A career editor and writer takes up tennis at age 60—not as a hobby, but competitively.
One of the benefits of advancements in medicine and the lengthening of the human life span is the range of options open to people in the second part of their lives. Increased physical and mental health make all sorts of pursuits possible that would have one day seemed ludicrous—within limits, of course. Where those limits are, however, continues to shift. Marzorati (A Painter of Darkness: Leon Golub and Our Times, 1990) spent nearly his entire working career as a writer and editor, culminating with editorial oversight of the New York Times Magazine from 2003 to 2010, a job that demanded attention and rigorous oversight of the minute details of words and letters. The author decided to apply this level of discipline and exactitude to tennis—but not simply to play the game. Marzorati had a loftier goal: to be competitive despite his age and despite his need to learn the game from the ground up. The author draws many neat and insightful parallels between his career and his new pursuit, including the mix of solitude and competition and of pushing oneself in honing the necessary skills. The adage involving an old dog and new tricks doesn't hold up as well as one might think; studies have shown that task analysis—breaking down tasks into smaller components—can enable learning at any age. That isn’t to say it’s ever easy, and Marzorati put in the work, seeking counsel from trainers and others. Ultimately, his physical self-challenge grew into a larger questioning of the assumptions—both positive and negative—that he has about himself.
What begins as a straightforward chronicle of a not-entirely-unusual midlife quest evolves into an examination of midlife reinvention in general, both the how and the why.