From Publishers Weekly
In his introduction to this enjoyable pastiche of stories, novel segments and poems about tennis, Jennings admits that the title is "exaggerated and ironic," but then goes on to express his hope that the book will explain the relationship of tennis to the meaning of existence, after all. It doesn't, but wide-ranging selections do reveal the meaning of tennis to its many fans, demonstrating how the game resonates with the undercurrents of life. Roger Angell's "Tennis," for instance, is a vision of a suburban father-son struggle for dominance on the courts that comes to a sharp and beautifully simple revelation, while Irwin Shaw's "Mixed Doubles" explores a marriage through the perceptive eyes of a disenchanted wife. In a lighter vein, humorous pieces, like Ring Lardner's dialect-mangling "Tennis by Cable," are numerous and most welcome. A lengthy passage from Lolita suffers from being unmoored from its context, however, as do other novel excerpts. Few of the 24 poems match the quality of the 22 prose selections. One exception is Galway Kinnell's On the Tennis Court at Night ("We step out on the green rectangle/ in moonlight; the titles glow,/ which for many have been the only lines of justice..."). While this collection won't convert nonbelievers, it's a good bet for the faithful.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Sports fans love to inject some significance into their favorite games; hence, the proliferation of "baseball as metaphor" literature. Jennings, senior editor for Tennis
magazine, combed the shelves for fiction and poetry that invests tennis with the same metaphysical import. The author list is impressive. Among those who portray tennis as more than a game are Roger Angell, J. P. Donleavy, Brendan Gill, Irwin Shaw, Wallace Stegner, and Ring Lardner. Among the highlights are Nabokov's sensual exploration of Lolita's baseline game and Kent Nelson's short story in which tennis becomes a lifeline for an emotionally scarred young man. Shaw uses a doubles match to expose a husband's shortcomings to his once-worshiping wife. There's even a short story by tennis great Bill Tilden, in which an old champion delays his entry to heaven for one more match. Among the poetry are tributes to Bjorn Borg; a piece in which a young player contemplates his tennis future from the bottom of the rankings; and a wonderful Jim Hall poem in which an aging tennis warrior finds the silver lining inherent in tennis elbow. An eclectic and very imaginative anthology that should delight tennis' more literate devotees. Wes Lukowsky
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