String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis by David Foster WallaceAn instant classic of American sportswriting—the tennis essays of David Foster Wallace, “the best mind of his generation” (A. O. Scott) and “the best tennis-writer of all time” (New York Times)
Both a onetime near-great junior tennis player and a lifelong connoisseur of the finer points of the game, David Foster Wallace wrote about tennis with the authority of an insider, the showmanship of a literary pyrotechnician, and disarming admiration of an irrepressible fan. Including his masterful profiles of Roger Federer and Tracy Austin, String Theory gathers Wallaces five famous essays on tennis, pieces that have been hailed by sportswriters and literary critics alike as some of the greatest and most innovative magazine writing in recent memory. Whiting Award-winning journalist John Jeremiah Sullivan provides an introduction.
David Foster Wallace - How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart
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Here is one. Open, Federer serving to Andre Agassi early in the fourth set. It was impossible. Journalistically speaking, there is no hot news to offer you about Roger Federer. He is, at 25, the best tennis player currently alive. Maybe the best ever. Bios and profiles abound.
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As Federer has only become increasingly canonized as the greatest of all-time tennis player, the piece survives as an artifact of a rare journalistic moment in which everything fell into place. Here is one. It was like something out of The Matrix.
His assignment was to cover Roger Federer, the virtuosic three-time defending champion of tennis's most prestigious event. Though Wallace was able to finagle only 20 minutes with his subject, he turned in a dazzling meditation on the nature of Federer's kinetic genius and its context within the evolution of the sport. But what has become one of the most celebrated essays from one of the most celebrated writers of the past quarter-century almost never happened. Turns out I'd signed something my agent described as a 'contract' that forbade me from writing for other mags. Sullivan is able to note the "complicated feelings" he experienced in relation to Wallace's piece while still acknowledging its greatness and how Wallace made his point "with an accuracy and effortlessness that I knew I wouldn't have achieved or seen as possible.
Between the ages of 12 and 15, he competed in tournaments all over the Midwest, at one point achieving a regional ranking of And most crucially, unlike practically every other player on the planet, he relished playing in the wind. Facing him — especially in a howling gale — must have been a nightmare. As he got older and better, he started competing in more prestigious tournaments. The truth — which he all too obviously grasps — is that he was constitutionally unsuited to life as an athlete. There was too much else going on in his overdeveloped brain.
David Foster Wallace wrote about tennis in fiction, essays, journalism, and reviews; it may be his most consistent theme at the surface level. Originally they had played it with the bare hand, then came gloves, then paddles, then rackets. A lovely detail in that it suggests a scene, a Florentine ear at the fence or the entryway, listening. They often built those early courts in the forest, in clearings. The call in the air. The package from the Dauphin arrives. It occurs in the part of the play that scholars now believe was written by a tavern-keeper named George Wilkins.