Thanks for joining me for another edition of Reader in the Clubhouse. I’m forever grateful for all of the fan suggestions that come my way. Your letters, e-mails, and random conversations at Olive Garden are the lifeblood that keeps this column going. There’s one book in particular that I never stop hearing about. “When will you get to it, Bruce?” everyone always asks. Knowing that my readers enjoy only the best golf books out there, I trusted you. I know now that my trust was misplaced. I’ve finally taken the plunge with The Great Gatsby, and I’m still cold and wet from landing in this water hazard of a novel. Don’t listen to the so-called experts. The Great Gatsby is one of the worst books ever written about golf—nay, one of the worst books ever written, period.
The protagonist of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “classic” 1925 novel (about as classic as Ian Poulter’s pants, if you ask me) is Jordan Baker, an attractive and popular female golfer. To call Jordan a one-dimensional character would be to imply that she has any dimension whatsoever. If it’s true that the devil is in the details, Mr. Scott Fitzgerald must’ve been a born-again Christian, because he relies on generalizations throughout, and leaves major plot points floundering in the middle of the cart path. For example, early in the novel, it is said that Jordan will participate in a tournament in Westchester. The lazy author does not circle back to this important event until several chapters later, with a passing reference to Jordan’s loss in the finals. How many greens did she hit in regulation? How did she handle the notoriously tricky pin positions on Par 3s? The reader does not even know if Jordan is right- or left-handed. Instead, Fitzgerald wastes precious pages of his text navel-gazing on the played-out, irrelevant themes of social mobility and unrequited love.
Fitzgerald writes of Jordan, “There was a jauntiness about her movements as if she had first learned to walk upon golf courses on clean, crisp mornings.” Wow, so insightful! No one plays golf when it’s cold, dark, and rainy, you fool (that’s why I moved to Florida). There’s not a single mention of her power or accuracy with a driver, or whether she shows any inclination to putt from the fringe. Was she acquainted with legendary amateur Bobby Jones? It’s impossible to tell. Instead, the reader is forced to settle for dispatches on abstract nonsense like “jauntiness,” which, last time I checked, never helped anyone on the links. In his day, John Daly could hit the ball as far as anyone, and he’s about as jaunty as an Atlantic walrus.
Perhaps The Great Gatsby’s most egregious fudging of the scorecard is how it brazenly pushes Jordan Baker to the background of the action, instead focusing on dull-beyond-belief characters like Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway, and Daisy Buchanan, who ostensibly have never even held a club in their entire lives. I like to refer to them collectively as “The Triple Bogey.” Fitzgerald relies on the hollow spectacle of lavish parties, car accidents, and gunfire, when he’d get a lot more dramatic mileage if he’d just set Jordan up for a clinching eagle putt on the 18th hole. This tone-deaf tome continually misunderstands even basic elements of the human experience. “The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly,” drones Fitzgerald. No, the loneliest moment in someone’s life is when he’s just won the 60 and Over Miami-Dade County Men’s Open, and no one even wants to join him at the 19th Hole for a grilled chicken sandwich.
Dear reader, I cannot stress to you enough the care you should take to stay out of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 180-page sand trap. Utterly devoid of merit, and thin as Arnold Palmer’s rapidly disappearing head of hair, this book will make you feel as if you’ve taken a Big Bertha V Series straight to the temple. If you are required to read it for a class, just drop out of school altogether, and spend your newfound free time hitting balls at the range.
Although my experience with The Great Gatsby was one of the most unpleasant two hours of my lifetime, I am happy to report that the resulting depression was short-lived. Join me next week for my review of John Daly’s Golf My Own Damn Way: A Real Guy’s Guide to Chopping Ten Strokes Off Your Score, a tour-de-force destined to reign in the literary pantheon for centuries to come.
Dustin Petzold is a writer who liked The Great Gatsby more than Bruce did. You should follow him on Twitter.