Soniah Kamal

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'Islam is not Pakistan's religion; Marriage is'

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Andre Agassi's sports memoir 'Open' and tennis matches on court and in the mind

I opened 'Open' because I'm in the habit of opening every book that comes my way. I could not put this book down.  'Open' is a candid, funny, and fun read simply because Agassi, rather than giving a blow by blow account of every tennis match he ever played, gives a blow by blow account of his inner life. He is often quite snide and he is always very matter of fact. In fact the only aspect of his life Agassi is discrete about is his wife, Steffi Graff, and their children. Every thing else is fair game, be it his drug issues, his feelings about his immigrant father, his feelings about fellow players, his feelings about the sunset, his feelings about Brooke Shields, or his feelings about his hair. Brooke and his hair are, in fact, the stars. The Brooke parts are hilarious and since she apparently okayed them, I felt okay about not feeling too bad at how dim she came across as at times. As for Agassi's hair: even Agassi was in love with Agassi's  hair, which at times wasn't even his hair, but was a toupee, which he was more concerned about losing during a tennis match then the game itself. It's hilarious to think that while one was watching Agassi run around on court and thinking why has God given a man such amazing hair, Agassi was terrified that his hair piece was going to fall off and humiliate the hell out of him. 
So obviously Agassi didn't sit down one fine day and discover that he was a fabulous storyteller and writer (yes storytelling and writing are two different creatures) therefore I scrambled to the acknowledgements hoping to find the name of his ghostwriter: it's J. R. Moehringer, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of his own memoir, The Tender Bar.
'Open' is a treat to read because of Moehringer. These are Agassi's stories but it is Moehringer's pen which brings to them such delight and tenderness for Moehringer has the great talent for taking what could have very well have been bratty whines and transforming them into heartfelt and moving accounts. Apparently, though Agassi wanted to share credit with Moehringer on the cover, Moehringer was content to take a backseat and so Agassi profusely thanks him in the acknowledgements. Here's a little piece on their collaboration in the New York Times.
If you're looking for accounts of tennis matches then read Pete Sampras's memoir, 'A Champion's Mind: Lessons from a Life in Tennis', but if you want something psychologically richer then Agassi's 'Open' is the way to go. For once the titles alone are indicative of the type of read one is going to get!


Carole said...

I was wondering whether you would be happy to put up a link in my brand new monthly series called “Books You Love”. The idea is for people to link up posts about a book they loved – it doesn’t have to be one they just posted about. It could be an old fave. I am hoping we will end up with a nice collection of books that can go on our reading lists. Here is the link Books You Loved May Edition

Drunk on Ink said...

Hi Carole
I'd love to. thanks for asking.