Archive for April, 2010

A Good Walk Spoiled?

That’s what Mark Twain thought about golf. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the popularity of the sport – and considering it’s been around for centuries – I don’t think many people agree. Unless you’re having a “rough” time on the course! The good thing being, I suppose, that swearing on the fairway will be heard by fewer people than any other sport.

The following works of fiction may appeal to you if you’re a golf nut, but they’re just as appealing even if you aren’t as familiar with the game. Take a swing at a few while you wait for the weather to cooperate. (Annotations are courtesy of NoveList Plus. )


The Back Nine – Billy Mott

  • Fleeing a disaster back East, Charlie McLeod arrives at a golf club near San Francisco and, once again drawn to the game that had once shaped his life, takes on the job of caddying, all the while wrestling with the problems that had driven him not only from the sport of golf but also from his previous life.

Billy Boy: A Novel – Edwin Shrake

  • Set in the early 1950s, follows sixteen-year-old Billy after his father moves him from Albuquerque to Fort Worth and then abandons him, as Billy finds work at a local country club and learns about golf and life from two golfing legends.

The Caddie – J. Michael Veron

  • Supporting a gifted and troubled young PGA golfer, Caddie Bobby Reeves tours some of the world’s greatest courses and finds the role he plays to his employer includes those of golfing sage, bail bondsman, and personal redeemer.

The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan – John Coyne

  • Returning as an honored guest to the exclusive country club where he caddied for Ben Hogan as a youth in 1946, historian Jack Handley recounts a dramatic match between Hogan and an idealized club pro.

The Edict – Bob Cupp

  • In fifteenth-century Scotland, Caeril Patersone is competing for the title of champion golfer of the year, but he must also contend with a conniving financier, a sordid nobleman, and the gorgeous girl they have enlisted in their schemes.

A Gentleman’s Game – John Coyne

  • An up-and-coming golf prodigy, Timmy Price is poised to become junior state champion when his father insists he take a job as a caddy, a position that changes his life and opens his eyes to the behind-the-scene drama of the game he loves.

Golfing with God – Roland Merullo

  • A former golf pro who never made it on the circuit, Herman “Hank” Fins-Winston spends his afterlife living on one of heaven’s golf courses and playing golf with God and his closest companions, but things take a drastic turn when he is summoned to coach God himself, or herself.

The Green – Troon McAllister

  • A satire of the golf world and the intense international pressures of the Ryder Cup competition follows U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Al Bellamy and his attempt to bolster a weak team by hiring golf’s best hustler.

The Legend of Bagger Vance – Stephen Pressfield

  • African American Bagger Vance, middle-aged caddy to war hero and former golf champion Rannulph Junah in 1931, explains to Junah how golf resembles life, and Junah’s game improves.

Loopy – Dan Binchy

  • To young Larry Lynch, nicknamed Loopy, golf opens up new horizons and the chance of a better life.  Loopy is pitted against snobbery, big business and ruthless financiers in a golf match that is a parable of life itself. Helped only by an eccentric caddy and a gaggle of noisy supporters, he takes on some of the world’s best amateur golfers in a titanic struggle that will warm the heart of readers everywhere. (From the TFPL catalog.)

Match Made in Heaven – Robert Mitchell

  • After having a heart attack, Elliott Goodman gets a chance to save his own life when God challenges him to a golf match against such legendary opponents as Leonardo da Vinci, Babe Ruth, and Socrates.

A Mulligan for Bobby Jobe – Bob Cullen

  • A lightning storm on the 15th hole of the PGA Championship renders Henry “Greyhound” Mote blind, but he is determined to make a comeback of sorts, with the help of his caddy.

Miracle on the 17th Green – James Patterson and Peter de Jonge

  • While playing a round of golf on Christmas, Travis McKinley experiences a Zen-like vision that transforms him into a professional player, pits him against his favorite champions, and eventually saves his troubled marriage.

A Nasty Bit of Rough – David Feherty

  • Sir Richard Gusset (a.k.a. Uncle Dickie) and the members of Scrought’s Wood Golf Club in Northumberland compete against the McGregor clan for the prized St. Andrew Finger, the petrified middle finger of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland.

The Putt at the End of the World – Various

  • A unique novel written by a host of acclaimed authors–Dave Barry, Richard Bausch, James Crumley, James W. Hall, Lee K. Abbott, Tami Hoag, Tim O’Brien, Ridley Pearson, and Les Standiford–follows a cast of characters on the pro-golf circuit as they try to answer the question: Can golf save the world?

Shanks for Nothing – Rick Reilly

  • Raymond “Stick” Hart’s life is turned upside down when his hated blue-blooded father drops dead, his friend loses money to a hustler funded by the Russian mob, his wife throws him out, and he must qualify for the British Open to solve his problems.

Spikes: A Novel – Michael Griffith

  • A novel set on the minor league golf circuit follows a has-been twenty-something golfer on a last-ditch tour through the South.

Happy “Earth” Day!

On this date in 1970 (I’m happy to say that was before I was born – but only barely), the first Earth Day was celebrated to inspire more people to take care of the planet. Although we still have a ways to go to get people involved with keeping Earth clean, it’s great that we’re still celebrating our “Mother”.

In honor of the day, here are a variety of items that use “earth” in their titles – some more creatively than others! (Annotations are courtesy of NoveList Plus and the TFPL Catalog):


Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth: New Poems by Alice Walker – With profound artistry, Walker searches for, discovers, and declares the fundamental beauty of existence, as she explores what it means to live life fully, to learn from it, and to grow both as an individual and as part of a greater spiritual community.

The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan – Twelve-year-old Gwenni Morgan tries to escape her life and the family secrets she must bear through her dreams.

Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler – Feeling like she does not fit in with the other members of her family, who are all thin, brilliant, and good-looking, fifteen-year-old Virginia tries to deal with her self-image, her first physical relationship, and her disillusionment with some of the people closest to her.

The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America by James Wilson – A comprehensive, authoritative history of Native America draws on ethnography, archaeology, Indian oral tradition, and other sources to document the evolution of native cultures and examines the collision between indigenous cultures and European settlers over the course of the past four centuries.

Earth: The Biography by Iain Stewart – A companion book to the National Geographic Channel series, with more than 200 color photographs.

The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map that Gave America Its Name by Toby Lester – A chronicle of the early sixteenth-century creation of the Waldseemuller map offers insight into how monks, classicists, merchants, and other contributors from earlier periods shaped the map’s creation.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck – The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of Wang Lung, a Chinese peasant, who rises from poverty to become a rich landowner with the aid of his patient wife in the 1920s.

Hell and Earth: A Novel of the Promethean Age by Elizabeth Bear – In a fantasy world where Queen Elizabeth’s power is directly connected to the queen of the Faerie world, Kit Marley must protect both queens from those in Elizabeth’s inner circle who wish to usurp her.

The House Between Earth and Sky: Harvesting New American Folktales by Joseph Daniel Sobol – Storyteller, musician, folklorist, and teacher Sobol went to English- as-second-language courses, first in Chicago then elsewhere, both to share with young immigrants some of the English-language oral traditions, and to elicit from them folktales from their own cultures and families.

A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne – The classic tale of three men who discover the secrets of past civilizations during a fantastic expedition beneath the earth’s surface. Check out the movie versions – 1959 & 2008.

Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto  Bolaño – A first English-language collection of fourteen short stories by a 2005 PEN Translation Fund Award-winning writer features protagonists who are struggling with private, often unlucky quests during which they are marginalized to the point of terror.

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle – Explaining that the current state of humanity is erroneously and dangerously ego-centric, an argument for a shift in consciousness reveals how the modern world can become more sane and loving, in a spiritual exploration that offers practical advice on how to promote kindness, freedom, and a realization of humanity’s potential.

Our Dumb World: “The Onion’s” Atlas of the Planet Earth – The world’s most comprehensive fake atlas: a repository of all known information about the planet Earth (except where covered by clouds).

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – In an unusual presentation of a popular novel, photographs of cathedrals and the art of the stonemason are combined with excerpts from Pillars of the Earth, Follett’s tale of twelfth-century England.

Scorched Earth: How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America by Rocky Barker – This entertaining and timely book challenges the traditional views both of those who arrogantly seek full control of nature and those who naively believe we can leave it unaltered. And it demonstrates how much of our broader environmental history was shaped in the lands of Yellowstone.

Song of the Earth by John R. Dann – A prequel to Song of the Axe finds the original prehistoric tribal family leader, Grae, rescued from a volcano by the powerful daughters of River Woman and leading his people into central and eastern Europe in search of safety and a better life.

A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to be a Woman by Lisa Shannon – The story of one woman’s call to ease the atrocious human suffering in the Congo.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri – Exploring the secrets and complexities lying at the heart of family life and relationships, a collection of eight stories includes the title work, about a young mother in a new city whose father tends her garden while hiding a secret love affair.

Walking the Earth: A History of Human Migration by Tricia Andryszewski – Traces the history of human migration; discusses the influences of agriculture, energy, and industry on population growth; and examines the effects of overpopulation, pollution, and disease on the future of mankind.

What on Earth Have I Done: Stories, Affirmations, and Observations by Robert Fulghum – Presents essays on the inspirational lessons the author has gleaned during his travels as well as in his everyday experiences, from his friendship with a non-English-speaking person to his costumed trick-or-treating venture with his grandchildren.

April in Paris (Around the World)

This month we’re visiting the beautiful City of Lights! Yes, I know that Paris is not a country, but it fits in perfectly with our calendar – what other place is synonymous with April? One of my favorite standards is “April in Paris”; the classic version is that of Count Basie and his orchestra.

The city has a celebrated history, and not only as the capital of France. For hundreds of years it has served as a cultural mecca for artists, writers, dancers, musicians, and many others. Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and the rest of the “Lost Generation” were inspired to live, love, and write in Paris. And George Gershwin and Gene Kelly showed us how to be the original  American in Paris.

Spring is a perfect time to plan a trip – even if it’s from your armchair. Check out these resources to get a feel for the city on the Seine. Remember, we’ll always have Paris!


The Alibi Club – Francine Mathews

April in Paris – Michael Wallner

Down and Out in Paris and London – George Orwell

Five Days in Paris – Daniell Steel

Foreign Tongue: A Novel of Life and Love in Paris – Vanina Marsot

A Garden in Paris – Stephanie Grace Whitson

The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris – Chris Ewan

The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Victor Hugo

The Invention of Hugo Cabret: A Novel in Words and Pictures – Brian Selznick

Le Mariage – Diane Johnson

Murder in the Marais (#1 in series) – Cara Black

Paris Pilgrims – Clancy Carlile

Paris Trance – Geoff Dyer

Pictures at an Exhibition – Sarah Houghteling

Rowdy in Paris – Tim Sandlin

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

Three Weeks in Paris – Barbara Taylor Bradford



Americans in Paris: A Literary Anthology

Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation – Charles Glass

The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius, and Glorious Excess in 1970’s Paris – Alicia Drake

The Dynamite Club: How a Bombing in Fin-de-Siècle Paris Ignited the Age of Modern Terror – John M. Merriman

The Eiffel Tower – Joelle Bolloch

Eiffel’s Tower: and the World’s Fair where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count – Jill Jonnes

Frommer’s Irreverent Guide to Paris – Darwin Porter

The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism – Ross King

News of Paris: American Journalists in the City of Light Between the Wars – Ronald Weber

Paris: Biography of a City – Colin Jones

Paris: The Secret History – Andrew Hussey

Paris: Then and Now – Peter Caine

Paris to the Moon – Adam Gopnik

Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910 – Jeffrey Jackson

The Seven Ages of Paris – Alistair Horne

The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious — and Perplexing — City – David Lebovitz

A Town Like Paris: Falling in Love in the City of Light – Bryce Corbett




An American in Paris

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera

La Boheme

Before Sunset

French Kiss

Last Time I Saw Paris

Les Miserables

Moulin Rouge


The Red Balloon

The True Legend of the Eiffel Tower

Satchmo’s Wonderful World


To celebrate, we’re highlighting a man known affectionately as Satchmo. Even if you have never listened to jazz (which is a total loss, in my opinion), you’ve probably heard of Louis Armstrong. Although he had a huge impact on jazz, his influence on popular music is also extensive. Many people remember him most for his gravelly voice (especially on songs like  “What a Wonderful World”), but he was also a revolutionary trumpet player.

Born in 1901 in New Orleans, he seemed to grow up with this new American jazz. He was one of the first to really insert his own personality into the music he was playing. Whether he was improvising full solos, making his trumpet “sing”, or popularizing scat, he was constantly innovating.  He once said, ““My whole life, my whole soul, my whole spirit is to blow that horn…”

Learn more about Satchmo here:


Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life – Laurence Bergreen

Louis Armstrong, In His Own Words: Selected Writings – Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans – Thomas David Brothers

The Oxford Companion to Jazz

Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong – Terry Teachout

Satchmo: The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong – Steven Brower

CD: Ella and Louis

CD: The Great American Songbook: Louis Armstrong

CD: The Hot Fives and Sevens

CD: Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson

CD: Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy

CD: What a Wonderful World

DVD: Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns



Louis Armstrong Discography

Louis Armstrong House Museum

Kennedy Center: ArtsEdge – Louis Armstrong

PBS: Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns – Louis Armstrong

Smithsonian: Jazz Appreciation Month

Wikipedia: Louis Armstrong

The Colorful English Language

English is without a doubt one of the most colorful languages on the planet. And by colorful I don’t mean $$%#!@!. The language is definitely beautiful – anyone reading a Robert Frost poem can tell you that – but it is quirkier than we realize. The sillier side of English is sort of like the bridesmaid of the wedding. She may not be the center of attention, but she can sure let loose and have a ball.

I love puns and word play – Will Shortz is one of my favorite people – and I love to learn about why and how our favorite idioms came into play. A German friend of mine has commented that although she is fluent in the language, she’s not always fluent in its meaning. Sports metaphors, for example, always threw her for a loop (do not pardon the pun).  So, if you’ve ever wondered how the language or a phrase came to be, check out one of these books:

2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings & Expressions from White Elephants to a Song & Dance by Charles Earle Funk

Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof: Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics, and Essences: With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory by Roy Blount

Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds: Ingenious Tales of Words and Their Origins by Michael Quinion

The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson

Heavens to Betsy! and Other Curious Sayings by Charles Earle Funk

I Love It When You Talk Retro: Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech by Ralph Keyes

Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language by Seth Lerer

Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins by William Morris

Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language by Patricia T. O’Conner

The Real McCoy: The True Stories Behind Our Everyday Phrases by Georgia Hole

The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English by Henry Hitchings

Thereby Hangs a Tale: Stories of Curious Word Origins by Charles Earle Funk

What in the Word?: Wordplay, Word Lore, and Answers to the Peskiest Questions About Language by Charles Harrington Elster

The Word Detective by Evan Morris