Sunday, June 14, 2009


How Ralph Lost His Groove

I'm in New Scientist this week with a piece on Ralph Guldahl, who in 1939 was the world's top golfer. But then something happened:

Along with the usual product endorsements and talk of film cameos, a more unusual offer came Guldahl's way: a book contract for a guide to golfing. He took two months out from his game to write the extensive accompanying text to Groove Your Golf, an innovative "Ciné-Sports" book that used high-speed photography of Guldahl in action on each page to create flip-book "movies". After explaining the use of each club, Guldahl left readers with the admission that even experts had to think carefully about their game; that nobody "is so good he never has to consciously be aware of a number of things to keep his swing in the groove". He then put down his pen and returned to the PGA Tour. He never won another championship.

After a few losing seasons, Guldahl left the circuit. What had happened to golf's greatest star? It was the book that did it, said some, and over the years that suggestion hardened into received wisdom. "When he sat down to write that book," Guldahl's wife Laverne asserted in 1972, "that's when he lost his game."

The real story, I found, turns out to be a little more complicated...


First the Bad News

Via Boing Boing, a blog of bad news from the past...

(Vampire autos?)

Sunday, June 07, 2009


Back to work!

From Publishers Weekly:

John Glusman, at Harmony, acquired world rights to Paul Collins's Murder of the Century, about a Gilded Age homicide that sparked a tabloid war and led to the beginnings of modern forensics. Collins is a founding editor of the Collins Library imprint at McSweeney's Books and also teaches in the M.F.A. program at Portland State University; Michelle Tessler brokered the deal, and the book is slated for 2011.

(Also in PW -- another starred review for The Book of William!)

Saturday, June 06, 2009



Those of you with long memories may recall the Monkeyfishing hoax of 2001 in Slate. This was a piece by Jay Forman which revealed the existence of a illicit sport on an island of former medical research monkeys in the Florida Keys, where locals went... well, Monkeyfishing:

Once we found a nice spot, we prepared to fish. Sturdy deep-sea poles were the preferred tackle. I've never heard of anyone landing a monkey on lightweight fly rods, but I suppose it is possible. I have friends who have landed tarpon on them, and tarpon are much bigger than monkeys. A fully-grown rhesus monkey tips the scale at around 30 pounds, while a tarpon can easily break 200.... Fruits were the bait of choice. Apples were good because they stayed on the hook well. Red Delicious were chosen over Granny Smith for the advantage in contrast.
Other journalists called bullshit on the piece, and it quickly fell apart. (A couple years ago, Forman finally confessed the whole thing to Jack Shafer.)

But while perusing the October 1897 issue of Recreation magazine today, I found -- wait for it -- "The New Sport: Bait-Casting For Fox Terriers"...

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