Golf is a game that puts people in two camps of lovers and haters, it seems. Mark Twain apparently said “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” Many years ago back in the old country golf was a game that I played from time to time and to be honest I enjoyed it tremendously. In my youth I bought individual clubs from second hand shops and ended up with a splendid mixed bag of irons and a couple of woods which I only reluctantly upgraded to a proper set in adulthood. It is amazing that I say I enjoyed it with all the frustrations that come along with it. Another splendid quote from Churchill “Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.” Somehow, the great man captures it perfectly. Those weapons impel that little ball in almost every conceivable direction than the one requested; hook, slice, top and repeat. How many hours have I spent searching for that small device in the ‘rough’. The rough is of course that almost unnavigable jungle like growth that exists for the pleasure of golfers everywhere who do not quite manage to find the whisper thin band of fairway. I got to play a round the other day for the first time in ages and really enjoyed the frustration and the exhilaration of that crazy game. So, when I saw a satirical fiction with golf as an essential back plot I had to roll with it; let us get into the swing of today’s par 5:
From the dust cover: “Thirty-three-year-old Charlie Matthias was born on the same day as Phil Mickelson, but his career in professional golf sure didn’t turn out the same way. Throw in some substance abuse and divorce issues, and he’s a wreck who’s pretty much given up on ever having a happy life.
A chance meeting with an old friend from high school, Erica Denner, lights a spark of hope in his heart, but he claims their very different family backgrounds and personalities are stumbling blocks. Only when he admits to the real stumbling blocks—his own pain and bitterness—will there be a chance for Charlie and Erica to find a lasting love together.”
My Ebook review: coming to terms with a life that is less than personally fulfilling, even though the rest of the world would chew off a leg to live such a life, the hero of this book makes an excellent study. There are many works written about how empty life can be even in the face of wealth, health and success but “Remember Big: A Novel” we examine how self destructive this emptiness can be. Charlie is a guy with everything except a proper backbone. He has been pushed about by his family for years and never really stood up for himself. He hated his career as a pro-golfer even though it gave him a tremendous living and a wife and the almost admiration of his narcissistic family, gave it up and we catch up with him on the way down. The danger in many such stories is that the character is so lacking in maturity that he (usually it is a he) is virtually impossible to empathize with and this is a tight boundary that Wittmann navigates pretty well. Charlie is not a likeable character in many ways and his destiny reflects well the character as written and his bitterness and insecurity combine with a strangely tight bond to an unhelpful family situation mean there will always be trouble one way or the other.
The backstory of the book, the career as a pro-golfer and references to that life are useful and interesting. Regardless that being a golfer sounds like it should be a magnificent life (from the outside) living out of hotels and endless playing of a game that one hates is bound to build up a stress on the system. On the other hand, having a job, any job, eventually involves a degree of dissatisfaction for the vast majority of people but we still need to do it. So Charlie is not a guy who is going to get sympathy but he does get a chance to reboot his life.
You will need to read it to find out of course but this is a well written book that moves a story along nicely with a good selection of well thought out characters and situations. For me, Wittmann executes this story well and the sense of realism was maintained throughout.