Whats everyone reading now and/or read lately

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
Another great review. I'm going to have to follow up on this one. Amazon offers it in both book and four star DVD version(s). Having read the book, do you have an opinion on whether reading the book and/or watching the movie would be preferable in this instance? ;)

I haven't seen the movie - but appreciate the heads up and will look for it now. I would encourage you to read the book as it's a fun page turner.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
Late last month, my ravenous eyes chewed through the third and possibly, final volume of David Baldacci's Atlee Pine series. Titled "Daylight," this book continues female FBI agent Atlee Pine's quest to discover the fate of her Twin sister, Mercy, kidnapped and possibly murdered more than 30 years ago. At this point the quest takes Atlee to Trenton, New Jersey the home of record of the brother of a mob enforcer whom Pine believes abducted and disposed of her sister, so many years ago. The bad guy is dead, but surviving members of his family are still living in the area and still involved in their lives of crime. By the time Atlee is done mucking around, all of the bad guys surviving relatives are dead, except for the man's Alzheimer stricken widow, confined in a nursing home. However Agent Pine is able to discover through the recently deceased that her sister was abducted, but not killed. She was given to a mentally disturbed couple of village idiots who raised Mercy to adulthood, chained like a mad dog, behind a heavy wooden door in a small cave on a wooded hillside. Mercy had eventually managed to escape and apparently killed her mentally ill keepers and, present day, appears to be on the run. Now if this isn't an opening for volume four of the Atlee Pine series, I don't know what is!

This is a good/fast read. Reading David Baldacci's writings is highly addictive...be careful! LOL. ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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February Hill by Victoria Lincoln originally published in 1934

What does a family look like from the worst part of the wrong side of the tracks? Victoria Lincoln pens a tale about an odd family - mother, father, grandmother, three daughters and a son - who live in a glorified shack supported by the mother's slightly upscaled prostitution, one daughter's job at the nearby cannery and the small-time larceny of another daughter.

The father is a completely non-functioning alcoholic while the son reads classic plays and books to escape his crazy world. The youngest, a grammar-school-aged daughter, somehow rarely goes to school, but instead spends her days learning how to curse and eat chocolate (seemingly just about the only food this family buys) from her "retired" prostitute grandmother.

After setting up these bowling pins, Lincoln then knocks down or scatters each one to see how the family will survive. One daughter, Dorothy, the cannery worker, can't stand her family, views her mother and, really, all of them with disgust and moves out of the house without warning when she gets married. She hopes they'll suffer without her income and even plots acts of revenge after she's left. Yes, she's a joy.

Middle daughter Jenny, the casual grifter (she does it occasionally when the family is short or she wants some small thing), loves her family and seems to only marginally realize how strange their existence is. But that reality is forced on her when she falls in love with a young man who, despite making his living as a rum runner during Prohibition, makes it clear he wants no part of, what is to him, her embarrassing and immoral family.

The son, Joel, is offered the "opportunity" to live with his paternal grandmother who has both money and position. While this seems auspicious on the surface, the alcoholic father believes his mother's meddling and moralizing drove him to alcoholism. Despite this fear, and despite some real problems with the grandmother, the family sends Joel, who is clearly a book-smart kid, to her as they realize it is his one shot at a real education.

Finally, we have the glue of the family, the prostitute mother, Minna, who is worried about aging out of her "profession," but somehow is the cheeriest of the lot. In her own way, she is a super mom and wife who keeps the house going financially and ties everyone together emotionally as one crisis after another rocks their fragile existence.

Minna, though, is also proffered an "out" when one of her clients, a nice wealthy man, offers to marry her and support her family. While Minna considers this after her husband dies, even going so far as to visit him in Texas with her youngest daughter, she decides against it.

In part, she didn't like that her daughter was becoming greedy for things. Okay, most people would see no longer living in poverty, supported by illegal activities, as a plus, while considering the need to put limits on a young child's avarice as part of parenting. But Minna, instead, returns to February Hill.

Yet it's Jenny's story that provides the central conflict of the book as she tries to reconcile the demand of her, again, rum-runner husband to distance herself from a family she loves. It highlights the, perhaps, hypocrisy of society that looks down on this family while ignoring its own limitations and failings.

That's fair, but this is also fair: stealing, as the daughter does, is not the same as prostitution or rum running, both crimes that many believed simply skirted bad laws in the first place. It's one thing to steal in a moment of abject desperation (a la Jean Valjean) and another as a casual way of life (a la daughter Jenny). Despite her cuteness and general decency, Jenny is still taking someone else's work - their money for food, shelter, clothing and medicine - for her own selfish needs.

(Spoiler alert) After Jenny's husband is killed by the authorities, she returns home to the smaller remaining brood of mother, grandmother and youngest daughter. Author Lincoln presents this as filial love winning out in the end, but one wonders how long a family held together by prostitution and thievery - a family that doesn't educate its children - will survive.

I found my way to this quirky book after seeing the movie Primrose Path (comments here: #681 ) which is very loosely based on February Hill. Not surprisingly, much of the book was censored for the movie, leaving a lighter and happier tale for the big screen.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
A detailed and well thought out review of the book, which goes a long way towards unraveling and imposing good order to what sounds to be a rather disjointed story line in the book. Based on the tenor of your spoiler alert, near the end of your review, it seems the book failed to come to a satisfactory conclusion , leaving many great questions unanswered..,yes, no? Do you recommend February Hill as a good read? Thanks for another exceptional review. ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
A detailed and well thought out review of the book, which goes a long way towards unraveling and imposing good order to what sounds to be a rather disjointed story line in the book. Based on the tenor of your spoiler alert, near the end of your review, it seems the book failed to come to a satisfactory conclusion , leaving many great questions unanswered..,yes, no? Do you recommend February Hill as a good read? Thanks for another exceptional review. ;)
Your questions are insightful. The book, pretty much, didn't have a conclusion or closing opinion as it just faded out with the smaller family in place. To be fair, the author could say her book was a "slice of life" not a plot-driven narrative. IMO, the book needed more of an opinion, but that's just me.

As to recommending it, I'm on the fence, but would say there are many other books worth your effort before February Hill. If you want a good '30s family drama read, I'd recommend Kitty Foyle well ahead of February Hill (comments here: #794 )
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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Children of the Ritzby Cornell Woolrich originally published in 1927

Cornell Woolrich was a popular Jazz Age novelist and, later, successful pulp fiction writer. His 1927 novel Children of the Ritz is about as Jazz Age and 1920s as it gets.

While the story is serviceable, a big part of the fun today of reading Children of the Ritz are all the period details that were current at the time: transoms, railroad flats, new "movie palaces," race-track bookies, dumb waiters, radios, ocean cruises and on and on. Everything has its filters and bias, even contemporaneous writing, but a 1920s novel is going to get you closer to the period than a modern period novel.

Beyond that, Children of the Ritz is a reasonably good page-turner where we meet Angela Pennington, of "The Pennington," an eighteen-year-old girl with too much money and time on her hands and way too little sense.

Pretty and self absorbed to the point of never passing a mirror without luxuriating in her own reflection, Angela develops a crush on the Pennington's new chauffeur, Dewey, right at the time her father's financial fortunes take a hard downturn.

Not coincidentally, when Dewey wins $50,000 in a crazy bit of luck at the racetrack, Angela agrees to marry him, who, at twenty six and from a humble background, seems to be the more mature one in the relationship.

Maybe he is, but neither of these "kids" really thought through what marriage would be like. Angela seems to view it as a transition from her father's bank account to Dewey's; whereas, Dewey seems to have married pretty Angela because she's, well, pretty and he found her cluelessness to the real world cute.

If you're thinking those are unstable reasons for a marriage, you'd be right as clueless Angela quickly spends more than Dewey can afford, so money arguments dominate their marriage from the start and never recede.

That's pretty much the story as, for the next year or so of their lives, we watch Angela buy all the expensive accoutrements of her old lifestyle as Dewey sees his windfall-filled bank account plummet, while his new wife makes no effort to be a real day-to-day wife.

Woolrich captures the clash of the two worlds - Angela's upper class one and Dewey's blue collar one - but he never really develops either character deeply enough for us to understand the why of it all.

Both float through the story almost as cliches: she's the spoiled rich girl and he's the put-upon former chauffeur who doesn't understand her spendthrift ways. But why do they stay together, especially after Angela's family recovers most of its money? Why does he fight so hard to keep her despite his anger at, well, pretty much everything she does? Why does selfish Angela, despite mocking his "common" manners and outlook, still want to be with this man?

The climax revolves around Angela's potential affair with a handsome older man "of her class," which could provide an easy out for her from her troubled marriage. But neither she nor Dewey seem to really want to end the marriage as we are supposed to believe, deep down, they are still in love. It's hard to even know what that word means in the context of their always-combative marriage, since we never really understand what motivates either of them.

It's an uneven novel with several loose ends never tied up, but it's still a fun quick read. For us today, and probably even back then, the real joy of Children of the Ritz is its trip through Jazz Age New York City. From nightclubs with live goldfish in water-filled glass tables to bootleg gin to late-edition newspapers to Jazz in Harlem, reading Woolrich puts you right in the middle of the glitzy part of the 1920s.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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Summer of '49 by David Halberstam originally published in 1989


While it drifts into nostalgia here and there, Summer of '49 is an engaging account of the early years of the post-war Yankees-Red Sox rivalry with the 1949 pennant race providing the book's pinion. That pennant-race story is wrapped inside an insightful look at baseball's expansive place in American culture in the 1940s.

You don't have to be a box-score fanatic to enjoy Summer of '49, as a casual fan will find much to like, but if baseball isn't your thing at all, there are other books to read.

Before Halberstam gets to the 1949 Yankees-Red Sox down-to-the-wire pennant race, he takes a casual look at the more-recent history of baseball and the two clubs to establish the zeitgeist of the teams, the sport and the larger culture going into that season.

The Yankees, with all the lore (even then) of past dynasties, anchored by names like Ruth and Gehrig, versus the closely-tied-to-their-home-city Red Sox, with its passionate fans, had, by 1949, already developed into an intense rivalry. It blossomed at a time when most boys (and some girls) grew up playing some version of baseball while following their teams and heroes with a singular passion hard to imagine with our present-day plethora of entertainment options.

Kids in the summer would listen for hours to the, then, mainly day games on radios often placed at odd angles to improve reception. Halberstam argues the relationship a fan develops with the sport listening to it on the radio is more intense than watching on TV. As a kid who did both regularly in the 1970s, I'd agree.

Newspapers too - waiting on street corners for the latest edition and then pouring over the box scores - absorbed many hours of these young fan's summers. A select few of these boys grew up to be players, while most grew up to be lifelong fans.

Those who did become players might have come up through a series of semi-pro leagues or as "bonus babies," promising young prospects that, by Major League Baseball rules, had to go straight to the professional teams (that was a new one to me).

With management in a much stronger negotiating position and endorsements a sliver of what they are today, baseball, the game itself, commanded much more of the players' attention. Less money also meant more camaraderie as, other than the top stars, these were men, while paid more than the average American, with middle-class worries.

Even the travel, mainly by train, with air travel for teams just starting, had the players spending many of their off-hours together, furthering the team's bond. Along for those enervating rides were the sportswriters whose expenses were subsidized by the management of the teams they covered.

That acceptable-in-its-day conflict of interest and the era's more-reserved press culture resulted in a symbiotic press-team-management tripartite where the sides fought a bit, but only inside the lines. There were fewer gratuitous and embarrassing stories written and more player hagiography.

Unacceptable to us today, but in 1949, the baseball press, overall, protected the players and the game itself. Much, much worse than that, though, was the era's and sport's very ugly inveterate racism.

While it's the conceit of many young today to believe that they are the first to speak up and force the country to look at its racist past, Halberstam, in a mainly otherwise positive look at the sport, writing over three decades ago and like many others at that time, doesn't flinch from identifying and denouncing the ugly prejudice of the Yankees and Red Sox management of that era.

Those two teams' unwillingness to embrace the period's aborning entrance of black players into the majors is revealed as nothing more than unmitigated racism. Yes, eventually, this hurt the teams (boo-hoo), but for the period, their repugnant attitude slowed the acceptance of black players into the league.

Sadly, notwithstanding the above, Halberstam isn't wrong in calling baseball the national pastime. The sport, then, was woven into the fabric of America in a way no sport or entertainment is today.

After framing baseball's place in 1949 America, Halberstam focuses on the players, managers, owners and games themselves that made the Red Sox-Yankees 1949 pennant race special.

The players, including the big names we know, like Joe Dimaggio or Ted Williams, get their deserved attention, but so do lesser known players like Dimaggio's glasses-wearing brother, Dom, an outstanding outfielder for the Red Sox.

It's not new information to baseball fans, but Halberstam's reveal of Williams as an intense and almost professorial student of hitting - so much so, he openly shared his secrets with opposing teams' batters (to Red Sox management's displeasure) - wonderfully personalizes the man known as The Splendid Splinter.

Odd-ball one-season phenom pitchers, undersized stars like Yankees shortstop Phil Rizzuto, tightfisted-and-narrow-minded Yankees general manager George Weiss (who only saw radio and TV as reducing gate receipts, a classic forest-from-the-trees error), private and shy Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, restaurateur Toots Shor (owner of the unofficial bar of NYC baseball), possibly, the first player agent, Frank Scott, and others are all part of the pennant race story.

The 1949 pennant race itself, which only becomes the singular focus of Summer of '49 toward the end, is a classic with the Red Sox making an historic run from twelve games back in July to go ahead of the Yankees by one game with a two-games Sox-Bombers series left to end the season and determine the winner. Hollywood couldn't have scripted it better.

The Summer of '49 is an enjoyable trip through a slice of baseball's history. It admirably shows many of baseball's warts, yet, overall, it is an upbeat look at the national pastime in its post-war glory days.
 

Vecchio Vespa

(aka TKI67)
My wife has perfected the gentle art of plowing through murder mysteries and loves it when she chances upon a good and lengthy series. The Longmire series by Craig Johnson was her latest find. I can read as quickly as most but find very little time to do so. She has convinced me to jump into this series. We also tried one episode of the series on Netflix. She said it bore little relationship to the books and ought to be avoided.

Walt Longmire is a widower, Viet Nam veteran sheriff in a very sparsely populated county in Wyoming. His best friend, Henry Standing Bear, is also a veteran and runs a bar, the Red Pony, so named because of his love of Steinbeck. The other characters are painted beautifully. This is ensemble cast at its best.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 60842
Summer of '49 by David Halberstam originally published in 1989


While it drifts into nostalgia here and there, Summer of '49 is an engaging account of the early years of the post-war Yankees-Red Sox rivalry with the 1949 pennant race providing the book's pinion. That pennant-race story is wrapped inside an insightful look at baseball's expansive place in American culture in the 1940s.

You don't have to be a box-score fanatic to enjoy Summer of '49, as a casual fan will find much to like, but if baseball isn't your thing at all, there are other books to read.

Before Halberstam gets to the 1949 Yankees-Red Sox down-to-the-wire pennant race, he takes a casual look at the more-recent history of baseball and the two clubs to establish the zeitgeist of the teams, the sport and the larger culture going into that season.

The Yankees, with all the lore (even then) of past dynasties, anchored by names like Ruth and Gehrig, versus the closely-tied-to-their-home-city Red Sox, with its passionate fans, had, by 1949, already developed into an intense rivalry. It blossomed at a time when most boys (and some girls) grew up playing some version of baseball while following their teams and heroes with a singular passion hard to imagine with our present-day plethora of entertainment options.

Kids in the summer would listen for hours to the, then, mainly day games on radios often placed at odd angles to improve reception. Halberstam argues the relationship a fan develops with the sport listening to it on the radio is more intense than watching on TV. As a kid who did both regularly in the 1970s, I'd agree.

Newspapers too - waiting on street corners for the latest edition and then pouring over the box scores - absorbed many hours of these young fan's summers. A select few of these boys grew up to be players, while most grew up to be lifelong fans.

Those who did become players might have come up through a series of semi-pro leagues or as "bonus babies," promising young prospects that, by Major League Baseball rules, had to go straight to the professional teams (that was a new one to me).

With management in a much stronger negotiating position and endorsements a sliver of what they are today, baseball, the game itself, commanded much more of the players' attention. Less money also meant more camaraderie as, other than the top stars, these were men, while paid more than the average American, with middle-class worries.

Even the travel, mainly by train, with air travel for teams just starting, had the players spending many of their off-hours together, furthering the team's bond. Along for those enervating rides were the sportswriters whose expenses were subsidized by the management of the teams they covered.

That acceptable-in-its-day conflict of interest and the era's more-reserved press culture resulted in a symbiotic press-team-management tripartite where the sides fought a bit, but only inside the lines. There were fewer gratuitous and embarrassing stories written and more player hagiography.

Unacceptable to us today, but in 1949, the baseball press, overall, protected the players and the game itself. Much, much worse than that, though, was the era's and sport's very ugly inveterate racism.

While it's the conceit of many young today to believe that they are the first to speak up and force the country to look at its racist past, Halberstam, in a mainly otherwise positive look at the sport, writing over three decades ago and like many others at that time, doesn't flinch from identifying and denouncing the ugly prejudice of the Yankees and Red Sox management of that era.

Those two teams' unwillingness to embrace the period's aborning entrance of black players into the majors is revealed as nothing more than unmitigated racism. Yes, eventually, this hurt the teams (boo-hoo), but for the period, their repugnant attitude slowed the acceptance of black players into the league.

Sadly, notwithstanding the above, Halberstam isn't wrong in calling baseball the national pastime. The sport, then, was woven into the fabric of America in a way no sport or entertainment is today.

After framing baseball's place in 1949 America, Halberstam focuses on the players, managers, owners and games themselves that made the Red Sox-Yankees 1949 pennant race special.

The players, including the big names we know, like Joe Dimaggio or Ted Williams, get their deserved attention, but so do lesser known players like Dimaggio's glasses-wearing brother, Dom, an outstanding outfielder for the Red Sox.

It's not new information to baseball fans, but Halberstam's reveal of Williams as an intense and almost professorial student of hitting - so much so, he openly shared his secrets with opposing teams' batters (to Red Sox management's displeasure) - wonderfully personalizes the man known as The Splendid Splinter.

Odd-ball one-season phenom pitchers, undersized stars like Yankees shortstop Phil Rizzuto, tightfisted-and-narrow-minded Yankees general manager George Weiss (who only saw radio and TV as reducing gate receipts, a classic forest-from-the-trees error), private and shy Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, restaurateur Toots Shor (owner of the unofficial bar of NYC baseball), possibly, the first player agent, Frank Scott, and others are all part of the pennant race story.

The 1949 pennant race itself, which only becomes the singular focus of Summer of '49 toward the end, is a classic with the Red Sox making an historic run from twelve games back in July to go ahead of the Yankees by one game with a two-games Sox-Bombers series left to end the season and determine the winner. Hollywood couldn't have scripted it better.

The Summer of '49 is an enjoyable trip through a slice of baseball's history. It admirably shows many of baseball's warts, yet, overall, it is an upbeat look at the national pastime in its post-war glory days.

I'm one of those idiots that writes out their New Years resolutions each year and one of my carryover resolutions is my Reading List for the coming year. Truth be known, I'm so backed up on my reading list that I doubt I will be adding The Summer of '49' to that list. However I did want to acknowledge that as it is with your movie reviews, your book reviews are so detailed, so well laid out and well organized and insightful that when read a book or view a movie after reading one of those reviews, I always get so much more information and yes, pleasure out of it than when I read or view a work, absent the advantage of one of your ever fabulous reviews. If I do get around to reading the Summer of '49' I'm sure I will enjoy it because I will be referring to the review above3 as my guide! Thanks again. ;)
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
About a month ago I finished reading David Baldacci's most recent novel in his Memory Man series, titled Walk The Wire. In this one Amos Decker and his partner are in the oil fracking fields of northern Iowa, supposedly investigating the murder of a local prostitute hwo had been murdered, autopsied and butchered and stacked in a neat pile on the prarie to feed the local wolf pack. The investigation blossoms into a series of local murders involving community leaders and their families and international intrigue that has lead to the creation of secret stockpiles of chemo-biological weapons hidden beneath the Iowa prairies and threatened by the fracking operations that could result in mass casualties throughout much of Iowa. The case reaches such proportions and involves complications that the powers that be bring Blue Man, Will Robie and Jessica Reel (From Baldacci's Will Robie series) in to assist in keeping the threat contained and solving the mystery(s) that threaten mass casualties in Iowa. An absorbing yarn and a fast read...if you are like me, you won't put this book down until you have read the last word. Nuff said. ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
51nWDc3fBqL._SX365_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield originally published in 1995


I purchased this book after seeing its enchanting movie (comments here: #701 ), expecting the book to be better. While the core plot is the same in the book and the movie, the theme is so different in the book, it's not about "better" or "worse," but a different intent.

Author Steven Pressfield penned a story of Jesus Christ, as a humble caddie, coming to earth to save the soul of a WWI veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. To be sure, that's an interpretation quite open to debate, but I saw a Christ story in this engaging tale.

Rannulph Junuh is the war hero whose battle trauma has left him shattered and directionless over a decade later. Once a young golf phenom, he now hangs around his dilapidated plantation drinking his days away with his workers and BaggerVance, an enigmatic and impressive man who speaks in a soft-but-attention-demanding tones about the philosophy of finding your place in the world.

It's now 1931 and the Depression is about to bankrupt the Krewe Island golf resort on the coast of Georgia. Owner Adele Invergordon hits on the idea of a match tournament between the two great golfers of the day: Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. Her creditors and town officials will only approve the plan if a local golf hero will also play, which leads to Junuh.

After Junah rebuffs the invitation from the city officials to participate, Vance convinces Junuh that this is his opportunity to find, once again, both his golf and life game. With the tournament now on, professionals Jones and Hagen blast out to a commanding lead over struggling Junuh, while Georgians look on with horror and shame as their local hero falls all but helplessly behind.

Bagger Vance, till now inscrutable, begins to coach Junah not only as a traditional caddie, but with comments laced with Eastern spiritualism and New Testament forgiveness, expectations and personal responsibility.

As Junah all but collapses from the pressure of the match, metaphorically reaches rock bottom, Bagger Vance goes full-Christ on him opening up "The Field" to Junah - a sort of extra-dimensional view of the world that can take Junah on a trip through history or as a way to see "waves" of motion that make the world "clearer" in a metaphysical sense.

Bagger wants Junah to learn fighting the good fight with purity of heart is the point. The goal is to be true to yourself, or something like that as Vance often talks in gnomic riddles. Wrapped in there is Vance's expression of unconditional love for everyone. Sound familiar?

After delivering all this metaphysics, extra-dimensional insight, spiritualism and biblical echo to Junah, Junah, following a few more ups and down and facing an all but insuperable five-shot deficit with six holes remaining, feels it "click in" as he proceeds to play with pure heart and talent.

Pressfield clearly loves the game of golf as he writes with a passion and clarity that engages the non-golf fan in the competition and personal struggle of a high-profile professional match tournament.

His gripping account of the incredible last five holes reads as a Biblical battle between two professionals and a spiritually inspired amateur where all three play for the love of the game and the love of competition, but with no animus toward each other. Is that Pressfield's message - that man is on earth to do battle, but to battle with integrity and honor? Is the game of golf a metaphor for living life?

Maybe. There are a lot of possible interpretations of The Legend of Bagger Vance with, at least for this agnostic, the Christ parallel being the engaging and trenchant one.

What makes an author think he can pull off having Christ return to earth in 1931 as a caddie helping a mentally troubled veteran compete in a match golf tournament? The risk of trivializing the Christ story would scare off many writers, but credit Pressfield for taking a big leap of writing faith and pulling it off.

And what about the movie version? It's still a fun, charming trip back to 1931, which wraps a love story, inside a personal resurrection story, inside a golf tournament all shepherded forward by a pleasant guardian angel. The movie's a good but different and lighter tale than the thought-provoking Biblical sniper shot that Pressfield penned in his impressive novel.
 

Big T

Senior Member
Tiger at the Bar, by Chester Harris, a biography of Charles Margiotti. Margiotti was a regional politician and attorney in Western PA. Time frame is pre-depression to early 50's. Excellent read for those here that enjoy local politics, are lawyers or just enjoy non-fictional history.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 61474
The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield originally published in 1995


I purchased this book after seeing its enchanting movie (comments here: #701 ), expecting the book to be better. While the core plot is the same in the book and the movie, the theme is so different in the book, it's not about "better" or "worse," but a different intent.

Author Steven Pressfield penned a story of Jesus Christ, as a humble caddie, coming to earth to save the soul of a WWI veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. To be sure, that's an interpretation quite open to debate, but I saw a Christ story in this engaging tale.

Rannulph Junuh is the war hero whose battle trauma has left him shattered and directionless over a decade later. Once a young golf phenom, he now hangs around his dilapidated plantation drinking his days away with his workers and BaggerVance, an enigmatic and impressive man who speaks in a soft-but-attention-demanding tones about the philosophy of finding your place in the world.

It's now 1931 and the Depression is about to bankrupt the Krewe Island golf resort on the coast of Georgia. Owner Adele Invergordon hits on the idea of a match tournament between the two great golfers of the day: Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. Her creditors and town officials will only approve the plan if a local golf hero will also play, which leads to Junuh.

After Junah rebuffs the invitation from the city officials to participate, Vance convinces Junuh that this is his opportunity to find, once again, both his golf and life game. With the tournament now on, professionals Jones and Hagen blast out to a commanding lead over struggling Junuh, while Georgians look on with horror and shame as their local hero falls all but helplessly behind.

Bagger Vance, till now inscrutable, begins to coach Junah not only as a traditional caddie, but with comments laced with Eastern spiritualism and New Testament forgiveness, expectations and personal responsibility.

As Junah all but collapses from the pressure of the match, metaphorically reaches rock bottom, Bagger Vance goes full-Christ on him opening up "The Field" to Junah - a sort of extra-dimensional view of the world that can take Junah on a trip through history or as a way to see "waves" of motion that make the world "clearer" in a metaphysical sense.

Bagger wants Junah to learn fighting the good fight with purity of heart is the point. The goal is to be true to yourself, or something like that as Vance often talks in gnomic riddles. Wrapped in there is Vance's expression of unconditional love for everyone. Sound familiar?

After delivering all this metaphysics, extra-dimensional insight, spiritualism and biblical echo to Junah, Junah, following a few more ups and down and facing an all but insuperable five-shot deficit with six holes remaining, feels it "click in" as he proceeds to play with pure heart and talent.

Pressfield clearly loves the game of golf as he writes with a passion and clarity that engages the non-golf fan in the competition and personal struggle of a high-profile professional match tournament.

His gripping account of the incredible last five holes reads as a Biblical battle between two professionals and a spiritually inspired amateur where all three play for the love of the game and the love of competition, but with no animus toward each other. Is that Pressfield's message - that man is on earth to do battle, but to battle with integrity and honor? Is the game of golf a metaphor for living life?

Maybe. There are a lot of possible interpretations of The Legend of Bagger Vance with, at least for this agnostic, the Christ parallel being the engaging and trenchant one.

What makes an author think he can pull off having Christ return to earth in 1931 as a caddie helping a mentally troubled veteran compete in a match golf tournament? The risk of trivializing the Christ story would scare off many writers, but credit Pressfield for taking a big leap of writing faith and pulling it off.

And what about the movie version? It's still a fun, charming trip back to 1931, which wraps a love story, inside a personal resurrection story, inside a golf tournament all shepherded forward by a pleasant guardian angel. The movie's a good but different and lighter tale than the thought-provoking Biblical sniper shot that Pressfield penned in his impressive novel.

While I have seen the Legend of Bagger Vance movie, I have not yet read the book. From your review it strikes me that while the movie placed more of an emphasis on humor, the book did more with the spiritual aspects/Biblical aspects of the story. In any event, it sounds like quite a good read, one which I'm going to have to add to my list! Thanks for a very thorough and very interesting review. ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
While I have seen the Legend of Bagger Vance movie, I have not yet read the book. From your review it strikes me that while the movie placed more of an emphasis on humor, the book did more with the spiritual aspects/Biblical aspects of the story. In any event, it sounds like quite a good read, one which I'm going to have to add to my list! Thanks for a very thorough and very interesting review. ;)

You summed up the differences well. I think you'll really enjoy this one. I look forward to hearing your comments after you read it.
 
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