This Week’s Best Profile

From the DFW archive, Michael Joyce, tennis prodigy:

Michael Joyce will later say that Brakus “had a big serve, but the guy didn’t belong on a pro court.” Joyce didn’t mean this in an unkind way. Nor did he mean it in a kind way. It turns out what Michael Joyce says rarely has any kind of spin or slant on it; he mostly just reports what he sees, rather like a camera. You couldn’t even call him sincere, because it’s not like it seems ever to occur to him to try to be sincere or nonsincere. For a while, I thought that Joyce’s rather bland candor was a function of his not being very bright. This judgment was partly informed by the fact that Joyce didn’t go to college and was only marginally involved in his high school academics (stuff I know because he told me right away). What I discovered as the tournament wore on was that I can be kind of a snob and an asshole and that Michael Joyce’s affectless openness is not a sign of stupidity but of something else.

Esquire titled this “The String Theory.” DFW himself, in a later collection, titled it “Tennis Player Michael Joyce’s Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Discipline, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness.”

Read the abridged Esquire text here. Buy this to get the full version.

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