This Follow-up Memoir Doesn’t Quite Match up to the First
The best memoirs aren’t necessarily those which are best written. They rarely suffer from a lack of literary flourish. But memoirs endure.
As Andre Agassi once noted while talking about his autobiography Open, “The hope is that somebody doesn’t just learn more about me, but somehow through those lessons, they can learn a lot about themselves.” This is more or less why Agassi’s Open still endures. So does, to a considerable extent, John McEnroe’s Serious. A lack of it might well be the reason why McEnroe’s second, But Seriously, may never.
McEnroe is known to be a charismatic and engaging talker. This is evident as he tries to uncover the talk show host and art dealer in him.
He writes about being friends with the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Tom Hanks. He jams with The Pretenders, skis with Arnold Schwarzenegger, engages with Bill Clinton and hugs Donald Trump.
However, with McEnroe, the expectation is for him to go deeper than mere name-dropping.
For, he is among the smartest players to have ever played the game and is a tennis commentator of genuine depth. But as wide ranging as the book is, it just skims the surface. And for those who have read his first autobiography, the presence of many rehashed stories can often be a jarring note.
But it’s difficult to think of many sportspersons who invest so much into everything they do as much as McEnroe and he does have his moments. Some of the best passages describe the aftermath of the epic clash between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2008 where he was commentating and Novak Djokovic’s ascent to greatness.
His reverence for Bjorn Borg and the Swede’s positive influence on him is narrated through a beautiful anecdote wherein Borg cajoles McEnroe to take McEnroe Sr. to a tournament he wants to go to. “He is your father John, you’ve only got one,” Borg says.
These create a longing for more but McEnroe’s writing on potentially interesting topics — like how a celebrity father can embrace parenting, his view on doubles being on life-support and his short coaching stint with Canadian Milos Raonic — are filled with just broad brush strokes. It is not that he hasn’t tried. But, like his second act as a player, this second act too doesn’t match up to the earlier level.
Credit: The Hindu