Catching up with Eugene Robinson requires a considerable amount of stamina. The journalist, spoken-word artist, musician, mixed-martial-arts cage fighter and, most recently, author, has a pretty full plate. Last year alone saw the release of “The Narcotic Story,” a much-anticipated work from long-running art-rock phenomenon, Oxbow, a grueling tour itinerary and the release of Robinson’s first book, “Fight: Or, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Ass-Kicking but Were Afraid You’d Get Your Ass Kicked for Asking” (Harper).
“It was an extremely packed year. I’ve gotten used to not getting a lot of sleep,” the new author admits via telephone from San Francisco.
Robinson was among the first journalists to write about mixed-martial-arts, a combat sport that has drawn comparisons to human cock-fighting, in a general interest publication—he’s penned articles on the subject for the LA Weekly and GQ and considers the book to be a “horse-in-the-car-scenario.” “For me, the horse is my involvement in the ‘shadowy realms’ of personal combat,” he explains. “The car is someone coming over later and saying, ‘You should really write a book about this.’ Researching at that point was just academic.”
At times taking a “How To” approach, “Fight” is hardly your mama’s coffee-table tome. Unless, of course, your mama enjoys the kind of reference that explains a knife has to be “longer than four inches to get through all the fascia, chest muscles and the rib cage and into the heart.”
This particular line didn’t sit well with the British Parliament, who immediately banned the Harper UK edition.
“The problem we have here with schoolyard shootings, they have there with schoolyard knifings,” says the author, who received notice from the British publishers with the warning, “If we put this book out, it will make the O.J. thing look like a tea party, you’ll be dragged in front of Parliament.” While UK residents can still buy the book online, it’s safe to assume that the controversy has had a major effect on across-the-pond sales.
Robinson’s rare solo appearance at the Empty Bottle is actually part of the book tour for “Fight” and a proper reading will take place at Quimby’s earlier in the evening. The Bottle set promises to be a chaotic, unnerving experience. Musical? Maybe. Intense? Likely. But Robinson himself doesn’t quite know what will happen. “It’s free form. I’m not interested in doing shtick.”
He says, with a laugh, “It is anarchy.” (K. Tighe)
Eugene Robinson discusses “Fight” January 11 at Quimby’s, 1854 West North, (773)342-0940, at 6pm (free), and then performs at Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western, (773)276-3600, at 10pm, $8.