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On Being John McEnroe Hardcover – April 5, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First American Edition edition (April 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400081475
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400081479
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #833,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At first glance, this little drop-shot of a book would seem superfluous: both McEnroe and his antics have been covered to an excessive degree. But as the title suggests, the author has something more existential on his mind: to explore that peculiar interaction between social (read: British) mores and one of professional sports' original bad boys. Adams, literary editor of London's Observer, uses the legend's celebrated Wimbledon matches as a departure point for headier subjects. Everything from an artful interpretation of a Grand Slam tennis tournament (TV's first reality show) to the politics of branding gets crammed into this deceptively slight (if chaotically structured) volume. Adams is as adept at following a match's taut drama as he is at understanding its larger import. McEnroe was the first Nike branding child not in spite of but because of his petulance, Adams argues with silky eloquence, which made it especially ironic when the star began feeling "locked" in by that personality. Occasionally, as when Adams compares McEnroe's career to famous modern novels, the attempt at cultural meaning can feel like a reach, but mostly the book is a perfect meditation not only on the modern celebrity athlete but on the complicated expectations we have of them. (On sale Apr. 5)
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Review

On Being John McEnroe is great . . . it’s witty and smart, and has ideas about sport that don’t strain for significance . . . My favorite McEnroe tirade, one I hadn’t heard before: ‘I’m so disgusting you shouldn’t watch. Everybody leave!’” —Nick Hornby

“Full of pleasures. Adams writes beautifully, is strong on social context, and is sensible about psychological theorizing. Best of all, he does a fine job in re-creating those wonderful encounters between Mac and Borg, Mac and the umpires, Mac and the All-England Club establishment, Mac and the world.” —The Sunday Times

“We got the official version of the life . . . from [You Cannot Be Serious,] McEnroe’s punchy, if coy in places, autobiography. Now here’s the theory—nine deft chapters and an epilogue in which Adams reflects on the nature of the fires flickering and flaring in McEnroe and the ways in which he defined and embodied his time.” —The Daily Telegraph

“A brilliantly insightful essay about a tormented genius who found in tennis an expressionist art form.” —The Independent

“[On Being John McEnroe is] terrific. On one level, it’s about the author’s fascination with a tennis player. But it’s much more than this; it’s a book about how the world has changed in our lifetime. . . . This is a wonderful essay on individuality, as well as a cracking book about tennis.” —The New Statesman

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By subrosa on April 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I don't follow sports really, but I like tennis, and I borrowed this thinking i'd just kind of skim it over lunch. Jesus. I became totally engrossed in this slim but potent mix of cultural analysis, pop psy, sports writing,and biography. I came to think of mcenroe not as a famous jerk, but as a famous jerk who is utterly fascinating, and yes-- a little admirable. You have to admit, that kind of sustained indignation, total disbelief when things don't go as planned, suggests powerful, delusional optimism. And it's not just about mcenroe-- there is great stuff in here about Borg and others too. Fantastic writing, and I laughed out loud.
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4 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Tyrone Hill on June 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I would categorize this book as nice writing that takes a former star and tries to analyze him, while acknowledging his icon or idol status.

Too late. McEnroe's glory is gone, and there is no need for a whitewash, since nobody cares anymore. Yesterday's star is today's has-been.

Having read two David Evans books about John McEnroe and also "You Can't Be Serious", and being a reformed tennis addict, I
desired something that dared to be more critical. "On being John McEnroe" was not the book I was looking for.

This book is a very quick read. Even though I am a slow reader, I read the entire 173 pages in about 3 hours. There is little of substance here, just many beautifully worded anecdotes that paint a murky picture but leave no real impression.

Shamefully abusive on the tennis court (even now while playing on the seniors tour), McEnroe gave tennis a bad name and helped end the "tennis boom" of the 70s.

Had McEnroe played during the era when Wimbledon and the other grand slam tournaments were amateur events, he probably would have been banned from competition had he acted the way he did.

I'm hoping that the book "Bad News for McEnroe" will give me more grit, sustenance, and truth.
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