Ben Markovits

Even the greatest tennis players need to be adored

Louis MacNeice once wrote that if you want to know what chasing the Grail is like, ask Lancelot not Galahad. Because failure helps you see — the successful types are too busy succeeding. Two recent books on tennis put this theory to the test. The Master, by Christopher Clarey, long-time tennis correspondent for the NY

Climb trees and grow a beard

A few years after Walt Whitman brought out the first edition of Leaves of Grass (it didn’t do well), he wrote a column on ‘Manly Health and Training’ for the New York Atlas. His pieces were published under a pseudonym, Mose Velsor, and have only recently been connected to Whitman by a graduate student at

A gentleman among players

I once played in something called the Writers’ World Cup. A lot of people in publishing (novelists, journalists, editors, agents) like to think that if their lives hadn’t been poisoned by books, they might have really made something of themselves — as ballplayers, among other things. This is probably one of the more pleasant delusions.

Running out of time

Two Hours is a kind of Hoop Dreams for runners. Ed Caesar follows a handful of Kenyan marathoners, tracks their races and careers, and talks to them about their lives. Part of what’s moving about the book is the sense you get that these athletes (the children mostly of subsistence farmers from the Rift Valley