OFF THE COURT by Arthur with Neil Amdur Ashe

OFF THE COURT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Much less focused or readable than the short-span memoir Ashe wrote with Frank DeFord (Arthur Ashe: Portrait in Motion, 1975), this ""autobiography"" begins with Ashe's 1979 heart attack, flashes back to recap his climb and career highlights, and rambles through disjointed, repetitious comments on tennis, politics, racism, South Africa, women, etc. Still, Ashe's ""underdog"" rise from segregated Richmond, Va. (largely familiar from Advantage Ashe and John McPhee's superb Levels of the Game) remains an inspiring one even in the fragmented form here--complete with warmly supportive father, local racists, demanding black coaches, a few encouraging whites (like the Beverly Hills matron who casually handed Arthur the $800 cash he needed for Wimbledon), and a triumphant climax at the first US Open in 1969. And, if less than articulate, Ashe is obviously sincere and thoughtful in his preoccupation with South Africa: he calls for So. African athletes to take public stands on apartheid; he feels that disinvestment by US companies is a futile tactic; he is fascinated and dismayed by the distinctions made by ""Africans"" and ""Coloureds"" themselves; he finally believes that ""South Africa will have to be forced to change."" Some other comments on more close-to-home racism are also perceptive, and for tennis fans there are observations on Laver, Connors, Borg, McEnroe, the Wimbledon boycott, and ""the killer instinct."" On the other hand, however, only very devoted Ashe followers will find much interest in the rest: ""my top-ten cities""; a bland history of his love life (""I had no real romantic attachments in grade school""); musings on his marriage to photographer Jeanne, on the psychology of black men; and miscellaneous positions (""I also favor registration for eighteen-year-olds""). A very uneven gathering of opinions and memories, then--his bypass operation and post-retirement plans come at the close--but mostly likable, with some special appeal for young readers.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1981
Publisher: New American Library