducated sign painter [who] became the most famous man in the world,” as Eig puts it. The author, now working on an Ali documentary with Ken Burns, captures the enigmatic boxer and activist from his youthful days as Cassius Clay in the Jim Crow South to his years as “the Greatest” and his later battle with Parkinson’s disease.
This is it. The final round. Author Jonathan Eig stands among a crowd of thousands to say goodbye to the man who shook up the world. This is the funeral for the World’s Greatest, and the end of Chasing Ali.