Bowlbrawl charts the rapid rise and fall of World Championship Bowling, a guerilla version of bowling in the 1990s involving full-body contact and wrestling-style theatrics-as envisioned by impressario Robert Towell, former adolescent bowling prodigy and one-time emancipated child star who seeks to both destroy and reclaim the sport that was once his life. “Sports has reached the lowest common denominator,” Towell observes loudly. “It’s cereal boxes and box scores. It’s steroid scandal and rape trials.” Among WCB star bowler-combatants are “Hollywood” Dragan Momchilo (an erstwhile soccer player), Greg “Agamemnon” Lebelle, and the similarly named “Black Ninja Six” and “Black Ninja Seven.”
Interspersed throughout Bowlbrawl are photos and posters from WCB matches, a glossary of bowling terms, scripts from commercials and matches, newsletters, press clippings and interviews, and excerpts from Towell’s unpublished memoir, The Man Who Murdered Bowling. Bowlbrawl functions best as a scrapbook. The visuals are especially good-wickedly funny, low-budget recreations of pro-wrestling’s cartoon violence in a bowling alley. It’s too bad that much of Bowlbrawl is told in a bland third-person narrative that goes behind the scenes but lacks much narrative tension or flair for characterization.
When the narrative does comes alive, it’s normally in the voice of Robert Towell, whose pronouncements can be outlandishly meglomaniacal or anomalously highbrow. Take, for instance, this excerpt from Towell’s memoir dealing with the media coverage surrounding Greg Lebelle’s assault trial: “It was like having my balls turned into a cartoon for seven hours and being forced to listen to them sing Christmas songs while everyone else was tanning on the lawn outside.” It’s in Towell’s voice that Moore’s writing shines. At its best, Bowlbrawl is rudely irreverent and wildly imagined. (Reviewed by Kevin Chong, author of Baroque-a-Nova and Neil Young Nation.)
by Nathaniel G. Moore, $16.95, 191 pgs, Conundrum Press, P.O. Box 55003, CSP Fairmount, Montreal, QC, H2T 3E2, home.ican.net/~conpress