Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Book Review - "Open" by Andre Agassi

Just finished reading the Andre Agassi biography "Open" and liked it quite a bit.

A month or so ago I came across in Sports Illustrated an excerpt from the book (which I linked to in this blog post) and as I hoped... the actual book improved on the excerpt in that it had much more of the same great writing.

I'm pretty sure I saw it around the same time as the excerpt, but this Time Magazine review also paints a good picture of "Open". The reviewer, Sean Gregory, includes the lofty praise "Agassi may have just penned one of the best sports autobiographies of all time. Check--it's one of the better memoirs out there, period."

What made the book so good was it's inner view of an amazing life that Agassi has lived thus far. From people including his almost caricature-level taskmaster father, Mike Agassi, and Coach/Handler/Surrogate Guardian Nick Bollettieri, the influence put upon the sports prodigy was amazing. What you had was someone being first pushed by an inner circle and then defined by an outer circle of fans and media... with that definition being put upon a teenager still figuring himself out.

Of course, what made Agassi different than our average 18 or 19 year old is he was playing Grand Slam Finals and having copywriter produced phrases ("image is everything") assigned (incorrectly) as his mantra.

Gregory also references this at the end of his review, but one of the more telling anecdotes from Agassi is his commentary on something said by broadcaster Bud Collins. At the end of Agassi's career, Collins attempted to sum things up with the catchy phrase "from punk to paragon." I agree completely with Agassi taking umbrage with this idea of a teenage punk, and for that matter, of him as now having transformed to "paragon" level. Instead of a transformation, you had the same guy going through different stages of his life (one in which became "adult" way before that of other people) and figuring out things as he went along.

What the book showed to me was a very vividly detailed portrait of a guy with a life way different than most. Just fascinating stuff.