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Opening Acts

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”Just as in elementary school, BRACKET {in high school}] Arthur was considerably more successful at sports than in his studies…. He showed no particular ability to write and was so ordinary a student that none of his teachers remembered him even being in their classes….” — From the first chapter of Martin Gottfried’s ARTHUR MILLER: HIS LIFE AND WORK (Da Capo, $30)

”Maurice Oulette tried to kill himself once but succeeded only in blowing off the right side of his jawbone. A doctor down in Boston was able to construct a prosthetic jaw, with imperfect results. The surgery left Maurice’s face with a melted appearance, and he went to great lengths to hide it.” — From the first chapter of William Landay’s crime novel MISSION FLATS (Delacorte, $23.95)

”Schoolboys created the game out of three simple things. They swung crude racquets shaved off at the handle. They hit gray rubber balls, sticky, misshapen, punctured, smelling of brimstone. They battered stone walls stippled with windows, ledges and pipes. Three items were the sole prerequisites, and a century and a half later it is the same: a bat, a ball and a wall.” — Opening lines of James Zug’s SQUASH: A HISTORY OF THE GAME (Scribner, $30)