Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
rob + gutbrain.com = email


2015 January 28 • Wednesday

Marshall Jon Fisher's A Terrible Splendor: Three Extraordinary Men, a World Poised for War, and the Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played is a pretty good read, keeping to a minimum the common tendency to "novelize" works of non-fiction. There are few of those moments when the author tells us how, eighty years ago, somebody has a thought and then smiles ruefully on account of it or some similar nonsense.

It's no Levels of the Game, of course, a fact Fisher acknowledges himself. But it's hard to imagine there ever being another Levels of the Game. But it is an absorbing account of an amazing tennis match. The first line is "July the twentieth, 1937, and Baron Gottfried von Cramm tosses a new white Slazenger tennis ball three feet above his head". The baron's opponent is the American Don Budge and the two players are from very different backgrounds: the aristocrat versus the hayseed, more or less.

This match at Wimbledon is part of the Davis Cup champion, which means that the other two opponents are the United States and Nazi Germany. Cramm is no Nazi, however. Being a gay aristocrat, the friend of Jews and artists and a sometimes vocal critic of his new government has brought him to the brink of being declared an enemy of the state.

As long as he keeps wi