Tennis and the Meaning of Life: A Literary Anthology of the Game / Edition 1

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All the best fiction and poetry on tennis.

Everyone who thrills to a good match and delights in good writing will love this dazzling anthology of the best tennis ever played in literature. If any sport is a metaphor for our complicated human existence, tennis is. The cumulative effect of these stories is to see life through tennis, and to see tennis itself portrayed more beautifully than ever before.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. (May)
Wes Lukowsky
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558213784
  • Publisher: Breakaway Books
  • Publication date: 1/1/1999
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Table of Contents

Tennis 3
Beggars Would Ride 13
The Return of Service 23
Rackets and Riches at Wimbledon 35
The Tennis Court 41
In the Land of Dreamy Dreams 53
Mother Coakley's Reform 69
Return to Return 77
The Tennis Game 115
Tennis by Cable 135
An FBI Story 138
The Facts of Life 153
Pat-Ball 179
Lolita (excerpt) 184
The Tennis Player 194
A Fairly Regular Four 212
Mixed Doubles 221
The Blacktop Champion of Ickey Honey 235
Balance His, Swing Yours 274
The Tennis Court 286
The Phantom Drive 296
Matilda's England (I. The Tennis Court) 313
A Lawn-Tennisonian Idyll 341
Tennis 344
A Subaltern's Love-song 345
The Olympic Girl 348
On Watching a Young Man Play Tennis 350
Tennis in San Juan 352
My Tennis Pro Is Shot 354
Doc Stavic Coaches 356
Tennis Elbow 358
Watching Tennis 360
A Dialogue Concerning the Question Whether a Tennis Ball May be Said to Hanker for the Other Side of the Net 361
On the Tennis Court at Night 363
Autumn: Evening Tennis 366
Prothalamion 368
Clobber the Lobber 369
Tennis Instructor, 1971, (from "Two Summer Jobs") 370
Tennis 375
The Old Pro's Lament 377
Tennis 379
Bjorn Borg 384
The Pregnant Lady Playing Tennis 385
A Snapshot for Miss Bricka Who Lost in the Semi-Final Round of the Pennsylvania Lawn Tennis Tournament at Haverford, July, 1960 387
The Tennis 389
Permissions 391
Author Biographies 395
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