Literary Birthday: George Plimpton

A snootily-dialected, aristocratic, and yet somewhat clownish enthusiast of many pursuits, George Plimpton (born today in 1927) was not only a load-bearing pillar of 20th century New York publishing, he made the writing life look positively a gas. Besides running The Paris Review (which, he often noted, was not based in Paris and did not publish reviews), Plimpton had a lucrative—and more importantly, fun—sideline gig in what he called “participatory journalism.”

Throwing his gangly Ivy League frame into one unlikely sport after another, he published a string of self-deprecating books about competing in baseball (Out of My League), golf (The Bogey Man), and hockey (Open Net). In Shadow Box (1977), Plimpton described training for a 1959 fight with boxer Archie Moore by studying The Art and Practice of English Boxing (1807). A Sports Illustrated photograph of the results shows Plimpton beaming widely through a bloodied mouth.

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