Divided into nine sections ("The Great Match," "The Old Guard," etc.), The Right Set
moves easily down the line through time and culturally across court from the noblesse oblige of white flannels on green lawns to the smoldering tempers of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and Venus Williams. In between, James Thurber
volleys a smashing winner with his courtside observations of Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills; Ted Tingling waxes movingly on Bill Tilden; Grace Liechenstein celebrates Billie Jean King; and Arthur Ashe
deftly takes apart his most formidable opponent--skin color--in "The Burden of Race." John McPhee's superb Levels of the Game
--a book-length report on a match between the fluid Ashe and the mechanical Clark Graebner at Forest Hills--is happily excerpted twice.
If the pieces themselves range from the sparklingly witty (see Martin Amis's "Tennis Personalities," positively radioactive with observations like "Laver, Rosewall, Ashe: these were dynamic and exemplary figures; they didn't need 'personality' because they had character") to the curiously quaint (check out Wills's 1928 essay on etiquette), editor Phillips doesn't let his anthology cohere as a unit because he doesn't get in there and rally with it: first, his introduction is less sure-footed than Sampras on clay; second, he provides no context for the individual pieces or the writers who penned them. Which is too bad, because he's assembled a collection of tennis nonfiction that offers both power and touch--and an awful lot of memorable prose. --Jeff Silverman
From Library Journal
Award-winning British novelist and playwright Phillips (The Nature of Blood, LJ 1/97) has compiled a delightful and revelatory sampler of 65 pieces divided into nine sections that cumulatively underscore the inherent tension generated by tennis's staid traditions, eccentric personalities, and innovations. Some of the most eloquent and articulate voices in the literary tennis canon are represented: there are excerpts from John McPhee's classic Levels of the Game and John Feinstein's Hard Courts, Arthur Ashe's beautiful commentaries in "The Burden of Race" and "The Davis Cup," and James Thurber's review of a Lenglen-Wills match. Phillips strikes an oddly comfortable balance between historical and contemporary voices, sometimes yielding interesting surprises, as in Rich Koster's 1976 profile of "bad boy" Jimmy Connors, who speaks of getting a rush from the crowd's hostility but who in the twilight of his career came to embrace and seek out audience support and adoration. A fun read for all tennis fans.ABarry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.