Fans of David Foster Wallace’s epic novel, Infinite Jest, know that tennis is a firm presence in the author’s life and work. Wallace was a highly-ranked junior tennis player in the Midwest, and along with his celebrated fiction, wrote essays about tennis. Whether explaining the hazards and vicissitudes of playing in the tornado alleys of his youth, the trials of a player trying to qualify for the US Open, or the sublimity of Roger Federer’s game, the five pieces included in String Theory are literary and journalistic treats, and often very funny. Don’t overlook the (lengthy) footnotes—mini masterpieces of their own.
Tennis, more so than basketball or football, is a game of physics (angles, spin, torque, velocity, force, vectors), played with athleticism and high precision on a frustratingly small court. And thus tennis fans, more so than those of basketball or football, obsess about technique. We daydream, for example, about the effortless way the perfectly-directed momentum of a racquet-head imposes a trajectory upon a yellow felt ball. This is a book for tennis fanatics looking to geek out over technique, or for a gift-giver to bind the tennis fanatic in his or her life to undying loyalty.
On October 25th, 1986, Ron Darling was on the mound in New York for the biggest game of his life, pitching in front of his teammates in the dugout, tens of thousands of fans in the stadium, and millions in front of their TVs- and he failed. With honesty and clarity, Darling discusses how he lost his cool and his confidence, burdening his team with a deficit from which they escaped only through a miraculous comeback. He also recounts what it was like to be on one of the most successful (and disliked) single season teams in baseball history, and gives glimpses into why they didn't become the dynasty he thinks they could have.