Sunday, December 20, 2009

Agassi’s amazing memoir collaborator

After reading the first chapter of “Open”, Agassi’s autobiography, I was amazed by the use of language. J.R. Moehringer paints a vivid picture of the painful memories of young Andre, using powerful prose. (The complementary first chapter can be found on BookArmy). For those of you not familiar with Moehriner, he is a Pulitzer Prize winner and wrote for the New York Times and Financial Times. He also wrote his own memoir “The Tender Bar” about his fatherless childhood that caught the eye of Agassi.

They started collaborating and taped 250 hours of sessions- a number any psychoanalyst would be jealous of. Moehringer was able to get inside Agassi’s head – not an easy thing to do. He read Freud, Jung and mythology to better understand the former tennis champ. Finding the right voice for telling the compelling story posed a challenge. Moehringer decided use the opposite of Bertrand Russell’s style and go for a stream of sentences in the present tense without any use of quotation marks.
The result is nothing short of stunning. To quote Janet Maslin of the New York Times: “The ease with which Mr. Moehringer slips into telling someone else’s story is both compelling and spooky”. I wholeheartedly agree – just read the first chapter.

You might wonder why Mr. Moehringer is not mentioned on the cover or on the title page. Before you draw wrong conclusions – it was Mr Moehringer’s own choice. To quote him: “The midwife doesn’t go home with the baby”.

That may be so, but Mr. Moehringer deserves accolades for giving Agassi such a powerful voice.

(Image courtesy of the New York Times)

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