Friday, January 31, 2014

Andre The Giant: Life and Legend, by Box Brown

  
ANDRE THE GIANT: LIFE AND LEGEND tells the story of professional wrestling's largest performer, Andre Roussimoff, a man known to fans and non-fans worldwide as Andre The Giant. 

 Billed as standing seven feet, four inches, and weighing (At the end of his career) a whopping 520 lbs., Andre transcended professional wrestling, gaining fame outside the ring thanks to appearances on THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN, and THE TONIGHT SHOW. Andre was also the subject of a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED interview, something unprecedented for a pro wrestler.

 Box Brown's biographical ANDRE THE GIANT: LIFE AND LEGEND traces Andre's life, from his childhood in France, through his rise to fame and fortune in the ring, and ending with his tragic death in 1993. (He passed away in his sleep while in France to attend his Father's funeral.) Brown's simplistic figures and sparse storytelling technique work well here, as he episodically sketches out Andre's life and career. At time, Andre seems like a gigantic asshole, but put into context by the Hulk Hogan interview that starts out the book ("There was never a fork or knife...even a bed! There was never a situation where he could be comfortable.") it's easy to understand how a man who spent his life living under a microscope could have a moment or two where he behaved less than kindly to someone. Brown is clearly a wrestling fan, and it shows in his work. He explains the ins-and-outs of the business succinctly, so that even someone who has never seen a match in their life can understand what is going on. The anecdotes that he relates, complied from various books, interview DVD's, and magazine articles, coalesce to create a picture of a man who was a prisoner of his own body, as well as his fame, a man who was given a death sentence early in life, yet lived a fuller, richer life than most people could ever imagine. ANDRE THE GIANT: LIFE AND LEGEND is obviously a labor of life, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

 First Second provided a review copy.