Sunday, February 11, 2007

the dirty life and times of Bobby Joe Grooves.

Dan Jenkins has always been a personal favorite, ever since my dad brought home a copy of You Gotta Play Hurt from the library somewhere around the vicinity of ten years ago. That book remains a favorite of both of ours, mostly because I wanted to be a sportswriter like Jim Tom Pinch at the age of 14 and my dad wished he'd gone that way rather than news. Slim and None was put out in '05 in hardcover and made paperback last year, and since a lot of Jenkins is either hard to find in stores or out of print (Semi-Tough got the re-issue treatment only recently), I didn't get ahold of a copy until Dad sent me one last week.

Readers first met Jenkins creation Bobby Joe Grooves in You Gotta Play Hurt, as main character Jim Tom Pinch's golf pro of choice, and then got to know him more in the mildly disappointing The Money-Whipped Steer Job Three-Jack Give-Up Artist. Now, Jenkins is chronicling Grooves' attempts to win a major at 44, while trying to get his love life jump-started with the mother of a Tour phenom after his third divorce.

The appeal of Jenkins as a writer lies in what everyone calls his "political incorrectness," and while it is fucking hilarious for the most part, some of it will rub you the wrong way. There's something questionable about the two times the NBA is mentioned that it happens to be about a player Grooves' agent has who's always getting in trouble for rape. The rest of it is what Jenkins readers and devotees come to expect: good humor, good golf lore about the course and the four major championships, etc. Bobby Joe gets screwed out of tourney victories something fierce several times in uproarious manner.

The problem is that it feels like Jenkins just re-wrote and updated Dead Solid Perfect again, without giving us a reason to really root for Bobby Joe in this book. If you read the Give-Up Artist, Bobby Joe's quest and efforts in Slim and None make more sense -- you know his back-story and his difficulties. Slim and None is Bobby Joe playing Kenny Lee Puckett, without the fun anecdotes of an imagined Fort Worth to add levity to a book about what, to casual observers, seems the most boring of sports. It's a nice afternoon read if you find a used copy, but I miss the Bobby Joe in You Gotta Play Hurt, whom, after he lost the Masters, cussed out Augusta. Now, he sings its praises like everyone else.

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