This memory (or lack thereof) helped me to appreciate David Foster Wallace's essay: "How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart." No spoilers about this perfectly-crafted essay, except to say that this gem made me feel better about all I don't remember from my stint as Tracy Austin. The Tracy Austin essay, along with four of his other pieces about tennis, have been collected in a beautiful, cloth-bound book entitled String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis. My favorite essay of the collection is "Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley" in which Foster Wallace recounts his years as a pretty good junior player on the Midwestern junior scene, especially in Central Illinois. My other favorite is "Michael Joyce's Professional Artistry." They're all excellent essays, and I'm inclined to believe The New York Times Book Review that Foster Wallace is "THE GREATEST TENNIS WRITER EVER."
He's thoughtful, observant, funny without unnecessary snark, and smart. His knowledge of and affection for the game is obvious throughout. I've never read Infinite Jest or his other fiction (and likely never will), but these tennis essays reinforce the pervading sense of loss associated with David Foster Wallace.
Here's a description of Michael Chang from the Michael Joyce essay that gave me a chuckle:
"Michael Chang, twenty-three and #5 in the world, sort of looks like two different people stitched crudely together: a normal upper body perched atop hugely muscular and totally hairless legs. He has a mushroom-shaped head, ink-black hair, and an expression of deep and intractable unhappiness, as unhappy a face as I've ever seen outside a Graduate Writing Program" (82).
If you love tennis and good writing, I think you'd love String Theory. If someone you love loves tennis and good writing, I think it would make an unexpected but welcome gift.
*"Move your damn feet, Megan" (tip from me to me)