Three Books

I’ve finished three books recently, all new ones to me, and all three were worth my time. The first was The Greatest Game Ever Played, a golf story about the 1913 US Open. This book was subsequently made into a movie, and one can easily understand why even after hearing only the synopsis. Francis Ouimet, a 20 year old amateur golfer, came out of nowhere to win the 1913 US Open. In doing so, he beat Harry Vardon in a head-to-head 18 hole playoff to take the title. For those unfamiliar with Vardon, the best way to think about it is to envision a 20 year old unknown knocking off Tiger Woods. But only after Tiger had been playing another decade further building up his mystique. Moreover, Francis played with a small, truant 6th grade schoolboy as his caddy and had a father that violently opposed his playing golf thinking it a frivolous hobby of the rich. If Francis had a love interest, this would have needed no altering for Hollywood. Anyway, the book is fantastic and I read it quickly enjoying every minute. The portraits of the various people brought them to life and made me want to read more about Vardon and the other golfing greats of that time. It was all peachy right to the last page. And then I found this:

In employing dialogue to bring these scenes to life, I used source material for direct attribution wherever possible. In its occasional absence I attempted to infer intent from prose or reportage, remaining as true as possible to what I understood to be the spirit of the moment. In rare exceptions, with a dramatist’s license, and in the utter want of eyewitness, I took the liberty of elaborating on those perceptions beyond what I could absolutely verify. It is my hope and belief that in no instance did I violate the underlying truths, laboring only to illuminate them.

Translation: It’s all true, except for the parts which I had to make up to make it more interesting. And the truth was not delineated from the fiction in his account. Which was really disappointing. I had thought at several points throughout the book that the people involved sure had good memories of so long ago, but I also knew that much of this book was based on biographies and autobiographies of the people in question. But the story was good enough without this. There was no need to go doctoring up the dialogue, no matter how slight the author thought it was. Still a good read, but it could have been just about perfect if not for that.

The next book was a big switch; Marooned in Realtime is a sci-fi murder mystery set millions of years in the future on an all-but-deserted Earth. As sci-fi goes it wasn’t bad and as a murder mystery, it wasn’t bad even though the author didn’t really play fair with the clues. It may have been more explicable if I had read the preceding book The Peace War before this, but it still was okay. The author had a flea in his ear about the “next stage of human evolution” or some such, positing it to be right around the corner of the next 50 years or so along with an ever-increasing pace of technological development which hasn’t really been borne out by experience (the book was written nearly 25 years ago), but read as I read most sci-fi (more like fantasy) it passes muster.

The final book I read was Till We Have Faces, CS Lewis’ “Myth Retold”. Simply put, I can understand why so many people I have spoken to consider this to be his greatest book. This book is a reflection on the nature of love told through the myth of Cupid and Psyche, though the book is entirely from the perspective of Orual, Psyche’s sister. I’m not the best one to judge, of course, but I think Lewis did a good job of understanding a woman’s perspective in order to write this book in a convincing and realistic manner. In addition to being a great story, it truly gives one to think about whether one treats those one loves with love. The point is made that often we justify our behaviour by saying that we do what we do only for another’s good, or because we love them, but when we do this we are not thinking of them but of ourselves. A powerful book.

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