Pro-Bullfighting Publications

Joe Distler, known as the “Iron Man” of Pamplona, has run every Pamplona bull-run for 44 years and been the subject of countless articles and documentaries. He is without doubt, question or challenge the greatest American runner of the bulls.

The latest issue of La Busca, the journal of the association “Taurine Bibliophiles of America” contains this review.

In 1967, in the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan, I walked down the wrong isle heading for the fiction section and that brief misstep would change my life forever. There, lying in wait, was a copy of Robert Daley’s book, The Swords of Spain. Since Spain was always a place I had desired to visit, I picked up the book and the very first page I turned to had photographs of men running in front of Bulls. I was enraptured. Reading Hemingway had never really interested me in Pamplona’s “encierro” but Daley’s book completely freaked me out. It was, being a used copy, the best five dollar investment I have ever made! Not only did it convince me I must go to Pamplona immediately, it led to my friendships with Matt Carney, John Fulton, Muriel Feiner, Barnaby Conrad, Bill Lyon and a host of other fabulous characters who would go on to fill my life with wonder and joy.

Matt Carney & Joe Distler by John Fulton

Every year, before going to Spain, I still go back to Daley. The book is as fresh today as it was when I first read it standing in the stacks so many years ago. His vignette ‘Spanish Springtime’ still brings tears to my eyes and I wonder what magic made me find such a book?

Over the years, like so many aficionados, I have amassed a large library of taurine books but none ever affected me the way The Swords of Spain did. Not, at least, until recently.

Joe Distler, top right, running in Pamplona

Alexander Fiske-Harrison, top right, running in Pamplona

[Read more…]

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(The CTL: A dispute of authority)

In the May/June issue of La Divisa, the magazine of the Club Taurino of London, there appears the following apology by one of the editors, Jock Richardson (which I have edited for brevity):

INTO THE ARENA

In my editorial in La Divisa… I spelled out my updated editorial policy. In it I wrote… “Every Member of the CTL has the right to space in the pages of La Divisa to express their views on the Fiesta and the Club and to report their taurine experiences in the manner that they feel suitable with the sole proviso that nothing will be published in the magazine that has the potential to offend members of the CTL, the afición as a whole or members of el mundillo taurino…”

Judging from [a] letter… from [BBC Broadcaster, writer and CTL member] Robert Elms and discussions I have had with Alexander Fiske-Harrison, and on reflection upon them, it becomes clear that I very soon departed from my own policy in the article I wrote on Into the Arena by making remarks that were offensive to each of them. In Alexander’s case, I suggested he had lack of respect for the Fiesta and its protagonists and that he might have intentionally used information that was wrong to make a point. I am now persuaded that it is possible to respect the Fiesta greatly and at the same time to make errors in statements about it, and that it is possible to use faulty information inadvertently. These are things that I should have realised before I wrote the article. I am very sorry that I broke my own policy on this matter and promise that I will endeavour never to do so again.

I intend to make a full apology to Alexander in the next issue of La Divisa and to give him space to express his views on my article.

As he says, in the issue of La Divisa that will follow, there will be another, longer apology, and my rebuttal of the article concerned. Here is that rebuttal:

A rebuttal of Jock Richardson’s article ‘Into the Arena by Alexander Fiske-Harrison – a blood anorak’s view’

Alexander Fiske-Harrison

I fully acknowledge that there are a fair few errors in my book, Into The Arena: The World Of The Spanish Bullfight (website here), although it is a long way from having one on “nearly every page.” There are several causes for those that there are, but no excuses.

Some of the errors were introduced as I was writing ‘on the hoof’, and – as I say in the book – I began by only having seen a half dozen bullfights and read a handful of taurine authors in English like Hemingway, Tynan and Conrad. My ignorance and the weak attachment to accuracy by those authors – and sometimes the taurinos who were my guides – are the original source of certain errors, which then remained in the manuscript due to the rush to publication and improper fact-checking by myself and my publishers.

Obviously, towards the end of this project, my focus was more on training in order to fight and kill a three year old toro bravo than spellchecking my manuscript, but that is not an excuse either.

However, these errors were not merely highlighted as unfortunate and unintentional false statements in Jock Richardson’s article, but were inflated into falsifications – termed “bullshit” and “bunkum” and, more seriously, “a lie” – and described as indicative of a lack of respect for the Fiesta Brava, the people I describe and the readers of the book itself.

Personally, I see this as an abuse of power by an editor of a magazine in an article that was, ironically, not exactly error free itself. That I have taken this no further than demanding a written apology and space for this refutation is a mark of my affection for certain members of the club of which I am no longer myself a member, having had it made clear to me by certain ‘senior’ members last year I was not welcome. I think this can be taken as sufficient proof of the falsity of Richardson’s first claim: that there are only two English aficionados that I have “found to be reasonable and likeable.” [Read more…]