Mankind: Have A Nice Day by Mick Foley

I suppose going from a novel by a Nobel winner (reviewed below) to the autobiography of an ex-WWE wrestler is probably about as big a drop in literary respectability as one could contrive. Perhaps predictably, I enjoyed the latter far more.

I was tempted by this partly because I always enjoyed Mick’s performances on screen, partly because I am interested in wrestling and how it works, but also because he seems to be building a relationship as a writer with his books since this was a huge hit. The writing is basic, no flowery prose or strong style beyond that of a lively and entertaining and intelligent mind, but it never flags, it expresses both his thinking and feelings well, and it describes action extremely well, and for me that all amounts to good writing.

It won’t be of much interest if you don’t care about this weird activity often referred to now as sports entertainment, but it’s this unique mix of the athletic and the theatrical that interests me – I wanted to know how scripted and planned interviews, matches, character and storylines are, how much detail is written and how much improvised. The answer seems to be a complex one – the bosses (such as Vince McMahon), the bookers (usually distinguished veteran wrestlers, sometimes still performing in the ring too), professional writers and the wrestlers involved all have a substantial involvement and varying input. The firm impression here is that Foley, a clever and psychologically astute man, had a very big say in his career at most stages, because his ideas and promo interviews were good and didn’t need lots of help – though Mankind, perhaps his most successful identity, was a clearly collaborative effort.

It’s also clear that a smaller proportion of a match is scripted than I imagined. It varies how much they plan in advance, but it mostly seems to be a few big moments, and usually the finish, though it’s clear that even that is not always planned in advance – they often don’t need to, since one wrestler is clearly the superior, but he’ll give the other guy a chance to show his best moves too, to make it look like a real contest.

I enjoyed this hugely, and will read more of Foley – even when he isn’t writing about wrestling.