A couple NYC trip books.
The Secret of Golf – Joe Posnanski
Joe has moved to a Patreon model for his online writing. As much as I love him, I feel like I’m already subscribed to about a dozen content services that I’m paying for each month, so I have not become a supporter of his site. Yet. I was looking for a quick read for the trip, came across this, and figured I’d buy one of his books to support him.
This is a bit of an odd book. It’s not completely a biography of Tom Watson or Jack Nicklaus, but it is centered on their battle at the 1977 British Open. Still, roughly half the book is about Watson’s life and career, all the way up to his narrow and heartbreaking second-place finish at the 2009 British Open. For a guy who was my favorite golfer growing up – by default since he was the only big pro golfer at the time from Kansas City – I was surprised at how little I knew about his life.
I had read several accountings of the ’77 Open before, so those sections were largely review.
My favorite part of the book was seeing how Watson and Nicklaus became great friends over the years, how Nicklaus played a key role in Watson turning his personal life around, and how hard Nicklaus was rooting for Watson at the ’09 Open. All that fits into the mythology of what golf is supposed to be about.
It wasn’t Posnanski’s best book but it was good enough to keep me interested on our trip.
They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us – Hanif Abdurraqib
I had been working through this book of essays for a few weeks and finished it on our flight home. It is a collection of Abdurraqib’s various works, both published and personal, over the past decade. He writes about music, culture, and society. His musical tastes range far and wide, so some of the more obscure rappers or emo artists he covered were people I had never heard of before. But I did enjoy how he turned those essays into personal stories of finding community with strangers through art.
His pieces about his life were the ones that struck me most. Especially those written about 9/11 and the era immediately after. As one of the only African American students on the campus of a small, liberal arts school in Ohio, and a Muslim with a strange name no less, he became a source of perverse interest after the attacks. There were whispers any time he entered a room. As a soccer player, he had struck up a friendship with a member of the school’s women’s team. After 9/11, she began putting distance between them. After Christmas break that year, she never spoke to him again. He doesn’t cast blame or request pity, but rather lays these stories out coldly with an understanding of why people looked at him differently than others.
Abdurraqib is one of the brightest young music and culture writers I’ve come across. He writes without fear of sharing what is deeply personal, potentially embarrassing, knowing that is how his readers can understand just how much the art he studies has moved him.