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"The Soul of a Butterfly" is not profound or ambitious, but in its best moments, its humbly charming. I'm a sucker for father-daughter projects, so I came to this collaboration between Muhammad Ali and Hana Yasmeen Ali ready to like it, and though there are portions of the book that read like extended greeting cards, there are also stories to enjoy. Toward the end of "The Soul of a Butterfly," Ms. Ali tells of an encounter between her father and a hitchhiker who gives the former champ some bibles. Muhammad Ali insists on paying the man, who insists in turn that he will take no payment. Each believes his own entrance into heaven may depend on helping the other with no expectation of reward, and neither will relent. It is a marvelously comic struggle, especially against the background of the terrible struggles Muhammad Ali endured while he was in the ring. There are also moments in this book that will help people who only know Ali as a former champion or as the icon who lit the Olympic torch in Atlanta to understand some of his other sides. He acknowledges here that he's ashamed of the way he talked about Joe Frazier before their fights, and that the greatest mistake he ever made was turning away from Malcolm X.
Though there is not room or inclination in this book for the critical examination of these circumstances and others, the stories here may lead readers to investigate Muhammad Ali's life more fully via some of the many other more ambitious and more rigorous books his life and achievements have inspired.
This program aired on December 15, 2004. The audio for this program is not available.
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