I’m currently reading Open, the autobiography of Andre Agassi. When you like a book, you tend to race through it. The eyes complain. They feel like the stomach does when you eat too fast.
My left eye is good. The right isn’t. If I close my left eye, I see a blur. My vision is like a plane with only one engine working.
So, after racing to page 150 of Agassi’s 385-page, thick-as-a-steak autobiography, I do the sensible thing. I close it. No Open for a few days. When I resume, I read only a few pages at a time. This is partly to conserve my sight engines, but I also want the book to last.
Agassi himself experienced this when he was reading The Tender Bar by JR Moehringer, a Pulitzer Prize winner. He liked it so much that he didn’t want the book to end. He liked it so much that he invited Moehringer to dinner at his home in Las Vegas. He liked it so much that he asked Moehringer if he would write his book. Moehringer said ‘yes’. The result is Open.
I have yet to finish the book, but have read enough to say it is one of the best sports autobiographies ever. Perhaps it is the finest tennis book ever.
Athletes normally use biographers as typists. Biographers do not have a say. They cannot ask uncomfortable questions. Controversial chapters of the athlete’s life are glossed over. So most biographies are dishonest or boring.
Those that are candid are the unauthorised biographies. But the author gets no cooperation from the athlete and, therefore, there is sometimes a credibility problem. Open is that rare book where the star was an admirer of the biographer, where he sought out the biographer. It is no surprise that the star was Agassi. Whatever his flaws, he had a sensitive side to him. His book was always going to be engaging.
He did a far better job of gaining knowledge of the larger sweep of history than any of his contemporaries. The confidence with which we condemn Nehru exposes the narrowness of our certainties more than it detracts from his achievements
Aatish Taseer's new novel, The Way Things Were, is an Indian classic spanning the eventful decades between the Emergency and the advent of Modi, set in Lutyens' Delhi. The novelist in conversation with the Editor of Open magazine