On Being John McEnroe
By (author) Tim Adams
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On Being John McEnroe by Tim Adams
Book DescriptionThe greatest sports stars characterise their times. They also help to tell us who we are. John McEnroe, at his best and worst, told us the story of the eighties. His improvised quest for tennis perfection, and his inability to find a way to grow up, dramatised the volatile self-absorption of a generation. His matches were open therapy sessions, and they allowed us all to be armchair shrinks. Tim Adams sets out to explore what it might have meant to be John McEnroe during those times, and in his subsequent lives, and to define exactly what it is we want from our sporting heroes: how we require them to play out our own dramas; how the best of them provide an intensity by which we can measure our own lives.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780224069625
(165mm x 106mm x 10mm)
Imprint: Yellow Jersey Press
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 3-Jun-2004
Country of Publication: United Kingdom
US Kirkus Review » How John McEnroe became a tempest of his own making. Adams, the literary editor of Britain's Observer and obviously a keen tennis appreciator, was initially drawn to McEnroe by the beauty of his game and by his canny ability to push, place, angle, and guide the ball by using its own pace. The author was equally intrigued by McEnroe's real-time emotions and moral outrage, all very publicly on display at Wimbledon in the land of deference, in the most deferential of games. McEnroe was the Tom Paine of tennis, recognizing no one as his social superior and positioning himself for the same status on the court. Though Adams shows a natural descriptive talent for reporting with winning unpretentiousness on various great matches, what he has most fun with here is speculating on the motivations behind McEnroe's behavioral antics. These admittedly conjectural explanations hit the nail on the head more often than not, sometimes only glancingly, more often dead on. Adams sees both social and psychological angles at play. On the social level, he draws parallels between McEnroe and Margaret Thatcher, in their distain for tradition, their scorched-earth style, and their winner-take-all spirit. He also characterizes McEnroe as the embodiment of Christopher Lasch's Psychological Man, plagued by anxiety, vague discontents, and a sense of inner emptiness, with a touch of Robert Bly's perpetual adolescent thrown in. These opinions are all buttressed by the comments of McEnroe himself, one of the rare sports figures who spoke candidly and offered original thoughts at press interviews. Adams also considers issues of money, marriage, and celebrity. But what finally sticks with the reader is McEnroe's own words: "I was like a compulsive gambler, or an alcoholic. Anger became a powerful habit." A sharp little piece of sports journalism-and a fine journey through a spectacular, volcanic tennis career. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Tim Adams
Tim Adams has been an editor at Granta and literary editor of the Observer, where he now writes full-time. An occasional tennis correspondent and scratchy parks player, he once lost in straight sets to Martin Amis and served a whole game of double faults to Annabel Croft. He lives in London.
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