Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Concentrate on the "without tears" part.
MAYBE SOMEBODY PUT ME UP TO THIS. I'm just listening to Rush Limbaugh lamenting the fact that his "stack of stuff" contains none of the usual lighthearted items. He's right. For weeks and months now, the news has been all bad, discouraging, depressing, and even tragic. Maybe it's time for a resistance movement of sorts. We can't make ourselves a gulag before the government does it through force of law, can we? Which is why I was actually pleased that a Washington Examiner editor came forward to defend Obama's golf outings, for which he's been getting some harsh press of late.
No, I'm not going soft on Obama. I'm getting tough on secular Calvinism, which has to be the worst of both worlds. An excerpt from Stephen Smith's Examiner column:
On my way to work on Monday -- "a day when all of nature cried fore," in the words of noted golfing writer P. G. Wodehouse -- I was startled to hear my Better Half denounce President Obama for slipping off to play a quick 18 holes the previous afternoon.
Volcanic ash had forced the cancellation of his planned flight to Poland for President Lech Kaczynski's funeral, so he did what any red-blooded guy would do, or so I reasoned.
My wife, inflamed by an item on Drudge that morning, was in not in a reasonable mood.
"I am not against a golfing president," she said. "But what he should have done is gone to church and prayed for the poor Polish president."
I immediately thought of Millicent, a character in a Wodehouse story, who ventured that "golf is only a game." As the author explained: "Women say these things without thinking. It does not mean that there is a kink in their character. They simply don't realise what they are saying."
I pointed out that I too skipped church but communed with the Almighty on the links.
She was unmollified, perhaps because she had written a book about Bill Clinton, whose "billigans" -- mulligans taken anywhere and anytime -- and CBO-style scorekeeping could transmogrify several hundred shots into a score of 82. As for me, I preferred the transparency of Richard Nixon, who after wayward shots would simply declare, "Oh, that didn't count."
My wife also faulted Obama for playing more rounds of golf (32) in his first 14 months than George W. Bush did in his two terms (24).
The piece goes on to point out some additional relevant golf trivia, including Eisenhower's 800 rounds during his presidency -- and the fact that our only 20th century presidents who didn't play golf were Hoover, Truman, and Carter. It figures.
Golf has been getting a bad rap recently, largely because of Tiger Woods and, unfortunately, conservative disapproval of Obama root and branch. But I'm thinking Rush Limbaugh won't criticize Obama on this count because he's a devoted golfer himself of the kind the aforementioned P. G. Wodehouse wrote about in a story called, "A Mixed Threesome." As narrated by the Oldest Member (who has given up golf), a successful businessman toys with playing golf as a diversion but finds nothing worthwhile until he hits his first outstanding drive:
From this point onward, Mortimer Sturgis proved the truth of what I have said about the perils of taking up golf at an advanced age. A lifetime of observing my fellow creatures has convinced me that Nature intended us all to be golfers. In every human being, the germ of golf is implanted at birth, and suppression causes it to grow and grow till -- it may be at forty, fifty, sixty -- it suddenly bursts its bonds and sweeps over the victim like a tidal wave...
Mortimer Sturgis gave himself up without a struggle to an orgy of golf such as I have never witnessed in a man...
Actually, Wodehouse is the real reason for this post. I'm recommending him as an anodyne for the poisonous mood we all feel ourselves tempted by these days even if we don't succumb to it entirely. Golf excels not as a game so much as an alternative universe that takes away the cares of real life by substituting its own humbling and ecstatic realities in their place. Which is a fine and healing thing. P. G. Wodehouse's stories about golf, on the other hand, are the armchair version of exactly the same phenomenon. No need for an expensive bag of clubs, lessons, greens fees, or caddy tips. For the price of a book, you really can get absolutely, completely away from it all. And you don't even have to like or play golf. It's still funny.
Does that sound good about now? You bet it does. Here's the book to buy. (Available from 44 cents up.)
Fact is, P. G. Wodehouse was a genius. Britain's last great novelist, Evelyn Waugh, declared that he had learned everything he knew about writing dialogue for his wicked satires from the gentle soul who wrote about golf, dimwit lords, and their terrible, intimidating ladies. The good news is that if you like the golf stories, that's just the beginning. You have almost a hundred hilarious and completely diverting novels to read, and there's not a mean bone anywhere in the lot. Properly rationed, that could last you through an Obama presidency to the year 2016.
You'll know right away. People either fall immediately in love with the timeless Wodehouse universe or they just never get it at all. Which are you?
You're also welcome to nominate your own flavors of "humor resistance." We have to find some way to keep laughing, don't we?