His assignment was to cover Roger Federer, the virtuosic three-time defending champion of tennis's most prestigious event. Though Wallace was able to finagle only 20 minutes with his subject, he turned in a dazzling meditation on the nature of Federer's kinetic genius and its context within the evolution of the sport. But what has become one of the most celebrated essays from one of the most celebrated writers of the past quarter-century almost never happened. Turns out I'd signed something my agent described as a 'contract' that forbade me from writing for other mags. Sullivan is able to note the "complicated feelings" he experienced in relation to Wallace's piece while still acknowledging its greatness and how Wallace made his point "with an accuracy and effortlessness that I knew I wouldn't have achieved or seen as possible.
David Foster Wallace’s Perfect Game
David Foster Wallace new essay collection String Theory - David Foster Wallace essays about tennis
That David Foster Wallace died by his own hand so soon after the conclusion of the US Open, the last year when Federer would win that tournament, only makes the resonance echo louder. Even though the game has moved on from the period that Wallace covered the most recent essay is from a decade ago , the collection is still rich with insights into how math and metaphysics make tennis the most beautiful of sports. Wallace was interested in how transcendence was possible if the whole world was mediated through the self. In both his fiction and essays, Wallace used tennis to wrestle with this unanswerable question. Here, in a passage from his mega-novel Infinite Jest , a tennis coach muses to himself:. The true opponent, the enfolding boundary, is the player himself. Always and only the self out there, on court, to be met, fought, brought to the table to hammer out terms.
The String Theory
David Foster Wallace is an unusual writer. It is difficult to say whether his emotional disorder or just a great talent was the reason of his uniqueness. His name is associated with tennis, a unique worldview and the ability to notice the smallest details and depict them in his fiction essays.
The area behind and below these curves at the seam of land and sky I could plot by eye way before I came to know infinitesimals as easements, an integral as schema. Math at a hilly Eastern school was like waking up; it dismantled memory and put it in light. He was able to play the whole court, where other players were unable to make the necessary adjustments to succeed in the conditions. It is chess on the run. It is also to artillery and airstrikes what football is to infantry and attrition.