Interesting Angelenos

Venus and Serena get the cover of NYT magazine

venus-serena-williams-nytmagcover.jpgThe headline of the piece is "Venus and Serena against the World." It's thrust is that the tennis stars have come a long way from Compton to dominate the sport — "The story has been told so many times, of these early years, when Compton got used to the sight of the little girls who would always be playing tennis at the public park — or riding around in their faded yellow VW bus with the middle seat taken out to accommodate the grocery cart full of balls — but somehow the strangeness and drama of it retain a power to fascinate. The idea of this African-American family organizing itself, as a unit, in order to lay siege to perhaps the whitest sport in the world and pulling it off somehow."

Family dynamics tun throughout the story, led by author John Jeremiah Sullivan's observations of the sisters' father and longtime coach, Richard Williams. Sample:

Although he has been the subject of excellent profile writing (notably in Sports Illustrated, by S. L. Price and L. Jon Wertheim), Richard Williams remains an eternally elusive and evasive figure. I find him powerfully and movingly American somehow. His whole personality seems to have evolved as a complex reaction-structure to an insecurity so profound that it must remain secret, especially from him. Throughout his daughters’ careers, he has gone about fanning a splendor of boxing-promoter language, of lies, half-truths, boasts, misstatements, non sequiturs, buffoonery, needless exaggerations, megalomania, paranoia — as well as here and there genuinely wise, amusing lines — all of which, you begin to feel, are designed (subconsciously, yes, but no less shrewdly) to deflect attention away from a still, small center, the place where he dwells and operates. It’s there that he is who he is, whoever he is.

May be some new stuff in there even for those familiar with the Williams' story.


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