A Year in Reading: Jacob Lambert

December 17, 2011 | 2

Andre Agassi’s 2009 memoir, Open, wasn’t necessarily the best book I read this year — Joshua Ferris’ The Unnamed would probably claim that title — but it was the most memorable, partly for the wrong reason.

coverFor close to 400 pages, Agassi tells of his harrowing childhood, his hatred of tennis, his dreary marriage to Brooke Shields, and his devotion to his trainer, Gil Reyes, and his current wife, Steffi Graf. His matches and insecurities are detailed in a roiling, visceral style, and Open chugs along as if Agassi’s true peers are Hamill and Halberstam, not Sampras and Courier. There are flaws here, to be sure, but they have more to do with Agassi himself than his authorial potency. As I read, I kept flipping to the title page in search of a ghostwriting credit. There was none, and I was flabbergasted. In addition to being a legendary athlete, Agassi was also a hugely talented writer. Some guys have all the luck.

When I finished, though, I found the truth in the Acknowledgments: “This book would not exist without my friend J.R. Moehringer,” Agassi writes. This is an understatement: Moehringer — Pulitzer-Prize winner and author of The Tender Bar — pretty much wrote it himself. Though Agassi writes that Moehringer “felt … that only one name belonged on the cover,” I felt utterly rabbit-punched. It was the only book I’ve ever read that betrayed me in such a way — like finding that your cousin’s hilarious web video was directed by Adam McKay.

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is a staff writer for The Millions and an associate editor at MAD magazine. Find links to more of his work and follow him @Jacob_Lambert.


  1. I so totally disagree with Mr. Lambert as if you had heard his speech at Andre Agassi’s Tennis Hall of Fame Induction, you would know that the man could and can write. He wrote his book OPEN and certainly sounded like the person I have watched play tennis for 20+ years. His interviews after matches were masterpieces and media enjoyed his comments.

    You would know this if you have watched him all these years. He also had a wonderful induction speech for his wife when she was inducted but you would have had to hear them to know he wrote them.

    Do not judge people until you really know them first. Andre Agassi wrote his book and JR was there along with him for the years it took to write it. He knew his world all too well and the book was so Andre all the way.

    Thanks for reading my comment.

  2. Wait: you felt surprised and betrayed that the autobiography of a major sporting celebrity was ghostwritten?

    Folks, we have a new definition of “naive”.

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