When was the last time you read a book and laughed out loud? Not chuckled, but guffawed? Embarrassed yourself on the subway or a train or an airplane with snorts that you couldn't keep to yourself? If you can't remember, I have the perfect way for you to recall such a time --- read Tony Hawks's absolutely cheeky (after all, he is a super Brit) new book, PLAYING THE MOLDOVANS AT TENNIS, and you will find yourself crying and gasping for air with every hilarious turn of the page.
Hawks once hitchhiked around England with a refrigerator to collect a £100 bet. This guy is a wonderful, lovable freak. As torridly unruly as anyone Bruce Robinson has written about, Hawks is the kind of guy who goes to a pub and wakes up the next day playing tennis in the Moldovans, halfway between the Ukraine and Romania, because of a botched soccer match bet. Literally. For some reason, which I won't give away, he seems convinced that he can beat the entire Moldovan national soccer team at tennis. Okay, say his friends, go try. And so he does.
Several pints, several visas, and much research later, Hawks ends up just where he thinks he is supposed to be going. But to his surprise, even with the quick and minimal catch-up he plays with the Moldovan language (he makes sure he knows how to ask "Which neighbors do these dogs belong to?"), his long-awaited appointment at the Moldovan national tennis center is halted by a million different obstacles, all of which he manages to make insanely funny. Hawks is a wordy but wry-tongued writer, and you will find yourself savoring every last word as if it were your favorite childhood Bugs Bunny cartoon. You won't want to let this book ever get dusty on your shelves --- you will want everyone you know to read it, it's that funny!
Congratulations to Tony Hawks for a supremely readable and enjoyable travel book --- I am now, as you will soon be, well-versed in the ways of the Moldovans and their tennis-playing soccer stars. PLAYING THE MOLDOVANS AT TENNIS is a great, great find --- I can't wait until Hawks gets drunk enough to take another ridiculous bet so he can write another funny book for us all to read.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on June 23, 2001