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Professor Adam Berlin’s Award-Winning New Novel, Both Members of the Club, Explores Boxing, Friendship and the Nature of Conflict

English professor Adam Berlin’s new novel about boxing, Both Members of the Club, published by Texas Review Press and winner of the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize, is hailed as “astonishingly personal and touching. Berlin displays and dramatizes the physical ordeal of training, of boxing, and offered it without romance, without ideal, but also without apology.”

The main character, Billy Carlyle, is a professional fighter whose glory days are waning. As he begins to lose fights, his friends Gabriel, an aspiring actor, and Sam, an artist, try to convince him to retire so he may avert injury and humiliation. Billy moves to Paris attempting to rebuild his career with his friend Gabriel in tow, who is trying to determine the authenticity of his own dreams of becoming an actor. The book explores the complicated dynamics of friendship, ambition, and violence in the world of boxing.

Berlin’s interest in boxing was instilled within him at a young age by his father who was a devoted fan of the sport. Berlin and his brother pursued the passion as adults: Berlin regularly writes for, interviewing major boxers and covering events, and his brother, who is a lawyer, represents professional fighters and fight managers.

Berlin says that he has a deep appreciation for the sport because he believes it has strong parallels to the act of writing and the drama and conflict inherent throughout a person’s life.

“Boxing is conflict and that is a story. It’s about man vs. man on the purest level— boxing has no equipment, so it’s all about physical and mental strength, one man testing himself against another. In a classic sense that’s what a story usually does,” says Berlin. “A character has an obstacle and has to get through that obstacle. A fighter steps into the ring and across from him is another fighter, a human obstacle.” Berlin says that most of the preparation and work for boxing and writing is done in solitude, prior to the fight or the tangible book. “So there’s a kinship of loneliness between writers and fighters.”

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