ON BEING JOHN McENROE

Tim Adams, Author
Tim Adams, Author . Crown $16 (173p) ISBN 978-1-4000-8147-9
Reviewed on: 03/14/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005
Paperback - 152 pages - 978-0-224-06962-5
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At first glance, this little drop-shot of a book would seem superfluous: both McEnroe and his antics have been covered to an excessive degree. But as the title suggests, the author has something more existential on his mind: to explore that peculiar interaction between social (read: British) mores and one of professional sports' original bad boys. Adams, literary editor of London's Observer , uses the legend's celebrated Wimbledon matches as a departure point for headier subjects. Everything from an artful interpretation of a Grand Slam tennis tournament (TV's first reality show) to the politics of branding gets crammed into this deceptively slight (if chaotically structured) volume. Adams is as adept at following a match's taut drama as he is at understanding its larger import. McEnroe was the first Nike branding child not in spite of but because of his petulance, Adams argues with silky eloquence, which made it especially ironic when the star began feeling "locked" in by that personality. Occasionally, as when Adams compares McEnroe's career to famous modern novels, the attempt at cultural meaning can feel like a reach, but mostly the book is a perfect meditation not only on the modern celebrity athlete but on the complicated expectations we have of them. (On sale Apr. 5)

FYI: This book was published in the U.K. in 2003.

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