Picks and Pans Review: Golf Dreams
Ernest Hemingway had bullfights; Norman Mailer, boxing. John Updike, master chronicler of middle-aged angst, has golf. His enduring love of the links, of what he calls "the soaring grandeur that blooms of its own out of a good swing," has made the game a persistent theme in his work, most notably in his four Rabbit novels, where a round of golf is usually a metaphor for life's lost chances. The 30 entries in this collection, drawn mainly from magazine pieces, constitute a championship round.
Consider his joyful take on cleated shoes and leather gloves: "We feel, dressed for golf, knightly, charging toward distant pennants past dragon-shaped hazards." Or his rhapsodic description of his finest golf shot ever: "The astounded ball, smitten, soared far up the fairway, curling toward the fat part of the green with just the daintiest trace of a fade, hit once on the fringe, kicked smartly toward the flagstick, and stopped two feet from the cup."
This unbridled appreciation of golf's mystical opportunities for grace and redemption will enthrall even those who have never followed an 80-yard worm-burner with an elegant chip to the pin. Updike, who has been playing, erratically, for nearly 40 years, may forever battle a flawed swing, but he has long since established himself as the Jack Nicklaus of golf writing. (Knopf, $23)