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Sense of Where You Are Paperback – 30 Jun 1999
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About the Author
John McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and was educated at Princeton University and Cambridge University. His writing career began at Time magazine and led to his long association with The New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1965. Also in 1965, he published A Sense of Where You Are, his first book, with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and in the years since, he has written nearly 30 books, including Oranges (1967), Coming into the Country (1977), The Control of Nature (1989), The Founding Fish (2002), Uncommon Carriers (2007), and Silk Parachute (2011). Encounters with the Archdruid (1972) and The Curve of Binding Energy (1974) were nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science. McPhee received the Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters in 1977. In 1999, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Annals of the Former World. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
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Top international reviews
I was not disappointed. His portrayal of Bradley is reverent and heartwarming. And his insights into the magical art of elite basketball are illuminating and inspiring. If you like great writing, stories about amazing people, and basketball, then this is a book for you.
He began to play with the varsity team as a sophomore, as freshmen were not allowed to participate in varsity athletics at that time, and immediately became the star player of the team. Princeton quickly became an Eastern basketball powerhouse, culminated by the 1964-65 team in Bradley's senior year, which reached the NCAA Final Four before losing in the national semifinal to Michigan. Bradley's last collegiate game was against Wichita State in the third place game, and Bradley, normally a pass first, shoot second player despite his immense talent, was given free rein by his coach to shoot and score at will. He finished the game with 58 points, which is still the record for the most points scored by an individual player in a Final Four game.
After his collegiate career he attended Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship, and then became an NBA star with the New York Knicks, helping them win two championships, in 1970 and 1973. After his retirement he entered politics, and served as the junior U.S. Senator from New Jersey for three terms. He retired from the Senate in 1997, and ran an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. presidency in 2000, losing to Al Gore. After that defeat he left politics, but he maintains an active public life, as he has written six nonfiction books and hosts a weekly radio program.
John McPhee grew up in Princeton, as his father served as the physician for the university's athletic department. He attended Princeton, and while working as a writer in New York his father called him to come see a kid on the freshman basketball team, who his father described as possibly the best basketball player, bar none. McPhee attended a game with his father, followed Bradley over his career at Princeton, and wrote his first book about him, in 1965.
"A Sense of Where You Are" describes Bradley's upbringing in Missouri, and his basketball career at Princeton, including his work ethic and approach to the game, which was far beyond even the best players at his level and allowed him to surpass his modest physical abilities. McPhee also portrays Bradley as a well rounded student athlete who participated fully in campus life and maintained a sense of modesty and humbleness that seems archaic, yet refreshing. The latest edition of the book contains numerous photos of Bradley in action, along with addenda written in 1978 and 1999.
I would highly recommend "A Sense of Where You Are" for any sports fan, but this would be of interest for anyone who appreciates good journalism or wants to learn about an inspiring and influential man, who has been one of my heroes since I was a child.
The book has a tight focus - the books profiles Bill as a senior at Princeton. Only several pictures and the preface hint at Bill's later achievements. The best line is aptly used in the title. The line refers to Bill's ability to shot without looking at the basket; he has spent so much time on the court practicing, he has an imbued sense of where he is. Bill's sense is the finger tip feel that Robert Greene describes in Mastery.
It is cliché to talk about fundamentals in sports, but McPhee avoids cliché while addressing Bill's dedication to practicing the individual skills. Each individual skill is isolated and drilled. The skills are the foundation of strategy. Because of his refined fundamental skills, Bill has more option when reacting to opponents. Whatever they do, he can answer.
The book is decent, but not McPhee's best. McPhee elevates his writing in Levels of the Game. It is a better example of how to dissect the different levels of strategy - you see tennis differently, like an insider, after the book.
The author's fascination with athletic achievement carries through both books, but by contrasting Ashe and Graebner in the later book, he avoids the tone of near hero-worship that sometimes edges into "A Sense of Where You Are."
McPhee has written outstanding non-fiction for decades; his dedicated readers should put aside a couple of hours for this thin volume.
An all-time great writer does justice to the story of one of basketball's all-time greatest players.
McPhee was the perfect person to write Bradley's story: a literary giant telling us about a giant of a person, on and off the court.
Too bad Bradley didn't make it all the way to the White House. It would have given McPhee's book the perfect story book ending.