Joyce Carol Oates Reviews Mike Tyson's Book

Illustration for article titled Joyce Carol Oates Reviews Mike Tyson's Book

From the New York Review of Books:

The title Undisputed Truth is a play on the familiar boxing phrase "undisputed champion"—as in "Mike Tyson, undisputed heavyweight champion of the world," delivered in a ring announcer's booming voice and much heard during the late 1980s and early 1990s. A more appropriate title for this lively mixture of a memoir would be Disputed Truth. These recollections of Tyson's tumultuous life began as a one-man Las Vegas act at the MGM casino. It is now shaped into narrative form by a professional writer best known as the collaborator of the "shock comic" Howard Stern and is aimed to shock, titillate, amuse, and entertain, since much in it is wildly surreal and unverifiable. (Like the claim that "I'm such a monster. I turned the Romanian Mafia onto coke" and that Tyson was a guest at the Billionaire Club in Sardinia, "where a bottle of champagne cost something like $100,000.")

Mostly, Undisputed Truth is a memoir of indefatigable name-dropping and endless accounts of "partying"; there is a photograph of Tyson with Maya Angelou, who came to visit him in Indiana when he was imprisoned for rape; we learn that Tyson converted to Islam in prison ("That was my first encounter with true love and forgiveness"), but as soon as he was freed, he returns to his old, debauched life, plunging immediately into debt.

...Apart from generating income for Tyson, the principal intention of Undisputed Truthwould seem to be settling scores with people whom he dislikes, notably his first wife Robin Givens and her omnipresent mother Ruth ("There was nothing they wouldn't do for money, nothing. They would fuck a rat") and the infamous Don King, whom Tyson sued for having defrauded him of many millions of dollars:

"This other piece of shit, Don King. Don is a wretched, slimy reptilian motherfucker. He was supposed to be my black brother, but he was just a bad man…. I thought I could handle somebody like King, but he outsmarted me. I was totally out of my league with that guy."


[Photo Credit: Ken Regan]