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David Foster Wallace on Tennis

Book - 2016
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'I submit that tennis is the most beautiful sport there is, and also the most demanding.'

Gathered for the first time in a deluxe collector's edition, here are David Foster Wallace's legendary writings on tennis, five tour-de-force pieces written with a competitor's insight and a fan's obsessive enthusiasm. Wallace brings his dazzling literary magic to the game he loved as he celebrates the other-worldly genius of Roger Federer; offers a wickedly witty dissection of Tracy Austin's memoir; considers the artistry of Michael Joyce, a supremely disciplined athlete on the threshold of fame; resists the crush of commerce at the U.S. Open; and recalls his own career as a "near-great" junior player.

Whiting Award-winning writer John Jeremiah Sullivan provides an introduction.
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : [Library of America] : Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., [2016]
ISBN: 9781598534801
1598534807
Branch Call Number: 796.342
Characteristics: xv, 138 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm

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Chapel_Hill_MarthaW Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to say about this other than that it was so, so good. I'll offer the caveat that it's not for non-fans -- if you don't love tennis already, this isn't the book to convince you otherwise; it is so clearly written for people who appreciate how impossibly beautiful and smart and complicated this sport is. But if you are one of those people who already appreciates tennis? This is the book you've been looking for. I, like many other people who will pick this up, had already read the most famous essay contained herein -- in this book, it's entitled "Federer Both Flesh and Not", but it was originally published in the New York Times in 2006 as "Federer as Religious Experience" and is one of the most famous pieces of tennis writing of all time, and deservedly so. Having read that, I knew the rest of the book would be good -- I'm not sure I realized HOW good. The best essay, other than the Federer one (which was a joy to revisit), is a piece from 1996 about Michael Joyce, a top-100 player on the hardcourt circuit that summer. It is such a brilliant piece of writing examining how even these players whose names you'll never remember, who will never win a Slam, are so superhumanly gifted at what they do that it almost defies comprehension. I loved this book -- it is an excellent read for the week before Wimbledon, as it had the effect of making me want to sit on a couch and watch 12 hours straight of tennis -- and I am only knocking off half a star because of the extent to which it focuses on the men's game, at the expense of the women's. (And occasional moments where I felt a biiiiit too conscious of how intensely Important Literary White Male the author was.)

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