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How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart

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Summary

A (pained and scathing) review of tennis star Tracy Austin's autobiography Beyond Center Court, extending into a general critique of the mass-produced ghostwritten sports autobiographies then flooding the market. It was originally published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Themes/Motifs

  • Tennis
  • Communication

Voice

Wallace writes this essay in a first person with a clear tone of frustration at the ineptitude of Tracy Austin and her fellow professional athletes when it comes to writing sports memoirs. At the same time Wallace is highly knowledgeable and analytical in his pursuit of the answer to why exactly these memoirs continually fail.

Context

In this essay, Wallace comments on the perpetual disappointment he feels with sports memoirs. Tracy Austin's is an especially big let down, as the glory and tragedy of her career "could have been much more than just another I-was-born-to-play sports memoir." Here Wallace explores what exactly lets him down about sports memoirs and questions whether it is simply an impossible genre. What he wants out of these memoirs in to know exactly what it is like to be great, but on some level he realizes that this lack of self awareness might be part of what allows some one to be a great athlete.

"It may also, in starting to address the differences in communicability between thinking and doing and between doing and being, yield the key t why top
athletes' autobiographies are at once so seductive and so disappointing for us readers. As is so often SOP with the truth there's a cruel paradox involved.
It may well be that we spectators who are not divinely gifted as athletes, are the only ones able truly to see, articulate and animate the experience of
the gift we are denied." (155).

Criticism