The Downhill Lie: A Hacker's Return to a Ruinous Sport - Carl Hiaasen

May 15th, 2008

The Downhill Lie by Carl HiaasenEver wonder how to retrieve a sunken golf car from a snake-infested lake? Or which club in your bag is best suited for combat against a horde of rats? If these and other sporting questions are gnawing at you, The Downhill Lie, Carl Hiaasen's hilarious confessional about returning to the fairways after a thirty-two-year absence, is definitely the book for you.

Originally drawn to the game by his father, Carl wisely quit golfing in 1973, when "Richard Nixon was hunkered down like a meth-crazed badger in the White House, Hank Aaron was one dinger shy of Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, and The Who had just released Quadrophenia." But some ambitions refuse to die, and as the years -- and memories of shanked 7-irons -- faded, it dawned on Carl that there might be one thing in life he could do better in middle age than he could as a youth. So gradually he ventured back to the dreaded driving range, this time as the father of a five-year-old son -- and also as a grandfather.

"What possesses a man to return in midlife to a game at which he'd never excelled in his prime, and which in fact had dealt him mostly failure, angst and exasperation? Here's why I did it: I'm one sick bastard."

And thus we have Carl's foray into a world of baffling titanium technology, high-priced golf gurus, bizarre infomercial gimmicks and the mind-bending phenomenon of Tiger Woods; a maddening universe of hooks and slices where Carl ultimately -- and foolishly -- agrees to compete in a country-club tournament against players who can actually hit the ball. "That's the secret of the sport's infernal seduction," he writes. "It surrenders just enough shots to let you talk yourself out of quitting."

Hiaasen's chronicle of his shaky return to this bedeviling pastime and the ensuing demolition of his self-esteem -- culminating with the savage 45-hole tournament -- will have you rolling with laughter. Yet the bittersweet memories of playing with his own father and the glow he feels when watching his own young son belt the ball down the fairway will also touch your heart. Forget Tiger, Phil and Ernie. If you want to understand the true lure of golf, turn to Carl Hiaasen, who has written an extraordinary book for the ordinary hacker.

Carl Hiaasen was introduced to the game of golf by his father, who, to Carl's nearly life-long disappointment, was a very good golfer. On a whim that could be argued to be both mature and immature, he gave up the game in his early twenties because he wasn't able to improve. The Downhill Lie is the window through which we see his return to the game.

Hiaasen goes to many extremes to improve his game. He reads every piece of literature on the game and buys some hilarious info-mercial products that make lofty promises. He joins a golf course, buys new clubs (and more new clubs), takes lessons, re-engineers his swing, and ultimately enters a tournament.

For many reasons, which include his disposable income; his available free time; and that this became an assignment from his publisher, Hiaasen is able to go to greater lengths than most golfers who want to get better. But that doesn't mean those golfers, a category into which I fit, haven't thought about trying any or all of the things he did in the book. That contributes to the hilarious, but humbling nature of the book. We can laugh at his exploits as he does, and maybe we can learn some of the lessons he does as well.

This book is more than a diary of Carl Hiaasen's golf rounds. The Downhill Lie is a poignant commentary on why so many of us endure the constant frustrations associated with the game of golf. The author uses the comedy of his situation to show exactly why, when this game keeps knocking us down, we get right back up and make another tee time.

I recommend this book if you struggle with golf, or know someone who does (which I think is just about everyone, right?). This book will probably not help you be a better golfer, but at least you'll see you're not alone. If you aren't into the game yourself, and you've wondered why we torture ourselves the way we do, The Downhill Lie offers great insight. It was both funny and right-on-target portraying the mind of a golfer...or most golfers anyway. I really liked this book.

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May 14th, 2008
Charles Baxter - The Feast of Love - 216...and I was having this insight that my parents had let me loose in the world without explaining anything of importance to me.

The Brass Verdict

May 13th, 2008

Lincoln lawyer Mickey Haller and LAPD Detective Harry Bosch team up in this new novel by Michael Connelly.The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

Things are finally looking up for defense attorney Mickey Haller. After two years of wrong turns, Haller is back in the courtroom. When Hollywood lawyer Jerry Vincent is murdered, Haller inherits his biggest case yet: the defense of Walter Elliott, a prominent studio executive accused of murdering his wife and her lover. But as Haller prepares for the case that could launch him into the big time, he learns that Vincent's killer may be coming for him next.

Enter Harry Bosch. Determined to find Vincent's killer, he is not opposed to using Haller as bait. But as danger mounts and the stakes rise, these two loners realize their only choice is to work together.

The Brass Verdict will be released in hardcover on October 14, 2008 in the USA and Canada, and on October 16, 2008 in the UK and Ireland, and in November 2008 in Australia and New Zealand.

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May 12th, 2008
Per Petterson - Out Stealing Horses - 20What he had taught me was to be reckless, taught me that if I let myself go, did not slow myself down by thinking so much beforehand I could achieve many things I would never have dreamt possible.

2008 Edgar Awards

May 7th, 2008
Edgar Awards

Mystery Writers of America is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. MWA is dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing and recognition and respect for those who write within the genre...

Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce ... the Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television and film published or produced in 2007.

- Best Novel -
Christine Falls by Benjamin Black
Priest by Ken Bruen
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
Soul Patch by Reed Farrel Coleman
Down River by John Hart

- Best First Novel By An American Author -
Missing Witness by Gordon Campbell
In The Woods by Tana French
Snitch Jacket by Christopher Goffard
Head Games by Craig McDonald
Pyres by Derek Nikitas
...Complete list of winners

May 6th, 2008
Dennis Lehane - Shutter Island - 4I misplace things far too often these days, my glasses more than anything. My car keys. I enter stores and forget what I've come for, leave the theater with no recollection of what I've just seen. If time for me really is a series of bookmarks, then I feel as if someone has shaken the book and those yellowed slips of paper, torn matchbook covers and flattened coffee stirrers have fallen to the floor, and the dog-eared flaps have been pressed smooth.

American Gods - Neil Gaiman

April 29th, 2008

American GodsShadow is a man with a past. But now he wants nothing more than to live a quiet life with his wife and stay out of trouble. Until he learns that she's been killed in a terrible accident.

Flying home for the funeral, as a violent storm rocks the plane, a strange man in the seat next to him intoduces himself. The man calls himself Mr. Wednesday, and he knows more about Shadow than is possible.

He warns Shadow that a far bigger storm is coming. And from that moment on, nothing will ever be the same...

A man who goes by the name Shadow gets released from prison and before he even makes it home his entire world is turned upside down. He is engaged in conversation by another man who knows an uncomfortable amount about him and tells Shadow he needs his help. After their conversation the story seemingly followed Alice down the proverbial rabbit hole.

The book follows Shadow to hell and back, almost literally. He encounters many Gods from probably every region of the world and from every era. The research was definitely thorough, though almost too much so. There may have been a few too many references to Gods that have been long-forgotten. But that is often a complaint of sci-fi/fantasy books, in how they can be too detailed and descriptive.

I cannot rave enough about how much I love this plot. The Gods of old, which were brought to the US by whomever, however devout, are facing a great paradigm shift. The old Gods are being edged out in the US by new Gods who represent more commercialized, Capitalistic and technological ideals. Shadow chose sides with the old Gods, but he has no idea if he made the right choice. But he knows all he can do now is see the coming storm through to the end.

This book took forever to read, was very bizarre in many parts, and the ending was almost anti-climactic. And I still really enjoyed it. Call me crazy I guess.

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April 28th, 2008
Charles Baxter - The Feast of Love - 18What are you going to do when it doesn't matter what you say?

Book of the Month - May, 2008

April 21st, 2008

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa LahiriWinner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, this stunning debut collection unerringly charts the emotional journeys of characters seeking love beyond the barriers of nations and generations. "A writer of uncommon sensitivity and restraint...Ms. Lahiri expertly captures the out-of-context lives of immigrants, expatriates, and first-generation Americans" (Wall Street Journal). In stories that travel from India to America and back again, Lahiri speaks with universal eloquence to everyone who has ever felt like a foreigner. Honored as "Debut of the Year" by The New Yorker and winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award, Interpreter of Maladies introduces a young writer of astonishing maturity and insight who "breathes unpredictable life into the page" (New York Times).

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April 19th, 2008
Homer Hickam - Rocket Boys - 305

A vision in pink and lace came down the steps from the gym floor and sat down beside me. Melba June Monroe, an eleventh grader, looked me over. She was a pretty girl. I had always liked her. "Hi, Sonny," she cooed. "Boy is my date boring. I don't even know where he is. Why is a tough little rocket boy going stag to the formal? Do you wanta dance?"

I wanted to dance, and I wanted to take her home in Roy Lee's backseat afterward. Did both, as it turned out. Rocket-boy fame.