Lost my momentum a bit with these book posts, it's been a crazy week/time of late (remember when I used to blog about personal stuff like that?), but the good news is that even a week later, with this book "review," I am officially caught up. Hurray!
This next book I am guessing will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me and/or this blog fairly well or that I purchased On The Line by Serena Williams at the same time I did Kathy Griffin's memoir as additional reading material while on vacation (which we've already established was very unnecessary since I rarely read while on vacation). I am kind of a sucker for these tennis memoirs, even though they tend not to be great literary works. This is my second one this year (the first was Monica Seles' latest) and Andre Agassi's just-released autobiography is causing quite the stir (I'll likely get to that one at some point).
Speaking of causing quite the stir, I'm guessing even non-tennis fans were become reacquainted with Serena Williams after she had quite the meltdown at this year's US Open. Serena has always been tempermental, so this wasn't unusual behavior for her even though the cynic in me did ponder whether it was all a publicity stunt to draw more attention to this, at the time, just released memoir. Though given the highly unusual circumstances (being called on a foot fault and defaulted from the match because of the tirade), there is really no possible or probable way this could have been "the plan," but it does make good fodder for another those Williams family conspiracy theories.
Again, I am not sure how many non-tennis fans would be interested in this book. Granted Serena is one of those players who transcends the sport, but still there is a whole lot of tennis in the book that may not really care about. Heck, the book opens with almost a point-by-point breakdown of her 2008 quarterfinal match vs. sister Venus that had me worried about the rest of the book. I have reached the conclusion that detailing a match is a no-win situation in these tennis memoirs. Also, the book tends to jump around time-wise. It wasn't really a problem for me since I am very familiar with the tennis stuff, but it is still confusing I think to have a whole chapter about the matches that led to her boycott of the Indian Wells tournament, then a couple chapters later talking about playing Indian Wells, though at an earlier point in her career.
Also, I think there tends to be a bit of laziness in the telling of the stories in these memoirs. After reading about breaking onto the tour, we jump ahead to where Serena suddenly has multiple Grand Slams under her belt, so no details of her first (and quite surprising) Slam at the US Open. Or there is a bit about her competing in the Beijing Olympics, but just a cursory mention about her first Olympic experience in Sydney. Or for those in the know, I remember being touched by Serena recalling writing down her murdered sister's name over and over again in a notebook she keeps with her and how that was her inspiration for a shocking win at 2007 Australian Open, but again no mention of it in the book.
Now there was quite a bit of interesting stuff and things Serena (and even Venus) have been relatively mum about... from their side of the story for ugly racially-driven behavior that led to the Williams sisters' boycott of the Indian Wells tournament to their lives as Jehovah Witnesses to the murder of their eldest sister Yetunde (though I had always been curious at looked it up, that Venus and Serena's three eldest sisters are from her mom's previous marriage). Most shocking to me was learning that the Serena Slam (4 straight Slam victories) was motivated by a bad break-up, though mostly in Serena's eyes. On her media tour for this book I read she said something to the effect of "I'm psycho when it comes to relationships" and that is certainly the impressioin I got. While it obviously motivated her (in a "I'll show him") way, she certainly doesn't detail anything about the seriousness of the relationship or particularly bad behavior by the football pro she only refers to as "so-and-so" (seriously!).
Most amusing though is that this book really is about learning from past mistakes and moving on and becoming a better person. She acknowledges past tirades and bad behavior (i.e. cheating at junior matches, cutting her sister's hair off while she slept), sometimes even trying to justify it. I found it odd at times that she kind of breaks down the 4th wall with readers and says she did something bad but she had good reason tagging on "don't you think?" Despite all her success and boldness, she comes across as extremely insecure at times and that is perhaps another (unintentional?) revelation of the book. But on the heels of this most recent and perhaps the mother-of-all tirades, you have to wonder if she is really learning from her past or if this is just the type of person she is... a spoiled brat, though she would more happily embrace being called a diva.
I have always liked Serena. Perhaps it is being a younger sibling who had to find his way out of the shadow and elder sibling... or that I like her flashiness, her fire and her faults... even her double faults or foot faults that cause her to absolutely lose it.