David Foster Wallace's essays on tennis, finally collected between one set of covers

The Library of America has just published String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis, a slim volume of beautifully written, never collected essays by one of the great tragic figures of American literature, David Foster Wallace, a self-described "near-great junior tennis player" during his own boyhood.

Like Wallace's fiction, these pieces are finely detailed, footnoted, and discursive, with contrasting passage of economical expressibility and sprawling discursiveness. From Erik Spanberg's Christian Science Monitor review:

An obsessive's penchant for detail serves reader and writer alike. We learn of the personality of the crowd, the endorsement-rich clothes worn by the players, the copious advertising and product placement throughout the Flushing Meadows tournament site and the entertaining backdrop provided by a blunt-spoken veteran ticket-taker.

Wallace describes the citizenry and couture characterizing each level of the stadium from the priciest seats near the court to the vertiginous upper deck housing the fans most likely to visit an Olive Garden without irony. Fitting that, since Wallace famously railed against irony's corrosive effects.

What does the US Open look like? In 1995, Wallace reports, "The ushers are at their fat chains stretched across the Stadium tunnels, all wearing chinos and button-down shirts. The Security guys (all large and male, not a neck or a smile in sight) wear lemon-yellow knit shirts that do not flatter their guts. Chewing-gum seems to be part of Security's issued equipment. The ballboys are in blue-and-white Fila…."

String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis [Library of America]

'String Theory' gathers the brainy, witty tennis writing of David Foster Wallace
[Erik Spanberg/Christian Science Monitor]