Sunday, January 18, 2009

Category 4, Book 3: Nonfiction - Levels of the Game

Levels of the Game by John McPhee
999 Challenge Category: Nonfiction

In 1968, the U.S. Open Championship was first opened to amateur players. They weren't expected to do very well against the players on the pro tour, but both Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner made it to the semifinals. This is the story of that game. McPhee starts right off with the first serve, moving cinematically for a close shot of several points, then backing out to focus on the perspective of someone in the player's box or watching the match on television, or maybe taking a panoramic shot of the background of one of the players and how they started playing tennis, and moving in again for a closeup of a game or two.

I chose this read because in an interview recently the author of The Best Game Ever, Mark Bowden, said that it was a model for his writing in his book about the 1958 Championship football game. I also found it excellent preparation for the Australian Open. Levels of the Game, published in 1969, is a little dated in the description of the "modern" game of tennis, and by comments made by some of the players, like "he plays like that because he's white" or "because he's black", or he has a "Latin temperament". McPhee was definitely at his best describing moments in the match, a tense point, a solid ace, and the reaction of players and fans. A worthwhile read that left a smile on my face in the end. 4.5 stars.

Cross posted at the 999 Challenge.

No comments: