Levels of the Game
This account of a tennis match played by Arthur Ashe against Clark Graebner at Forest Hills in 1968 begins with the ball rising into the air for the initial serve and ends with the final point. McPhee provides a brilliant, stroke-by-stroke description while examining the backgrounds and attitudes which have molded the players' games.
Every point is accounted for. Interspersed is a ...more
This isn't really a book about tennis as much as it is a battle of the wills between two completely different men who symbolize two very different Americas -- one rich, white and conservative (Clark Graebner) and the other striving, black and open to new ideas (Arthur Ashe). Like ...more
As I started it, I honestly got a bit bored when the author would take us back and discuss the ...more
‘…On the Blackwell plantation, where Hammett had lived, the plantation house—white frame, with columns—still stands, vacant and mouldering. The slave cabin is ...more
A white male, born to privilege and deep pockets, an only son, and his eye right on the money and the American dream which he knows is ...more
I really like this style of sportswriting, where a writer explains a single match/game/race and unwinds the biographies of the players involved and the story of the sport through occurrences in the match. Dan Okrent did it for baseball in 9 Innings, and McPhee does it here with tennis.
Also, I never really knew the story of Arthur Ashe (and this book ...more
But I challenge you to meaningfully review books in a non-comparative manner. I can talk about a book's pacing, and tone, and vocabulary, and meaning, and entertainment - but what are the scales for those? What qualitative and quantitative words would lend any meaning to my attempts to elucidate those factors for someone else? And even ...more
Bonus: the word "backswing" is used four times. (And "perfect" = ...more
I feel bad writing such a short review for a book I so thoroughly enjoyed, but there's just nothing else to say. It's short and incredibly readable and damn near to perfect.
“Levels of the Game” is absolutely a book about tennis, and in particular one fateful match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner. But like so ...more
I do remember Graebner and Ashe, as well as most of the other tennis players mentioned. One ...more
The name of the book implies a deep inspection of the mental game behind tennis. There was definitely an element of this - the players discussed when they most wanted to break serve, when to take aggressive or conservative ...more
And that is what I liked most about it—the premise. Profiling two contrasting characters to the rhythm and backdrop of a tennis match. Very creative sports journalism. Full of the John McPhee style and one liners I love.
The story was written in 1969, however, and since I’m not a tennis buff—I found the material hard to get in ...more
McPhee's spare, vivid writing engages me so thoroughly I feel I understand something about tennis. I can very nearly picture the matches of a sport I don't follow. At this point in my life I know Richmond much better than at first read; I have a better sense of the places and the people. I did not remember from my first reading the weird ideas of Ashe's opponent (Clark Graebner) ...more
The description doesn't sound like anything I would like. A detailed recounting of a tennis match from 1968? I played tennis for a bit as a kid, but I never liked it that much, and I don't watch tennis at all today. So the fact that McPhee manages to make a basically point-by-point recounting of a match not just readable but riveting is really impressive. He also interleaves childhood history and character portraits of the two players, well placed to keep you engaged, ...more
This book is great, but if anyone would want context in any sports game, there's a sports cable channel, called ESPN...
If I walked in to his room and said "I have a bullet in my stomach", Arthur would have said "what else is new?"
"Tennis is a fight of character. A couple of good shots can build the spirit. It used to be impossible to get into a match with Arthur, because there was no character in his game. It was like hitting against a blackboard."
"He plays the game with the lackadaisical, haphazard mannerisms of a liberal."
as opposed to