(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Monday, June 02, 2008

Book Review: "The Downhill Lie" by Carl Hiaasen

I love Carl Hiaasen's books, the hilarious mystery thrillers that lampoon all that Hiaasen thinks is wrong with South Florida -- real estate developers, theme parks, plastic surgeons and their customers, you name it, Hiaasen has a way of writing books with passages that will give you repeated belly laughs. He's that good.

So, based on that joy that he brings to his readers, his publishers prevailed on him to keep a diary on his return to golf after several decades (three, I believe) of not having played the game. The diary picks up on Hiaasen's relationship with his deceased father, a lawyer who worked six days a week and decided to forego church to golf on the seventh, his mother (ever loving), his wife and children, and his various friends (including Mike Lupica). It's a chronology of a middle-aged hacker, replete with Hiaasen's trying various gimmicks to help his game (tried, I believe, for the sole reason to give us fodder in the book as opposed to because Hiaasen really believed that the equivalent of mood necklaces and herbal pills would work), of trying different clubs and taking a variety of lessons.

And, put simply, it's just not that interesting or good.

Yes, Hiaasen summons moments of literary brilliance from a humor standpoint with some of his analogies, and, yes, there are a few poignant observations about his relationship with his father. But, overall, the book rambles and doesn't have a logical endpoint, although Hiaasen tries nobly to bring the book home at his club's member-guest day. The end is predictable, though, for a seemingly overrated 15 or 16 handicapper who benefits mightily from a USGA rule that permits golfers at his level to max out at a 7 for holes where otherwise he would score much worse. That Hiaasen actually was able to score in the 90's regularly after having hit so many balls into the water amazed me to a degree, but, then again, it's perhaps because he found the bad shots and, yes, shanks, more compelling to write about than good shots (of which he must have had some when he shot in the low 90's).

Still, there's not enough of the old Hiaasen to save the book, and his attempts at sentimentality -- about fathers sharing the game with sons -- aren't enough and aren't that good. It pains me to write this review, because I am a big fan of Hiaasen's works overall, but I think that if you're looking for a good father's day read for your dad, you'd be better off buying something else.


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