You Cannot Be Serious

mcenroe-cannotI finished John McEnroe’s autobiography You Cannot Be Serious last night. I don’t think I’ve ever read an athlete’s biography before. It was very similar to a rock biog. More literate than Dave Davies Kink, less entertaining than David Lee Roth’s Crazy From the Heat. (But you know, it’s hardly fair to stack it up against Diamond Dave.)

Though I’ve read a fair amount of memoir-style writing recently, I haven’t trudged through a biog in a while. It’s a genre of writing unto itself. Memoirs from writers delight in the details; star biographies rarely do. Though McEnroe has a co-writer (James Kaplan), the prose isn’t too polished and captures Mac’s voice well. The sentences are usually straight-forward and conversational which makes for brisk reading. But it’s the content that’s lacking.

By any account, Mac has led an interesting life. Yet most of what we’re treated to here are scores and recollections of matches. We miss out on many of the personalities in Mac’s world and his relationship with them. And though McEnroe takes us through the darker times of his life, he doesn’t dwell long enough for us to develop much sympathy. We’ve got to take his word for it on emotional matters.

Which is probably the best route anyway. Stars who try to pull off “poor little old me” routines rarely get the sympathy they’re seeking anyway. McEnroe at least gives us some of the facts and lets us decide for ourselves.