The downhill lie is my introduction to the writing of Carl Hiassen. My beautiful and much more informed school teacher wife is already familiar with his writing through her Newberry award winning novel, Hoot.
Like many middle-aged dreamers, hoping that reading how to do something instead of actually doing it would give me that illusory “ union with the golf universe, ” I was browsing the sports section at a local bookstore and came across this one. seductive chronicle of a man in his fifties returning to golf.
This intriguing question got me hooked: “What does it possess in a man to return in middle age to a game in which he never excelled in his prime, and in fact had caused him primarily failure, anguish, and exasperation?” There was an immediate connection that drew me inexorably into the Carl Hiassen universe.
What’s in the game of golf that would goad me to leave a perfectly comfortable recliner, a well-stocked refrigerator, and a climate-controlled men’s den to meet the challenges of a hot, bug-infested golf course that is immaculately groomed and perfectly designed to increase my risk of heart attack, stroke, and premeditated assault?
Once again, I identified with Hiassen when he writes: “Unfortunately, the most important fact about golf is as relaxing as a digital prostate exam: it is difficult …
When I decided to reconnect with the game, I had no illusions about being really good at it. I just wanted to be better at something in middle age than I was when I was young. “
Hiassen recounts his 577-day foray into his return to the world of golf beginning with the purchase of clubs: “After a few puzzled minutes, I confess that I have no idea what kind of clubs to buy.
However, my plan is to start cheap. Minimizing investment in golf equipment should make it easier not to take the game so seriously and, if necessary, allow for an honorable withdrawal. “
His return to golf takes the reader on a laugh-filled ride that concludes with a 45-hole tournament that he describes as: “No lighthearted romp for a lonely, neurotic, doubt-ridden idiot.”. His golf partner dismissed him as “A couple of bad nines, that’s all” What Hiassen says is like saying, “Don’t let an iceberg or two ruin the whole cruise.”
Hiassen sums up the temptation of golf in his entry on ‘day 577’ after the tournament is over. You are seeing your son Quinn:
“But today is a dazzling morning of marching, breezy and cloudless, and despite recent injuries from the tournament, it feels good to stand in the sun on the practice field, just watching.
For a second, I’m a kid again … and I can remember exactly how great it felt to hit one, really smash it, and then look back to see my father’s expression. “
My biggest complaint about The downhill lie I really have better things to do, but none of them are as fun as reading this book.