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“I REMEMBERED LOSING FIGHTS. That feeling of being squashed by someone else’s not quite so squashy flesh. Blood in the cheeks and sometimes in the mouth. I didn’t want that again. But maybe I had to face it.
Because if I was going to do some wrestling myself – to find out what William was on about – this is what I’d be up against.”
TOBY LITT’S father wanted him to find about their ancestor: William Litt, a champion Cumberland Wrestler.
William was one of the greatest ever ‘kings of the green’ – a man who reigned undefeated in one of the nineteenth century’s most popular sports, taking home over 200 prize belts. William had other talents, as well. He was almost certainly a smuggler – and definitely published poet and novelist.
But Toby knew that coming to terms with him would be hard.
A huge and fascinating man, William was also troubling. He ended his life in poverty and exile.
And as well as having to measure himself up against this apparent paragon of masculinity, Toby would have to uncover uncomfortable memories and hard truths.
Would Toby like what he found out about himself along the way? As a novelist, as a son, and as a father in turn?
Would he have to get in the wrestling ring? ... Would he even want to?
Using the nineteenth century as a guide, Wrestliana asks vital questions about modern-day masculinity, competition, and success. It is a beautiful portrait of two men and their different worlds, full of surprises and sympathy, and a wonderful evocation of a lost place and time.
TOBY LITT grew up in Ampthill, Bedfordshire. He has worked as a teacher, bookseller and subtitler. A graduate of Malcolm Bradbury’s Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia, Toby is best known for writing his books – from Adventures in Capitalism to Lilian's Spell Book – in alphabetical order; he is currently working on ‘P.’ He is a Granta Best of Young British Novelist and a regular on Radio 3’s The Verb. His story ‘John and John’ won the Manchester Fiction Prize. Toby teaches creative writing at Birkbeck College.