IN PRAISE OFATHLETIC BEAUTY
by Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht
Belknap Press, 263 pages, $22.95

One definition ofa valuable experience is any experience that you've never had before. In thatsense, reading In Praise of Athletic Beauty by Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht is indeeda valuable experience. A professor of comparative literature at Stanford,Gumbrecht decries the fact that "sports as a social or a culturalphenomenon is at best a marginal topic" in academia. His peculiar book isnot likely to change that, but there are two reasons to consider reading it.First, it is at times as hilariously surreal as a Monty Python sketch--such aswhen Gumbrecht asks, in all seriousness, What can German writer Heinrich vonKleist's essay on 19th-century puppets teach us about sports? And second,because Gumbrecht has eye-opening ideas on the transformative power ofathletics--how, for example, a sumo wrestler, the most undignified andungraceful of athletes outside the ring, can suddenly become the embodiment ofdignity and grace inside it. Reading Gumbrecht is like sitting in the classroomof a kooky but brilliant professor: When you finally stop making fun of him,you realize that you've learned something interesting.

PHOTOMEL LEVINE

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)