Experience MMA Fighting Through the Eyes of a Philosopher in “Thrown”
On the surface, Thrown is a nonfiction book about mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting, but author Kerry Howley takes the story into strange waters. The book begins with “Kit”/Howley, a graduate philosophy student, attending a conference on the topic of Phenomenology. Bored, she leaves and wanders into the adjacent MMA conference next door. As she witnesses men pummel each other in a cage, she describes feeling a sense of philosophical ecstasy. Wanting to delve deeper into the intellectual side of the violent spectacle of sports, she becomes something like an MMA groupie, attaching herself to two fighters, Sean Huffman, the waning old-timer, and Erik Koch, the young prodigy.
But as Kit/Howley goes on and on, quoting Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, about the hidden high brow nature and cathartic release of MMA fighting, we start realizing the narrator is a little too “out there” to be real, stringing out well-written but bizarre passages that hint that she’s possibly making fun of herself. Not to give too much away, but the book is a mesh of both fiction and nonfiction accounts. Both fighters, Sean and Erik, are real, but Kit is not. As questions like, “What is real?” start peppering the book, the work becomes more experimental in nature, more than anyone would expect from a book on MMA fighting anyway. Challenging not only conventions about reliable narrators, Thrown shows how the spectacle of violent sports is sometimes nothing more than a reflection of our true selves.