WASHINGTON, March 21, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)
With professional tennis on an unprecedented hiatus at least through June 7, suspended by the novel coronavirus pandemic, there’s no better time than now to dive into a good page-turning book. Who’s in?
Andrea Petkovic, a literati during normal times, is all in. Recently, the 87th-ranked German whose favorite authors are Goethe, Wilde and Flaubert, started an online book club for tennis nerds like her with the support of U.S. literary quarterly Racquet, whom she is listed on the journal’s masthead as “cultural attaché.” Among the articles she’s written for Racquet was an appreciation of novelist Phillip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus. So far, the book club’s Instagram page has drawn more than 2,600 followers.
“I’ve had this idea for a while already,” said Petkovic in a video posted on her Instagram page. “Now, in the wake of coronavirus and be quarantined, self-quarantined, and what not, I was thinking (a book club) might work. It’s very old-fashioned. … We would read the book and then talk about it.
“I don’t know if it’s super out of touch with reality and modern-day life, but I thought it would be fun. … We could start some kind of movement.”
During the past week, Petkovic, 32, who is at home in Darmstadt rehabbing from knee surgery, has publicized her new book club often while promoting the first book (by popular vote) that soon will be discussed: String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis. It’s a 2016 book of collected essays on tennis that represents some of the best literature ever written on the sport.
“He was a very good tennis player himself when he was younger,” Petkovic revealed via Instagram. She calls Foster Wallace her all-time favorite writer, who wrote about tennis in a way she’s never seen before.
“It’s very philosophic. He sees tennis the way I see tennis: something more than just a sport. Something that is about values. Something that is about mathematics, geometry, and philosophy. It’s at times funny, at times sad. It grasps everything I’ve ever experienced in tennis. I read it once every year, both to improve my writing about tennis and to understand my own sport better.
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As Petkovic continues: “He explains beautifully in this book why he never made it to be a pro tennis player. … There are five essays in this book and they are all fantastic.”
For now, Petkovic – “your gracious book club host” – is giving everyone time to find copies of String Theory and get up to speed reading it. The hardcover edition weighs in at 158 pages. Then, in about a week, she plans to begin discussing it – and that’s where the fun begins.
“We are going to tackle this bad boy of a sport book and nonfiction book,” said Petkovic in one of her videos. “And we are all going to be smarter afterwards. And then we are going to conquer the world. Because that’s our goal. We are nerds and we’re proud of it.
”Thank you for tuning in and never tune out.”