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Tennis and the Meaning of Life: A Literary Anthology of the Game

Overview

The only book of its kind, Tennis and the Meaning of Life is a resplendent collection of the best fiction (and poetry!) written about this extraordinary sport/obsession. The stories are hilarious and sad, whimsical and philosophical, lyrical and profane - and thoroughly saturated with the art of the game. Fathers play against sons. Business partners attempt mutual destruction by tennis. An amateur challenges the local pro. Humbert Humbert rhapsodizes about Lolita's heartbreakingly beautiful game. Tennis is played...
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Overview

The only book of its kind, Tennis and the Meaning of Life is a resplendent collection of the best fiction (and poetry!) written about this extraordinary sport/obsession. The stories are hilarious and sad, whimsical and philosophical, lyrical and profane - and thoroughly saturated with the art of the game. Fathers play against sons. Business partners attempt mutual destruction by tennis. An amateur challenges the local pro. Humbert Humbert rhapsodizes about Lolita's heartbreakingly beautiful game. Tennis is played by telegraph. Tennis saves a life or two. The metaphysics of tennis balls is debated. Lovers cavort in a commingling of tennis and desire.

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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156004077
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/28/1996
  • Series: Harvest Book Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 420
  • Sales rank: 962,848
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword
Introduction
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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