Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

BBC link

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2009 at 9:45 am

I taped my BBC interview Sunday morning in Amherst, and a four-minute edit aired this morning in the U.K. It’s short and nothing you haven’t heard before, but since some of you have been asking me how to listen, you can do so by clicking here.


Times Two Plus the BBC Too

In Uncategorized on June 20, 2009 at 10:28 pm

When I did my reading at Porter Square Books in Cambridge last month, the owner told me he had “heard from a reliable source” that I was going to be “very happy” with my forthcoming Times review. He was a bit coy, refusing to divulge his source. Reading that review in today’s New York Times Book Review, I realized this may have been because his “source” was either a dream his wife had or a fortune cookie from Wok ‘n Roll.

Or perhaps he was thinking of the Washington Times, which did publish this favorable piece.

It’s a shame the NYT didn’t think to do a joint review with that other “greatest match” book.

On Thursday, I had a message from one Aeneas Rotsis of BBC radio’s “Today” show, England’s most popular morning news show. Ignoring my unfortunate pronunciation of his first name when I called back, he said they’d like to interview me for their show this week, as Wimbledon opens. They’ve been having trouble booking a studio in Albany or Amherst, but when they do we’ll tape it, and I’ll let you all know when you can listen online.

I’ve also been asked to contribute to the New York Times tennis blog, “Straight Sets,” this week, and I’ll let you know when that’s online as well.

Wimbledon begins this week without it’s #1 Men’s seed, Rafael Nadal. Seventy years ago Wimbledon was also played without the man who presumably would have been top seed. In 1939, with Don Budge gone pro, Gottfried von Cramm was considered by most experts to be the world’s best amateur. He won the Queen’s Club warmup tournament easily, destroying Bobby Riggs in the finals. But the All England Club refused his entry for Wimbledon, as he was an ex-con—having been imprisoned by the Nazis for being homosexual. Riggs went on to win the singles, doubles, and mixed doubles, and Cramm lost his last chance to become Wimbledon champion.

The McPhee Tennis Zeitgeist

In Uncategorized on June 9, 2009 at 10:59 am

For those still wondering, the New York Times Book Review says they have rescheduled their review of A Terrible Splendor for Sunday, June 21. This is the day before Wimbledon begins, which is presumably their reason for choosing this date. I’m also guessing that they’re planning a double review with Jon Wertheim’s Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played. One hundred and thirty-five years passed since the invention of lawn tennis with no books about “the greatest tennis match ever played.” Then I had my idea, sold it, and spent three years researching and writing. Last fall, while going over the page proofs, I read that Wertheim, after attending the incredible 2008 Federer-Nadal Wimbledon final, had decided to morph his Federer bio into a book about the match. What’s more, he was going to use the structure of John McPhee’s tennis classic, Levels of the Game—exactly the idea I’d had three years before! Can I not be original even in my imitation?

Optimists will say that the coincidence, and joint reviews of the two books, will help Splendor, building interest by sparking debate about which match was greater. Pessimists (don’t look at me) will point out that a much smaller group of people will read a review of two tennis books than will read a review of one book about tennis, the 1930s, the Depression, and the Holocaust. The two books are very different: Wertheim’s is a tennis book for tennis fans, and mine is a work of historical narrative nonfiction intended for a general readership. Now that his book is out (as of June 4), however, reviewers will almost have no choice but to lump the two together. 

But bless the bloggers. I’ve had a number of very nice emails from readers (maybe I’ll put them on the site at some point), and this grad student in North Carolina posted a stellar review on his blog. Too bad he’s in a Ph.D. program in medieval history instead of on the Times Book Review staff.

The New York Times No Book Review (yet)

In Uncategorized on June 2, 2009 at 11:35 am

If you’re still poring through Sunday’s New York Times Book Review looking for their review of A Terrible Splendor, you can give your eyes a rest. Though they had told Crown that that was the date it would run, it did not. No explanation; now they just say they’re “waiting for a new run date.” I’ll keep you posted.

Rob Hardy, the Amazon top-50 reviewer who posted a stellar review on the book’s Amazon site, also published it in his local paper, the Commercial Dispatch of Columbus, Mississippi. Not sure what the literary scene is like out there, but it’s a nice review. There’s also an odd little review, that feels more like an abstract, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

I’m glad to announce that the historic Longwood Cricket Club, where Gottfried von Cramm and Henner Henkel won the U.S. doubles title in 1937, has asked me to give my slide show/reading there this summer (date to be determined). And the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport has asked me to come back for a booksigning on July 9, during their pro tournament. The best part of all this is that I’ll have two more chances to play on grass courts.