Picks and Pans Review: Billie Jean

updated 08/02/1982 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/02/1982 01:00AM

by Billie Jean King with Frank Deford

The tennis champion comes vividly to life in this autobiography as temperamental, impulsive, erratic, complaining—an altogether unpleasant, self-centered woman. But she wants to be thought of as sweet, cute, thoughtful, feminine and good. The result is a rambling, if up-front, account of King's life. She tells of an abortion and her lesbian affair with her secretary, Marilyn Barnett, though there are no revealing details. Is Larry King, her husband, a saint? He comes across as one in this book; anyone who can put up with this crude cookie would have to be. There is innocuous gossip about the tennis "family" ("Chris loves the limelight a lot more than she lets on"), and carping about the hypocrisy of so-called amateur tennis and how women are always treated rottenly, King and Deford, a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED writer, recount all her arguments. She screams at everybody. But she has also come to some understanding about a few facts in her own life: "One of the reasons that so many people who achieve fame and fortune don't find happiness is because, almost by definition, if you reach that high estate you are going to find yourself surrounded by the lowest hangers-on in the world. It is not that you get cut off from the real people; you just get cut off from the good people. And pretty soon, if you don't watch out, you can start to turn into a creep yourself." (Viking, $13.95)

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