Thursday, November 13, 2008

The String Theory

David Foster Wallace wrote what will probably always be the definitive Federer piece. I read it without knowing that the author was a big deal. I recently discovered that he'd written another famous tennis article 10 years earlier. It was about Michael Joyce, then ranked 79th in the world. My interest flagged the second I realised it was about a nobody, even though I knew that was exactly the point (Joyce was young and people though he could break through to the top 10. He didn't, the article was written right at the peak of his career).

I pressed on though and it's excellent, the kinda article that makes me wonder about the other brilliant articles I'll never read because I just don't have the energy to find them.

I've always known, in an impersonal, abstract way that being one of the best in the world at something is to be WAY beyond what I can understand. I could see what I was relatively good at and knew people personally who were just way better and I knew how unlikely it was that I could reach that level. It's also extremely unlikely that these people I know are all that exceptional.

This article is the best thing I've read that makes this understanding real. I find this very impressive and important for some reason. Here's one of his concluding paragraphs
Whether or not he ends up in the top ten and a name anybody will know, Michael Joyce will remain a paradox. The restrictions on his life have been, in my opinion, grotesque; and in certain ways Joyce himself is a grotesque. But the radical compression of his attention and sense of himself have allowed him to become a transcendent practitioner of an art -- something few of us get to be. They’ve allowed him to visit and test parts of his psychic reserves most of us do not even know for sure we have (courage, playing with violent nausea, not choking, et cetera)
This guy is quickly becoming a hero of mine, I'll have to track down more of his stuff.

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