Described by Robert Lipsyte as 'the high point of American sports journalism', John McPhee's Levels of the Game, nominally about a tennis match between two of the greats of tennis history, redefined what it meant to be a sports writer. Written by four-times finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction, Levels of the Game is the best tennis book ever written, dealing with human behaviour, race, politics and the divisions of the country, all told through a single game of tennis. Levels of the Game is a narrative of a tennis match played by Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner at Forest Hills in 1968, beginning with the ball rising into the air for the initial serve and ending with the final point. In between, McPhee provides a brilliant, stroke-by-stroke description, while examining the backgrounds and attitudes which have molded the players' games. Arthur Ashe thinks that Clark Graebner, a middle-class white conservative dentist's son from Cleveland, plays stiff and compact Republican tennis.
Graebner acknowledges that this is true, and for his part thinks that, because Ashe is black and from Richmond, Ashe's tennis game is bold, loose, liberal, flat-out Democratic, When physical assets are about equal, psychology is paramount to any game.
JOHN MCPHEE was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and was educated at Princeton University and Cambridge University. His writing career began at Time magazine and led to his long association with The New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1965. The same year he published his first book, A Sense of Where You Are, with FSG, and soon followed with The Headmaster (1966), Oranges (1967), The Pine Barrens (1968), A Roomful of Hovings and Other Profiles (collection, 1969), The Crofter and the Laird (1969), Levels of the Game (1970), Encounters with the Archdruid (1972), The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed (1973), The Curve of Binding Energy (1974), Pieces of the Frame (collection (1975), and The Survival of the Bark Canoe (1975). Both Encounters with the Archdruid and The Curve of Binding Energy were nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science. William Fiennes is the best-selling author of The Snow Geese, winner of the 2003 Hawthornden Prize, Somerset Maugham Award and Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, and shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2002. He is also a founder member of the charity First Story, set up to place published authors in creative writing residencies in state schools across the UK.
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