The Marvellous Mania: Alistair Cooke on Golf by Alistair Cooke
|The Marvellous Mania: Alistair Cooke on Golf by Alistair Cooke|
|Reviewer: Peter Magee|
|Summary: A collection of essays on golf from writer and broadcaster Alistair Cooke makes compelling reading for anyone with an interest in the sport. Highly recommended by The Bookbag.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: June 2007|
|Publisher: Allen Lane|
After an abominable round, a man is known to have slit his wrists with a razor blade and, having bandaged them, to stumble into the locker room and enquire of his partner: "What time tomorrow?"
If you watch television you could be forgiven for thinking that golf is a young man's sport, but Alistair Cooke, writer and broadcaster, took up the game at the relatively late age of fifty five. With his taste for detail he read every book on golf that he could get his hands on, but his writing isn't grounded in the minutiae of the game but reflects his much wider vision. A selection of his essays on the sport which was to be his passion for the remaining forty years of his life is gathered together for the first time in The Marvellous Mania.
In an age dominated by Tiger Woods it is easy to forget the golfing greats who came before him, but Cooke's essays bring them vividly to life. Bobby Jones, the co-founder of Augusta National (home of The Masters) was a personal friend. As an amateur Jones won The Open, the US Open and the US and British Amateur championships in succession, a feat which had never been achieved before or since, but Cooke's writing highlights his courage, strength of character and the plain decency of the man. It would be easy to contrast this with some of today's egotistical superstars but Cooke, always charming, despite his capacity for incisive analysis, allows us to make our own judgements. With cameo appearances from the likes of Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, who writes the foreword to the book, we have a snapshot of golf in the second half of the twentieth century.
But this book is not all about the great and the good of golf. The author describes the first round he ever played at the Old Course at St. Andrews accompanied by a caddie who, if Dickens had played, would have been immortalised in a character with some such name as "Sloppy Macsod". The caddie rebukes Cooke for complaining about the wind with the immortal line if there's nae wind there's nae gowf.
It's often said that a good essayist can write about nothing and turn it into a fascinating subject and Cooke demonstrates his own abilities when he writes about how to grip a golf club. Only a golfer can appreciate the importance of the grip and it's a testament to Cooke's abilities when I say that I found this piece unsettling and impossible to reread. It left me almost unable to hold a club: Cooke writes as a right-hander, but I'm a left-handed player.
The book is obviously of more interest to someone with some knowledge of the sport, but even a passing interest will make this a compelling read. Cooke's style, wit and incisive analysis are timeless. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.
For those with an interest in the sport The Bookbag can recommend a superb work of fiction - The Back Nine by Billy Mott - but for a look at golf in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century from a rather different angle you might appreciate Colin Montgomerie's The Real Monty.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Marvellous Mania: Alistair Cooke on Golf by Alistair Cooke at Amazon.com.
The Marvellous Mania: Alistair Cooke on Golf by Alistair Cooke is in the Top Ten Books For Your Father.
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Bloody hell! It's a male Magee! PG Wodehouse, he say:
Golf acts as a corrective against sinful pride. I attribute the insane arrogance of the later Roman Emperors almost entirely to the fact that, never having played golf, they never knew that strange chastening humility which is engendered by a topped chip shot. If Cleopatra had been ousted in the first round of the Ladies' Singles, we should have heard a lot less of her proud imperiousness.