The first book I am writing a marginal commentary for in August is Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, by Bret 'Hitman' Hart. My thanks to Peter for recommending this book!

I must admit, I approached the book with much trepidation. I was never more than vaguely interested in professional wrestling as a boy, although I picked up a smattering of knowledge about it (as boys pick up a smattering of knowledge about everything), and my interest in it diminished as I grew older. What I heard and saw of it, moreover, led me to care for it less and less.

What is more, the book was an autobiography, written by a professional wrestler. I can count on one hand the autobiographies I have read, and the two that I remember I didn't care all that much for, despite the fact that one was written by William Shatner and the other by Robert Schuller (he of Crystal Cathedral fame), both of whom I at least have superficial reasons to admire. How would Bret Hart's tome fare?

And tome it was, for Hitman runs to just over five hundred-and-fifty pages, the longest, after The Name of the Wind, that I have written a marginal commentary for to date. This edition was published by Random House Canada in 2007.

Now I come to think of it, Hitman reminds me of The Name of the Wind, probably because the latter has the same autobiographical style (you may remember that most of the story is narrated by the protagonist, Kvothe); the trouble with both, it might be said, is that they go on and on.

Other forms of entertainment that Hitman (and professional wrestling generally) made me think of is that of comic books and of the carnival (by which I mean its contemporary form, not the old European tradition). Like comic books, pro wrestling features implausible storylines with endless schemes, and well-sculpted heroes and villains. Like the carnival, it features larger-than-life characters on endless road trips, breaking their backs for a pittance.

Well, on to Hitman. First I'll quote and comment upon a few brief passages from the preface.
I am a survivor with a story to tell. There's never been an accurate account of the history of pro wrestling. All the public knows is what is packaged and sold to them by the industry. Since I'm no longer in the business, I'm in a decent position to tell the truth, without fear of recrimination. With this book, which is based on the audio diary I kept through all my years in wrestling... I want to put you in my shoes so you can experience what pro wrestling was like in my era, through my eyes. [p. 2] This is an interesting and revealing juxtaposition. Hart invites is to look at pro wrestling 'through my eyes', and identifies what he is doing as telling 'the truth'. And, of course, he mentions that 'there's never been an accurate account of the history of pro wrestling'. Until now, perhaps?

The public record is filled with a false impression of me from those who think they know me. Sadly, that includes some members of my own family. ... I've been hurt and betrayed by some of my brothers and sisters, yet I don't feel I ever let them down. ... The truth is, my family knows very little about me. [p. 3] Even if we grant that what Hart says here is true, this is the kind of statement in autobiography which sets alarm bells off in my head. To put it bluntly, it suggests to me that Hart mostly states his position on various subjects throughout the book out of what may be described as naïveté - he not only doesn't seem to consider that his interpretation of events might be wrong, but appears to be incapable of doing otherwise. (Or else unwilling; elsewhere, he makes a defensive statement - which I cannot now find - along the lines of 'those who want to judge me ought to lace up my boots and I bet that they won't be able to walk far in them.')

My father's funeral service was held on October 23, 2003, at the biggest church in Calgary, yet it overflowed with an eclectic throng of thousands who came to pay their respects to the legendary Stu Hart, old-time pro wrestling promoter extraordinaire.
I moved slowly, a silent prayer resounding in my head, "Please, God, help me make it through." I am an experienced public speaker, but my confidence had been shattered by a major stroke. [p. 1] Hart tells the story of his stroke. His appeal to God is an interesting one. As for most people (and, let's be honest, for everyone some of the time), for Hart God is sort of 'up there', a kind of Watcher either to be called upon for strength or to be blamed for doling out apparently arbitrary punishments, but who is in any case best kept at arm's length.

Like my father, I developed at least a couple of alter egos. ... Later on in life I was one guy on the road, another at home and yet another in the ring. Which one is truly me? They all are. [p. 4] Another revealing passage. Hart speaks to something which is true of all of us: in many respects we are often little more than a collection of alter egos. But shouldn't this make us wonder whether we are being 'truly ourselves' in any meaningful sense if this is so?
I will focus, then, on relationships, because, in my view, what Hart says (and doesn't say) about his relationships with others, mainly his family. Before I do, I want to make a brief digression into - of all things -  Hart's use of poetry.

Hart quotes two poems in full, both written by relatives: one written by Bret Hart's eldest brother, Smith; the other by the widowed wife of his youngest brother Owen. Both poems relate to the death of Owen Hart and the ongoing fall-out, which included a settlement reached between Vince McMahon, Jr., of the then-WWF and Owen's widow. Since the book is an autobiography, its dramatic structure (as it were) did not necessitate the use of poetry. But although the poems are, in that sense, gratuitous, this helps, because they are a breath of fresh air, another perspective after nearly five hundred pages of seeing the world through Bret's eyes. I will quote parts of each:
I smell lily and rose and read each and every heart-felt card,
through flows of grief.
What is spoken is tasted
and what is heard of your greatness is felt deep within our
               heavy hearts
and certainly all around this solemn gathering. [from the poem by Smith Hart; p. 492]

Let it be you
who comes to bring the light, who
guides me with his hand held tight
let it be you
whose love and tenderness will not
let me slip into this great abyss
let it be you
who stands by faithful friend
until the bitter end [from the poem by Joan Martha Hart; p. 508]
Whatever their literary merits, the poems are clearly expressions of sentiments that were at the time heartfelt; although throughout Hart's book he describes Smith as being somewhat of a let-down and, at least as he tells it, Martha (as she goes by) too easily came to a settlement without really probing what happened to Owen. What I liked best about them, was, as I said, that they were stories from the perspectives of others. Indeed, it is worth noting that their authors gave Hart permission to publish them in his book. It is kind of odd, for the use of poetry reminded me once again of The Name of the Wind, only the members of Hart's family appear to be better dramatic poets than Rothfuss is, somewhat ironically.
Actually, the poems and their cause (the death of Owen Hart) allow me to get back to the relationships between Hart and the members of his family (some of whom, as he mentioned in his preface, 'hurt and betrayed' him) and take a closer look. Owen's death let loose many family demons, or so it seems:
Tensions were smouldering among the [Hart] siblings [at Owen's funeral]. I'd heard various rumours that Diana was pissed off because I'd got so much more TV time all week than anyone else. Bruce was upset because Martha wouldn't let him speak at the service. And Smith, who'd written a poem for Owen, was crushed when Martha told him he couldn't read it. ... Unfortunately, all these little things that I did to oblige Martha were only getting me heat from the rest of the family. It wasn't as though I wanted to be on TV right after my brother died... . All I wanted was to be left alone to grieve like everybody else. [pp. 490-1] This is an interesting passage. The 'getting me heat' refers to wrestling jargon, and is what pro wrestlers known as 'heels' aim to get from fans for being jerks in the ring. Space permitting, I will comment on wrestling jargon, which is one of the aspects of the business itself which fascinated me. While I think that Bret's comment about his family not really knowing him could be turned against him (he doesn't seem to really know his family, either), given how often he brings up the occasional jealousy, maliciousness, and veniality of some of his siblings, one has to think that, at least to a certain extent, his description of their personalities is accurate (indeed, it would have been scarcely credible if he wrote in his autobiography that his relationships with his siblings were perfect in every respect). And how typical, that one's siblings are jealous because their evidently more famous brother is being called upon to comment on a death in the family and they are not.
I swore to Martha that I would be there for her no matter what happened, but I was having a tough time trying to get some of the Harts to stop talking to the media about Owen's death.
... There was a quote from [my younger sister] Diana in the paper that made my blood boil: "Dad [Stu Hart] is like a father figure to Vince [Vince McMahon, Jr., whose role in Owen's death had not yet been settled] and Vince felt like Owen was one of his sons." Why couldn't they just say "no comment," at least until... we knew whether any charges would be laid against Vince or [the WWF]? This was what Owen's widow [Martha] had asked us all to do!
I phoned Diana and I wasn't surprised that she turned on me like a grass fire. She blistered my heart when she tore into me about how Owen was a better wrestler than me and that I was jealous and had always held him back. ...
"All you have to say is no comment," [italics original] I said. "How hard is that, Diana? Vince hasn't even been cleared of criminal charges." ...
Then Ellie [another older sister] was suddenly on the extension, and I shouldn't have been so hurt or surprised when she coldly fired back, "You know, Bret, I've hated your guts since the day you were born and I'm glad to tell you that." I listened to them both screaming and yelling and it felt as though someone was pouring scalding water down my back. ... I rose, clutching the phone, and erupted in a loud, booming voice, "If you two think for one minute that you're going to use Owen's death to get your husbands jobs [about which more later], if you don't support Martha and Owen's kids right now, I will never, ever talk to either of you ever again!"
... I actually called my mom to tell her the vicious, biting words that Ellie and Diana had said to me, as though I was a little kid again. ...
"Why do they all hate me so much?" I asked, and she broke down, "Dawling [Hart's mother is from New York and never quite loses her accent], they're all just so damn jealous of you. Jealousy is an ugly thing, and some of your brothers and sisters are infected with it. They don't mean it, they just wish that they could all be like you and have what you have." [pp. 492-3] Alas, Mrs. Helen Hart is surely telling one of those parental untruths when she says that 'they don't mean it'. As we shall see, things get worse. Diana and Ellie, incidentally, are married to two of Bret's fellow wrestlers, Davey Boy Smith and Jim Neidhart, respectively. If memory serves, both had been turfed from the WWF some time before Owen's death. For those of you familiar with pro wrestling in the eighties and nineties, Davey Boy Smith was one of the British Bulldogs, and Jim Neidhart was with Bret Hart part of the tag team the Hart Foundation. It is a bitter thing that what should have been a simple task of keeping lips sealed for the sake of Martha (Owen's widow) becomes the source of conflict. The nature of family relationships, though, is such that acquiescing to requests made by other members of the family can be seen to be a kind of failure to be one's self, or an admission of the superiority of the sibling or parent (however untrue such thoughts may be). In any case, it isn't surprising that the sisters Hart who despise Bret and scream at him impute to him vicious motives for which no empirical evidence is likely to be found (i.e., that he wanted to hold Owen back) or indulge in venting childish sentiments (i.e., exclaim 'I've hated your guts since the day you were born', and the like).
As bad as the rancorous relationships between siblings has been thus far, things get progressively worse:
Ellie and Jim were making headlines of their own, with the police now breaking up their shouting matches; she had served him with a restraining order. ... There were many who wondered why I never had any problems with Jim after Owen's death. Why would I have had problems? Jim never once made any comment about Owen's case, which is all that Martha ever asked of the family.
My mom... told me that tragedy and greed are what made some of my siblings react irrationally. To my mind, the Hart family had turned into The Jerry Springer Show: Davey, whom Bruce [one of Bret's older brothers] had taken in, had just become involved with Bruce's wife, Andrea, who'd feuded with Diana for years. Poor Bruce was now having loud shouting matches with Davey, with the police never far behind.
The stress of it all took its toll on Stu [the Hart patriarch]. He was soon hospitalized with pneumonia. Then Davey overdosed on morphine. [He would survive.] Then one of the grandkids accidentally burned [a neighbour's house] behind Hart house down! Even Lana, the old, crippled pit bull, keeled over dead. The Harts were simply drowning under waves of grief.
Martha was anxious to put all the heart-ache behind her and start a charitable foundation in Owen's name. Then Ellie admitted in her depostion in the lawsuit that she did, in fact, take legal documents from my mom and dad and faxed them right to Vince's lawyers... . ...
Of course this led to another furious meltdown between me and Ellie, especially when my Mom tearfully told me that my dad had given $6,000 of the money I'd given to help them out to Ellie. My temper got the best of me and I hurled one of Stu's antique chairs into a wall, shattering it to pieces. [pp. 523-4] It is rather as though Owen's death has acted as a catalyst, introducing self-reinforcing, destructive, feedback into the Hart family system. Keep in mind that, as a catalyst, it really is only causing a reaction among elements that have always been there. In this sense, Helen Hart's words that 'tragedy and greed' are behind the irrational behaviour of Bret's brothers and sisters are only in part right. As the verbose peasant, Dennis, from Monty Python and the Holy Grail might have complained, what is going on is 'inherent in the system.' And, while Bret Hart does seem to display distemperate anger with his family that he does not display elsewhere, it should be noted that at the time he was suffering from a concussion, and his emotional responses out of whack.
One of the principal sources of conflict in the Hart family, the lawsuit looking into responsibility for Owen's death, comes (in Hart's view) to a disappointing close; a whimper, rather than a bang:
[A]n elated Martha called to tell me that, after the many bumps in the road caused by Ellie, she had settled with Vince. I have to admit I was more than a little hurt when she told me she couldn't tell me the amount because she'd sworn an oath not to reveal it. When I asked her if she ever found out exactly what happened and who was responsible for Owen's death, she meekly offered up, "He just fell."
The more we talked, the more disappointed I became, especially when I remembered what she said in her eulogy. "There will be a day of reckoning and this is my final promise to Owen. I won't let him down."
... When I hung up the phone, I called Marcy [Marcy Engelstein, Hart's publicist]; she'd just heard the news through her media contacts that Martha settled for $18 million.
The next morning, I read Martha's comments about the Harts in the paper. "These people worked against me ... I am removing myself and my children from the family. I carry the last name, but I am not related to them any more. People need to know that Owen was a white sheep in a black family."
After that, she called me again, and I told her point blank that I felt she'd completely used me and I didn't appreciate the way she painted us all with the same brush. I couldn't see why Martha had to hurt my whole family. While she'd been quick to praise me, she was quite venomous to my mother, who'd stood by her throughout all the family struggles. It didn't seem to matter to Martha that Owen was my mother's son. When Martha started to cry I forgave her, because I knew she felt she had no choice but to settle after Ellie had derailed the case, but what she had said was not about the money ended up being about the money. [pp. 527-8] It should come as no surprise that a civil suit ended up being about money; would it not have been the case that, if someone in the WWF had been found responsible for the circumstances that led to Owen Hart's death, that it would have been necessary that criminal charges be laid? Even if it were not, a finding of neglect or incompetence would have reflected badly on McMahon & co., whereas a settlement (however large) agreed-upon on the condition (which would have been one among others, we may presume) that Martha Hart make no statements identifying the WWF as responsible for Owen's death. 'He just fell' is what she is reduced to saying, no matter what she may think actually happened. (Obviously at worst the WWF would have been guilty of negligence causing death; no one was setting out to kill Owen Hart, of course.) This passage also illustrates the systemic dysfunction of the Hart family (and, let us be honest, of families generally). Martha, as Hart states, 'painted us all with the same brush', despite the support Hart himself provides and the support Helen (the Hart matriarch) had provided. I would like to be able to see the complete statement by Martha, of which Hart quotes part, in order to be able to have a clear idea of what she said, but I have no reason to believe that Hart does not get the gist of her statement.
The settlement, moreover, does not settle things; the 'reconciliation' of the Harts with McMahon and the WWF is a depressing and squalid performance:
Carlo [Carlo DeMarco, whom Hart identifies in the preface (on p. 2) as 'my old friend turned loyal McMahon lieutenant'] invited to the WWF show in Calgary... . I told him... I wasn't comfortable going to Raw so close to the second anniversary of Owen's death. Why the WWF insisted on running shows in Calgary each May I'll never know. It infuriated Martha and lit a fuse to the powder keg at Hart house. ...
Aside from sticking it in my eye every chance he got, [Vince had] destroyed the harmony of the Hart family, for which I was being blamed.
Carlo then asked me about Stu's health, saying that Ellie, Diana and Bruce desperately wanted Stu to be on TV to show the world that the Hart family had made peace with the WWF. ... [H]e didn't seem to see the absurdity of the situation. As soon as I hung up the phone, I drove down to Stu's. I was relieved when he told me through gritted teeth that he didn't want to go to Raw, but that he was being made to go.
"You don't have to do anything you don't want to do, and I'll be here to make sure of it!" I said. But Ellie, Diana, and Bruce were more than determined to see that Stu should go. Meanwhile, in another chapter of our public soap opera, Martha told the media that she would be deeply offended if any of the family went to the WWF show, which only put added pressure on my parents to fix something that couldn't be fixed.
... When I got to Stu's house at ten that morning [on the day of the show], I thought I was in more than enough time to spare him from going to the Calgary Raw. But I was too late: Ellie and Bruce had dragged him off at eight o'clock in the morning. I'd hear later that Diana and Bruce wheeled him into Vince's office like a battering ram, then commenced a heated argument over who could make their pitch to Vince first. ...
... I thought it would break my heart if they paraded [Stu] out on Raw - the public would think that Stu had forgiven Vince for everything.
... Tears came to my eyes as I watched the opening of the live show at home on TV: there was a clearly tired, deflated and demoralized Stu sitting in the front row with Ellie, Diana, Georgia, Bruce and Smith, who grinned as he held up a big sign that read, HA HA BRET. [This from the man who wrote a pretty good poem on the occasion of his brother's death.]
At the end of the show, Vince stick his big, fat, salty thumb in my eye as far as he could by re-enacting the Survivor Series screwjob finish, in Calgary, right in front of my father, as he played the corrupt promoter who rang the bell as Benoit had Stone Cold in my sharpshooter. [Hart is referring his last show with the WWF, a match in Montreal, in which he was screwed over by McMahon, hence the term 'screwjob'.] I drove down to Stu's and burts into my mom's bedroom. Rage filled me as I denounced every single one of them for doing this to me - I was through with them all. I didn't know how to forgive any of them. I stomped down the stairs and took both Owen's and my childhood photos off the wall[.] ....
The next morning, Bruce drove an eighty-six year-old Stu three hours north to the Smackdown taping in Edmonton and put him through the whole thing again. ...
Even though I'd looked forward to going to Ottawa to see Stu receive the Order of Canada, I was so offended by everything that happened I chose not to go. As a result, I missed something that I had my heart set on. ... I realized how it was wrong to punish my parents for being used by my brothers and sisters. Stu and Helen were both broken-hearted by my absence so, after a couple of weeks, I showed up and put the pictures back up on the wall. ....
... [Helen had] read a draft of a tell-all book that Diana had coming out soon. Diana had got Stu to write the foreword  without him reading the manuscript. My mom was so upset because, unbeknownst to Stu, he had endorsed a book that trashed his own family. [pp. 529-31] A lot of interesting stuff. First, it is most telling is Hart's obscurity in saying just who it is he was through with. Obviously he meant his siblings who'd taken Stu to Raw in Calgary, but it is intriguing that he doesn't say so explicitly in recounting how he felt at the time, and his honesty in this should be praised. Second, it is remarkable how Stu has no control over his involvement with wrestling, about which I shall say more presently. Third, it is somewhat ironic that Hart discusses how his sister tricked their father into writing the foreword for a book trashing the family, considering that he himself is as critical of them as anyone, although I have no doubt that his criticisms are closer to the mark and more insightful than anything Diana would have written. However, I should say, if I haven't already, that Hart too often makes his autobiography an apologia, instead of wrestling (ha!) with the ways in which he himself contributed to his family's problems, to the demise of wrestling as he knew it, and so on.
I will return to the main focus of my marginal commentary, but I want to digress for a moment to one of the aspects of Hitman that directly relates to wrestling that I found quite interesting, which is Hart's use of wrestling jargon. It is very effective on Hart's part that he uses the jargon well (which should come as no surprise, given his life as a pro wrestler) without too much editorial explanation as to what they mean, because, for the most part, his use of them effectively communicates their meaning. I will quote a handful of examples and list a few of the other terms:
In contrast to my father, who loved to proudly tell people who the real tough guys, or shooters, of his generation were, I can just as proudly tell you who the great workers, or pretenders, of my generation were. [p. 3]
I took it as a challenge to have a good match with anybody. I respected... the green-horn jobbers, whose role it was to lose or put me over[.] [p. 3]
Leo [Leo Burke, a booker, someone who organises how wrestling matches 'finish'] became a huge influence on me, teaching me right and wrong when it came to booking. He stressed the simple things, like when it made sense for a wrestler to bleed, or get juice; how to work a match, an angle, a program... who should go over and who shouldn't; and not to repeat the same things week after week and risk boring the fans. [p. 37]
My father taught me submission wrestling, but Hito and Sakurada taught me pro wrestling. ... I learned... how to lock up, which is when wrestlers first make physical contact during a match; how to throw and be thrown; how to make the desired sound when hitting the mat; and how to break my fall using my feet and hands, head tucked. I knew that a good worker never makes contact with bone, never forces things. [loc. cit.]
Keith [an older brother of Bret's]... asked me whether I could fill in again, working a simple babyface match against Paddy Ryan. [p. 42]
Dynamite [Tom Billington, the Dynamite Kid, later one of the British Bulldogs] stiffed me from bell to bell, to the delight of the fans. For no apparent reason, he elbow-smashed me in the face and broke my nose. [loc. cit.]
Puerto Rico was a dangerous place to work if you were a heel because the fans were so hot-blooded. [p. 43]
Eric [Eric Bischoff of the WCW] had me turn heel by double-crossing Sting and revealing that, all along, I was part of the nWo. [p. 474] Many more examples could be found and quoted, but this should be enough to be getting on with; Hitman is replete with terms such as 'babyface', 'heel', 'put one over', 'stiff', 'worker', &c. As we have seen, except for brief editorial comments, Hart usually allows the context to help us grasp what the terms mean, which is a good way to make wrestling jargon vivid and lively. Indeed, in my view the best turn of phrase in the book is when Hart quotes someone talking about the antics of his siblings (sadly, I can't find the quote in the book to provide context), saying, 'They think life is like wrestling, that they can turn heel and then go babyface whenever they want to.' I'm sure I haven't even quoted it correctly, and, even if I had, its impact is diminished because it is one of those statements which, to truly appreciate, you have to read what came before. Hart's use of wrestling jargon is a highlight in a book which has little either to recommend or depreciate in terms of literary style, and the quote (which I am sorry I cannot find) a brilliant crystallisation of human misbehaviour, which brings us back to the main focus of this commentary.
It would be too much to quote Hart's stories of his childhood, but when the Hart children were growing up, Stu Hart was a figure of fear and joy. Hart recalls one time when Stu threw three of his sons down the attic stairs after one of them had accidentally set the attic on fire (pp. 17-8). Yet nearly the entire family becomes involved in Stu's wrestling circuit. As we saw, Bret and Owen became wrestlers in the WWF. Two of the Hart sisters married wrestlers, while Bret himself twice married women more or less on account of having wrestling in common with them. All of the boys worked for Stu's business, and several of them continued to do so. When Stu tries to get out of the business, it is little wonder that he cannot. He and Helen continually support their more irresponsible children (as we saw, they gave some of the money Bret gave them to one of his siblings), and there is a point during the book at which he is constantly complaining about how his son Bruce is ruining the family business, but seems to be incapable of stopping him. This dynamic reaches its worst point, as we have seen, when Stu is powerless to stop himself from being dragged around Alberta and made to look as though he is endorsing the WWF. Several times Hart quotes the proverb 'what goes around comes around' with respect to the untrustworthiness or flaws of other wrestlers coming back to haunt them, but he does not, at least in Hitman, make that connection with respect to Stu Hart. Pro wrestling was Stu's daimon, the driving force of his life, and from what we see in Hitman, he was incapable of allowing his family to develop identities outside of it. Never having created boundaries between himself and the theatrical sport he loved, Stu allowed his relationship with pro wrestling to consume his family, and, once he no longer had any control, was himself consumed in turn by his family, which had been confused (to use the term in its most literal sense) with wrestling.

In what serves as an epilogue (pp. 551-2), and in the preface (pp. 1-4), Hart talks about the reconciliation of sorts which he achieved with Vince McMahon, and the same kind of thing happening with his family (on the whole). I suspect that it is no accident that such reconciliation, however partial or incomplete, did not occur until Stu was dying and upon his death. Upon Stu's death his daimon died, too, and perhaps its grip on his family slackened.

Hitman, then, was an interesting read. I suppose you could say that in itself it did not have a lot to offer, if you aren't already a fan of pro wrestling. Bret Hart spends a lot of time showing how he always kept his head up and the like - which is fine; Hitman is, after all, his autobiography. But the privilege of getting an insider's view of the world of pro wrestling is only so fascinating if it consists, as Hitman does, mostly of one thing happening after another. Put another way, much of what I found good about Hitman was not intrinsic to it. True, Hart's use of wrestling jargon is one of the excellences of the book. But Hart does not, at least, not in Hitman, seem to grasp the unifying logic (if you like) of his life and of the lives of the members of his family.

Throughout Hitman, Hart uses the image of wrestlers as racing stallions, running together, whose numbers become fewer and fewer as more die (as on p. 551, when he writes, 'If I was a stallion, my heart called out to the rest of the ghost herd: Dean, Owen, Davey, Pillman, Curt, Rude, even Dynamite, who had all been so strong, swift and young.') This image, which becomes a metaphor to which Hart frequently turns in the book, is a powerful one and he uses it well, but it lacks the strength to bear the narrative weight of Hitman, because it is intrinsic to only one aspect of the book, the tragic (for lack of a better word) deaths of men before their time because of their involvement in pro wrestling. He also looks at himself as coming to be a 'polar bear' (loc. cit.), isolated and alone, but this image, too, cannot carry the weight of the book.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me as though the biggest flaw of Hitman is that it lacks a master symbol, an image which crystallises Hart's insights into his own self, his family, pro wrestling, and human life as a whole. I think I see now why I haven't enjoyed autobiographies generally, even though, for example, one would think that as a fan of Star Trek, I would have enjoyed Shatner's. It is that their authors - and Hart in writing Hitman seems to me to be no exception - do not seem to pierce the veil of their own experience to reach the vital insight that, on reading their books - one can feel hiding beneath the surface, even though one cannot really pinpoint it and say what it must be.

So much, then, for Hitman. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and I am grateful to have had my understanding of and sympathy for the world of pro wrestling broadened, despite what I believe to be Hart's lack of success in penetrating to real insight; the book was a pleasure to read.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I review all comments before posting. Feel free to disagree with what I or someone else writes, but be polite.