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The First Beautiful Game: Stories of Obsession in Real Tennis [Paperback]

Roman Krznaric
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sep 2006
A QUIRKY JOURNEY INTO THE CURIOUS WORLD OF REAL TENNIS

`This is much more than an enchanting guide to the game of kings. Whatever
your favourite sports may be, Roman Krznaric shows you how to expand the
enjoyment you derive from them. A warm and imaginative book, full of
surprises.' Theodore Zeldin, author of An Intimate History of Humanity

Bent rackets, painted crowns, penthouses and giraffes. Hand-stitched balls
that ricochet around a court shaped like a medieval cloister. Fanatical
players dedicated to a sport that has hardly changed in four centuries.
Welcome to real tennis.

In The First Beautiful Game, top amateur Roman Krznaric tells the personal
stories behind real tennis, the ancient forerunner of lawn tennis. Its
obsessives and eccentrics reveal why they play this extraordinary sport,
what it means to them, and the unexpected lessons they have learned about
ambition, passion, respect and love.

Two hundred years before football became known as `the beautiful game', an
eighteenth century real tennis professional used the phrase to describe his
own sport. In this book you will discover why.

`This book is the first to capture the real spirit of the game and its
players. It's unique.' Rob Fahey, Real Tennis World Champion



Product details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Ronaldson Publications; Limited edition edition (Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1899804137
  • ISBN-13: 978-1899804139
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 14.8 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 113,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Roman Krznaric is a writer, cultural thinker and founding faculty member of The School of Life in London. He advises organisations including Oxfam and the United Nations on using empathy and conversation to create social change, and has been named by The Observer as one of Britain's leading lifestyle philosophers.

His latest book is EMPATHY: A HANDBOOK FOR REVOLUTION, which looks at how stepping into other people's shoes can create personal and political transformation. His previous books include THE WONDERBOX: CURIOUS HISTORIES OF HOW TO LIVE, which explores what we can learn from the past about better living, and HOW TO FIND FULFILLING WORK, which is part of The School of Life's acclaimed practical philosophy series edited by Alain de Botton. His books have been translated into over a dozen languages. His blog dedicated to empathy and the art of living, www.outrospection.org, has been featured in the media around the world, and he is also founder of the world's first Empathy Library at www.empathylibrary.com. For further details see www.romankrznaric.com

Product Description

About the Author

Roman Krznaric is a former journalist and academic who now
researches and writes on the art of living. He is co-editor with the
historian Theodore Zeldin of Guide to an Unknown University and author of
the forthcoming What the Rich Don't Tell The Poor: Conversations in
Guatemala. He is one of the top ten amateur real tennis players in the
world. Visit his website at romankrznaric.com.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars a good read for tennis players and others 27 Oct 2006
By Tom
Format:Paperback
The subititle "Stories of obsession in Real Tennis" describes the essense of this book. The game as played today would be recognised by the players of 300 years ago. However, the game has developed significantly over the past 30 years, largely by the efforts of a few individuals who indeed have their own obsession with the game. Roman captures this in a style that is both very personal and very readable.

As a tennis player myself, I naturally ordered the book. I sat down the evening I received it to take a look and before I knew it, I'd read the first 100 pages, discovering much more about the people involved in the game and enjoying the way the book is written.

The book starts with introduction to the game, both its history and how it exists today. There are other books that go much more into this history and a couple more have been written by todays professionals. This book however, focusses on the more personal aspects of the game itself through reporting interviews with some of those involved as well as describing the authors own experiences.

The style of the first chapter is, to me, quite unusual but it works! It takes the reader into a number of related dimensions of the game. A later chapter contains some stories that positions the state of the game in the 60's before a new breed of professional entered the game and made it what it is today. This change is well described in the penultimate chapter.

The final chapter contains a very personal insight into a father-son relationship through sharing a game of tennis.

You don't need to play Real Tennis, or even have seen a game, to enjoy this book.
Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Pleasure of the Chase 10 Nov 2006
Format:Paperback
This book was so intriguing I kept getting pins and needles in my legs when I was reading small and ever-growing chunks of it as I went to turn the vicar's bike around. The first chapter is ingeniously written as a "Wordless Conversation", intercutting a description of a tennis match with a history of the game. The rest of the book never quite lives up to this level of creativity, but every chapter has a different feel, even if the same themes recur.

It's strange that in tennis professionals are not treated with the same esteem as in most other sports. It is an achievement to attain professional status as a rugby player, footballer or golfer. Tennis professionals are expected to do so much more manual labour. They live the life of a football trainee throughout their career. At times Krznaric repeats this point a little too often, but I guess that reflects the frequency with which it was raised as an issue in the lives of the tennis professionals he interviewed. There is a somewhat Orwellian agenda at work here, but Krznaric has the sense of integrity to include Chris Ronaldson's objection to some of his pointed questions about the Old Boys' ethos of the sport.

The book shows the influence of the ideas of Theodore Zeldin on the art of living, conversation and work, and the methods of the Oxford Muse.
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By Bookend
Format:Paperback
Real tennis is, according to one player in this book "great... like being inside a giant pinball machine, all the walls and angles and targets and the ball flying all over the place"... but this pinball machine is rich with age and tradition, with hand-crafted courts, raquets and balls, all described lightly, elegantly, and with real enthusiasm in this savoury short book. It is a pretty book to hold, rich with illustrations as diverse as personal photos, hand-written diagrams, and paintings and drawings from medieval times to the present day.

As well as a history of the game, including eccentrics, fights, wagers, poetry and enormous pantaloons, the book gives some of the flavour of what it means to be an enthusiast for practising a sport, what it means to have the tune of the moves running through your limbs and the joy of participating in a game with others (given that I am such a lazy and uncompetitive slug, to communicate this compellingly takes some good writing).

What remains in the mind, is the use of the game as a prism for illuminating relationships of patronage, parenting, and competition, which makes it bigger in its scope and ambition than the usual "history of obscure stuff" genre, and all the more satisfying for that.
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Format:Paperback
I've enjoyed watching and participating in a variety of different sports over the years, particularly when I was younger. However, as a way to learn about life (beyond some simple truths) or fulfil intellectual and social curiosity sport has seemed to me somewhat barren terrain. I therefore came to this book as a mild sceptic, but was rapidly intrigued. Krznaric paints a fascinating and personal picture of this quirky and charming game, not only introducing the rules and history of the sport in an engaging fashion but also offering an insider's tour of some of the minds and hearts at the core of this changing institution. Importantly he succeeds in drawing out the broader relevance of the game to individual and social life, but by rooting such 'lessons' in his own experience, passion and understanding he avoids dry or detached philosophising. Thus whether your interest begins with sport, real tennis or 'life lessons' this book is certain to reward exploration.
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