In the Particular is Contained the Universal

So said Joyce. How right he was: we yearn for stories, and the best stories (in a sales pitch, email, or novel) describe a slice, not the whole pie.

My good bud Ramit Sethi pointed me to this excellent 37Signals blog post with three excerpts from some of the most talented writers alive (Bill Simmons, David Foster Wallace, and Michael Lewis) who describe an amazing basketball, tennis, and football athlete. Instead of resorting to bland cliches — "he’s really, really good" — they focus on a specific moment. Wallace, after describing an Aggasi winner, writes:

And there’s that familiar little second of shocked silence from the New York crowd before it erupts, and John McEnroe with his color man’s headset on TV says (mostly to himself, it sounds like), "How do you hit a winner from that position?" And he’s right: given Agassi’s position and world-class quickness, Federer had to send that ball down a two-inch pipe of space in order to pass him, which he did, moving backwards, with no setup time and none of his weight behind the shot. It was impossible. It was like something out of The Matrix. I don’t know what-all sounds were involved, but my spouse says she hurried in and there was popcorn all over the couch and I was down on one knee and my eyeballs looked like novelty-shop eyeballs.

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