TPR: You’ve published many works of fiction and nonfiction. What we want to know is how a terrific writer like yourself spends his spare time. Reading great books? Memorizing hard words? At art museums? Playing chess?
DG: Jonah and I played nine holes of golf yesterday. We learned several important skill sets. 1) 4 balls are not enough. 2) Though I play hockey and baseball left-handed, I play golf right-handed. Thus we did not need 2 bags of clubs. 3) Do not play golf with the pencil stuck behind your ear. You will lose it and then you can only etch the score into the score card with the tip of a tee.
TPR: Fascinating. I imagine your golf skills are pretty high. What is your handicap?
DG: I have an artificial knee. (Next time we’re going to rent two of those golf cart thingies and race each other on the fairways.)
DG: Let me finish. Also I was handicapped by the large number of water hazards. I had to wade into one festering swamp up to my knees to retrieve a ball. Jonah thought this was funny. He took some very good video of one my best drives which ends with a large waterspout in the distance. Also, as mentioned above, we were handicapped by a shortage of balls. The last hole we started with only one ball between us which is pretty difficult. Jonah hit his tee shot and then ran over and marked his spot and threw the ball back to me and then I hit my tee shot and marked that and threw the ball back to him. This makes golf an arduous and time-consuming sport.
TPR: Is there any similarity, in your mind, between golf and writing?
TPR: Could you expand on that?
DG: In writing as in golf, I seem to hit my drives into the water traps or they end up on the wrong fairway or they get lost altogether. Also both writing and golf depress me.
TPR: We imagine that you thought about writing a lot as you played and that there was considerable intellectual byplay–witty remarks, etc.
DG: Jonah was very witty. At one point, he observed that what consoled him through the ordeal was the thought that no matter how awful things got he’d still be able to beat Stephen Hawking.
TPR: Er, thank you. That will be quite enough.
DG: So when will this be published?
Is this the Paris Hilton Review?
As a way to improve your game, let me recommend Stephen Potter, Gamesmanship (the art of winning without actually cheating). Example:
I believe it was O. Sitwell who devised this simple rule for play against left-handers. If (as so often happens) your opponent, though left-handed in games generally, yet plays golf with ordinary right-hand clubs, it is a good thing, during the first hole after the fifth which he plays badly, to say:
SELF: Do you mind if I say something?
L.H.: No. What?
SELF: Have you ever had the feeling that you are playing against the grain?
L.H.: No – how do you mean?
SELF: Well, you’re really left-handed, aren’t you?
L.H.: I certainly am – except for golf.
SELF: Have you ever been tempted to make the big change?
L.H.: How do you mean?
SELF: Play golf left-handed as well. Chuck those clubs away. Fling them into the bonfire. Damn the expense – and get a brand-new set of left-handed clubs.
L.H.: Yes, but–
SELF: You know that is your natural game. Be extravagant.
L.H.: It isn’t the expense–
SELF: Money doesn’t mean anything nowadays, anyhow.
L.H.: I mean–
SELF: Everybody’s income’s the same, really.
The fact that your opponent has been advised to play right-handedly by the best professional in the country will make him specially anxious to prove by his play that you are in the wrong. The usual results follow. If he is not only a left-hander but plays with left-handed clubs as well, the same conversation will do, substituting the word right for left where necessary.
I think I’m going to start writing left-handed.
Sounds like the way I play golf. The way I write too.
I feel like in so many of the posts my dad writes there is this Jonah character — kind of acting like Gatsby. He is the main thing happening; really creating all the action and the main character perhaps not the moral template e.g. the Hawkings joke, but nevertheless the true protagonist. Then there is my father, a Nick Carraway of sorts, both within and outside of the action never really sure of his relationship to the main character, Jonah, but sure of his placement as the butt of most jokes and the incredibly accurate first person semi-omniscient narrator. Occasionally I fall into these familial farces and become the butt of EVERY joke thus taking the pressure off of my father, but for this post I am positive that my deeply literary and well-written, perfectly succinct and utterly profound comparison is spot-on.
DG thinks he is more like Marlow in Heart of Darkness. Jonah is Kurtz. Jacob is the Harlequin character–Kurtz’s Russian admirer.
Thanks very much for this, DG. It makes me very glad that I have never taken up golf. I won’t say anything about the writing.
Thanks, V. This is when I still had a son around. Now I am lonely, whimpering reprobate with too many dogs (maybe it’s the dogs who are whimpering).