I'm really interested in socially construction rules and limitations, and the various effects of transgression. The overarching dichotomic structure of drugs v. tennis in the novel can be read as an exploration of this theme: American culture encourages discipline, focus, and specialization, and tennis is an acceptable venue, whereas drugs are not. Why is this? The commonsensical answer - something along the lines of "well drugs are bad" - I think requires further interrogation. Why has drug use been devalorized to such an extreme degree? Answers will vary depending on one's analytic framework, but I'm inclined to say it's because drug addicts do not serve the interests of capital, or, more rigorously, stigmatizing drug use and relegating to marginalized sectors of society (which is a deeply racialized process) serves the interests of capital by legimitizing oppression - the diagnosis of drug problems within a community tends to justify cutting funding for social programs and what not.
In any case, what's really interesting about transgression is how it calls boundaries, in the this case, limits of social acceptability and stigmatization, into question. Much of Steeply's frustration with Marathe comes from the latter not playing by the rules of politics, as it were. Steeply simply cannot conceive of politics without "aims" or "real desires." It frustrates him deeply that Marathe's goals have no apparent point in any modernistic sense of representation, economic reform, etc. Another such example is Clipperton's approach to tennis tournaments â€“ although he technically wins, he does not "play by the rules" in any real sense of competition. This ends up transforming Cipperton's persona in that "the very tactic that let him win in the first place kept the wins, and in a way Clipperton himself, from being treated as real" (431). So Clipperton's wins were not "real." But this calls into question the very of a win: for who defines legitimacy when it comes to winning tennis matches? And who decides what constitute valid politics? The ways we draw lines have everything to do with power; categories are wielded to marginalize and stigmatize. When something approaches us from without the discursive boundaries demarcated by society, the common reaction is to try desperately to re-inscribe into the dominant order via marginalization. Terrorism (so-called) is an example. Fundamentally, though, "terrorism" is incomprehensible according to modernist political frameworks. Indeed, this is the real power of something like terrorism: destabilizing the discourses that ground modernity by pushing the limits of the prescribed rules of the game.