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Tennis and the Meaning of Life: A Literary Anthology of the Game Hardcover – January 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Breakaway Books (January 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558213783
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558213784
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,868,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jay Jennings is a freelance writer whose journalism, book reviews and humor have appeared in many national magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Oxford American, and Travel & Leisure. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review and the San Francisco Chronicle.

He began his writing career as a reporter at Sports Illustrated, followed by four years as the features editor at Tennis magazine. His work has been recognized by The Best American Sports Writing annual and has appeared in the humor anthology Mirth of a Nation: The Best Contemporary Humor. He is a two-time MacDowell Colony fellow in fiction and was awarded a grant in 2008 from the Arkansas Arts Council for a novel-in-progress.

Carry the Rock: Race, Football and the Soul of an American City was named a 2010 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. Most recently, he edited a collection called Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Cote on August 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
If you are a lover of the short story, even perhaps, a storyteller or writer yourself -- AND -- you are nuts about the game of tennis, then this book is probably the equal of such pleasures as sex, good scotch, and cigars combined.

After becoming happily tired from the work of the day, I allow my mind to sink into the literary construction of these fine stories, and identify with the familiar sentiments of the character players it contains. In addition, the second half of the book is comprised of some nifty tennis poetry. A solid buy.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
I found this book, as an active tennis player, to be very insightfull and enightening. This book would be good for anyone tennis player or not. Lifes secrets are uncovered by using the maetaphor of tennis. All and all a very worth while book to read.
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