It’s summertime and the living is easy (at least I hope so). Summer is the time to relax and get away from the grind of work, work and work. There is no better way to back off from life then to find some great books to get into. Tennis has always been a game that has attracted our greatest novelist and poets. Some of them play the game and the game’s natural elegance, country club background, geometry and the human drama of matches make for uniquely compelling material to write about. In fact, the only poetry I have ever published was about tennis at Flushing Meadows. The beauty of Roger Federer’s stroke, the madness of John McEnroe or the energy of the statue of Arthur Ashe at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center all stimulate the writer’s mind.
So here is a list of my favorite tennis books:
►Tennis and the Meaning of Life: A Literary Anthology of the Game, edited by Jay Jennings: Here, you will find real treasures such as Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. You will read the chapter on tennis where Humbert describes the vision of Lolita playing tennis. The anthology has stories by Ring Lardner, AA Milne, EB White and Paul Theroux.
►David Foster Wallace’s two books of collected essays (A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments and Considering the Lobster and Other Essays): Wallace was America’s most gifted younger writers before he took his own life three years ago. We are all lucky to have these works and luckier still that Wallace was an accomplished tennis player who writes with wit and wisdom about the likes of Tracy Austin.
►The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey: Harvard-educated tennis player Tim Gallwey was about 40 years ahead of sport psychology when he used Asian mindfulness techniques to help tennis players play with a blank and accepting mind. This is one of the few worthwhile sport psychology texts.
There are far too many players who no longer enjoy tennis. They are lost in their extreme competitiveness and have lost the capacity to enjoy the game. The ability to enjoy tennis or life is a skill that must be re learned by most adults. The role and great value of artists, novelists and poets is that they know how to find this joy and this love of the game. This is their primary function in every society. They cannot teach you how to play, but they can teach you how to enjoy playing. Thankfully, tennis has an allure that attracts writers to the game, while the writer has the ability to show us the riches inherent in tennis. So go find a good book and dive right in. If you still don’t believe me, here is an excerpt from a poem by William Scammell entitled “Bjorn Borg” …
“Eyes criminally close together
Fastest feet in the business
Borg’s groundstrokes would have landed
In Kensington but for
One small consideration: topspin
He struck them as stepmothers
Once brushed their daughters’ hair”
Leave it to a poet to get it right.
Dr. Tom Ferraro
For consultations, treatment or on-site visits, contact Dr. Tom Ferraro Ph.D., Sport Psychologist, by phone at (516) 248-7189, e-mail DrTFerraro@aol.com or visit DrTomFerraro.com.