By John Huston
At first glance the country club sport of tennis may not seem like ideal material for a Kerouac-style road novel, but one of the many charms of John Gruberg’s “Tennis Hobo” ($14.95, Inventor Press, 350 pages) is that it pulls off just such a window-to-the-world approach with good-natured ease. Gruberg does so through a narrator named Stretch, whose adventures from boxcar to center court include more than a handful of vivid main characters, not to mention bit-part players who provide everything from comedic nicknames to Lorca-like poetry. Readers can pick up helpful tips on the value of a well-timed moon ball, not to mention renderings of the Berkeley hills and flatlands as well as the Bay Area, California and broader Western landscapes that only a sharp-eyed person with both feet on the ground can provide. It’s no surprise that Gruberg’s book is garnering enthusiastic praise from the likes of USC’s Peter Smith and Stanford’s Dick Gould. Subtitled “A Derailed Memoir,” “Tennis Hobo” makes for one compelling, entertaining ride – Gruberg’s fictional first serve is a uniquely loopy ace down the T.