The Last Days of Roger Federer, and Other Endings by Geoff Dyer - review by Ben Hutchinson

Ben Hutchinson

Game, Set & Match

The Last Days of Roger Federer, and Other Endings


Canongate 304pp £20

Of all the major sportspeople of the 21st century, none has elicited quite so much swooning as Roger Federer. In an age of brute power, the Swiss maestro flies the flag for timing and technique: effortlessly elegant, incomparably graceful, Federer’s drop shots and backhand make grown intellectuals go weak at the knees. In 2006, David Foster Wallace described watching ‘Federer moments’ as being akin to a religious experience; in 2015, the writer William Skidelsky chronicled his all-consuming obsession with the tennis player in a memoir entitled Federer and Me. Geoff Dyer, in other words, is joining a crowded court.

In truth, though, Dyer’s latest work of non-fiction has very little to do with Roger Federer. Its eye-catching title may play well at Wimbledon, but the emphasis is firmly on its first and last words. Ranging widely across life and literature, Dyer ponders last days and endings in assorted artists, writers, musicians and sportsmen. With his trademark mixture of anecdote and analysis, Dyer measures his own experience of ageing against that of recognised authorities and the heroes of both his youth and his maturity. What does it mean to end?

To help answer this question, Dyer marshals a colourful cast of characters. Canonical figures such as Nietzsche, Beethoven and Turner fill the main parts; cameo roles are taken by the likes of Bob Dylan and Dyer’s Korean physiotherapist, not to mention a host of Californian stereotypes, such as

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