Andre Agassi’s 2009 memoir, Open, wasn’t necessarily the best book I read this year — Joshua Ferris’ The Unnamed would probably claim that title — but it was the most memorable, partly for the wrong reason.
For close to 400 pages, Agassi tells of his harrowing childhood, his hatred of tennis, his dreary marriage to Brooke Shields, and his devotion to his trainer, Gil Reyes, and his current wife, Steffi Graf. His matches and insecurities are detailed in a roiling, visceral style, and Open chugs along as if Agassi’s true peers are Hamill and Halberstam, not Sampras and Courier. There are flaws here, to be sure, but they have more to do with Agassi himself than his authorial potency. As I read, I kept flipping to the title page in search of a ghostwriting credit. There was none, and I was flabbergasted. In addition to being a legendary athlete, Agassi was also a hugely talented writer. Some guys have all the luck.
When I finished, though, I found the truth in the Acknowledgments: “This book would not exist without my friend J.R. Moehringer,” Agassi writes. This is an understatement: Moehringer — Pulitzer-Prize winner and author of The Tender Bar — pretty much wrote it himself. Though Agassi writes that Moehringer “felt … that only one name belonged on the cover,” I felt utterly rabbit-punched. It was the only book I’ve ever read that betrayed me in such a way — like finding that your cousin’s hilarious web video was directed by Adam McKay.
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