Cal and his trainer Riley drive to Mexico for a rematch that could make or break Cal’s boxing career. They drive down three days early to give Cal a chance to acclimatise to Mexican heat and Katie Kitamura chance to explore that combination of the tedium of waiting and preparation and the build-up and hype of the match.
Katie Kitamura’s spare, muscular prose does well to capture the minutiae of training, the pre-match atmosphere and boredom of cheap, crummy hotel rooms. Style-wise she alludes to Cormac McCarthy or Harry Crews although without the latter’s dark humour. Here, as Cal is led up to the ring,
The canvas was so white it was blinding. For a moment he didn’t see anything but the ring. The people around fell silent. They fell out of focus. He looked at the ring. The fuzziness left the picture. He could see now. In an instant it had become clear. He stepped off the runway and walked around the ring. He climbed through the ropes. Then the noise came back.
Without giving away the ending, it does go out with a whimper. We see Riley’s reaction but not Cal’s – other than being totally stunned by the fight – which feels like an omission. Although not one that would stop me reading Katie Kitamura again.