Wrestling Is Literature
I won my copy of Three-Way Dance: A Collection of Professional Wrestling Literature through Twitter. It's probably not a book I would have picked up at the bookstore, but I know the publisher, at least artificially. Josh Olsen is a co-founder of Gimmick Press. We follow each other on Twitter, like each other's hilarious, insightful, and under-appreciated tweets on occasion. We were published together in Red Fez, I read his story and liked it, found him on Twitter. When I see he publishes something, I retweet it. Solidarity among nobodies. (You're not a nobody, Josh.) One day he tweeted something like "Like this tweet for a chance to win a copy of Three-Way Dance." No, I probably wouldn't have bought it at the bookstore, I probably wouldn't have ordered it off the internet, but I'll like a tweet for a chance to win a copy. And I won. I was the only one to like it.
This isn't a review. It's more like a brief reminder about how to read books and how to talk about books that aren't quite to your taste. We now live in a society where we can, where we're expected to, rate and review nearly everything—Uber drivers, Uber passengers, professors, doctors, dates, people who stay in your place when you rent it out through the fucking internet. Regular people have had the power for years to rate and review books on Amazon and Goodreads. We can probably find many good things to say about the democratization of criticism, like we no longer have to rely on Francine Prose and John Leonard (RIP) to tell us what's good, but one of the serious drawbacks of this democratization is that individual nobodies feel like they're the center of the fucking universe, like all the books are written for them and if the books don't meet their expectations, the books are flawed. I have read too many layperson reviews in which the reviewer subjects a book to a set of inflexible criteria that the writer of the book was not privy to. I have seen too many low ratings that were given simply because a book did not conform to an individual reader's personal taste, and I'm fucking tired of it. (If you are one of the people who one-starred Invisible Man or Moby-Dick, take heed. You're not, obviously; you wouldn't be reading this if you were. You're probably rereading the draft of some piece-of-shit short story you're writing that's never going to get published because you don't have the chops to make it as a recognized writer or the guts to live as a fucking independent.) As of this writing, the book I'm not really reviewing has only two ratings on Goodreads. It has one review, my condensed version of this thing. But I'm worried, not in the same way I'm worried about death or the future, but worried, that some fucker's going to come across this book, decide it's not to his taste, and rate it low and talk shit about it on the internet. Because that's what you do when you think you're the center of the universe. You go to a seafood restaurant, knowing you don't like seafood, and the next day you tell all your stupid friends the food was shitty. Naturally, I have the same sort of worry for my own book, but I will sound shrill and narcissistic yet low on self-esteem if I overtly connect this argument to my book, so move on. If you try to make Three-Way Dance conform to your expectations, you might not like it, but if you read it on its own terms, without prejudice or expectation, then you might very well like it. Three-Way Dance is not a book about wrestling; it's a book about people who love wrestling, written by people who love wrestling. Those people are Michael Chin, Frankie Metro, and Brian Rosenberger. I could say more about them, but it would be better for you to read the book, or at least look them up.
Three Way Dance could be described as a niche book, targeted at the, one assumes, smallish group of people who'd fit, if they were confined within a Venn diagram, inside the circle of both "people who like professional wrestling" and "people who like literature." I am not in that circle. I half-liked professional wrestling when I was younger, but I don't think there has ever been a time in my life when I gave a shit about both wrestling and books. Yet I liked this book. A book, if it's any good, should help you bust out of whatever circle of probability that Venn motherfucker is trying to trap you in, remind you that you're not the center of the universe, you're not the arbiter of taste. I never had a passion for wrestling, even when I watched it, because I only ever watched ironically. It was too artificial for me, but maybe that artifice is part of its authenticity. Besides, films are artificial. Books are artificial. I make my bread as a fiction writer, which is a bold fabrication; is there anything more artificial than what I do? Fiction is artificial; it's the way you present it that makes it authentic. I realize now, after seeing the world of wrestling through the eyes of three writers who love the sport, that writing and wrestling are related. They are cousins. Maybe wrestling is the fuck-up cousin who barely got through high school and can't hold a job longer than six months and gives all his children misspelled names that start with B and end with either -den or -xton; yet somehow that cousin makes way more money than you. Wrestling is storytelling. In writing as in wrestling, it doesn't matter how good your moves are (how sharp your dialogue, how devastating your clotheslines) if you don't have a good story. If you've watched the show Glow on Netflix, you might remember the moment when the character of Betty Gilpin, a former soap opera star who halfheartedly takes a gig in a wrestling league for women, realizes that wrestling is just a soap opera. Once she makes that realization she can relate to it, she can become excited and passionate about it. I will probably never be passionate about wrestling, but thanks to Three-Way Dance I won't ever be confused about why other people are passionate about it.
©Alan Good 2017