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The Downhill Lie: A Hacker's Return to a Ruinous Sport Paperback – May 5, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 154 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Everybody knows how funny Hiaasen can be in print, but unfortunately something not so funny happens when he reads his own book about starting up again as a golfer after dropping the sport 32 years ago. Sentences that get a chuckle on the page sound pretentious or flat. Even though Hiaasen is reading his own material, his delivery is not relaxed and sounds stilted and actorish. There's some touching stuff as Hiaasen talks about his childhood memories of playing golf with his father, who died early, and real anger as he talks about how overdevelopment and crooked golf junkets are doing serious damage to his beloved Florida. But your money may be better spent buying several of the author's wacky mysteries—or a lesson from a golf pro. A Knopf hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 3). (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

“In the summer of 2005, I returned to golf after a much-needed layoff of thirty-two years.” Any golfer knows that those words are a prescription for disaster. And any fiction reader knows that if it’s Carl Hiaasen speaking, the disaster will be not just disastrous but also hysterically, sublimely, surreally funny. And so it is, as recounted in diary form by the fiftysomething Hiaasen, whose gimpy knees and loopy swing consistently undercut the score-lowering results promised by the high-tech gimcracks and expensive clubs he gamely employs in the ongoing search for that elusive breakthrough. What makes Hiaasen’s 577-day diary of hopes denied and dreams deferred so appealing is its everyman aspect: average golfers have a lifetime of frustrations to match Hiaasen’s telescoped experience, and if we don’t have a cadre of famous kibitzers like writer Mike Lupica and golf broadcaster David Feherty to alternately ridicule and support our efforts, we do have our own inner demons, consistently overruling our attempts at positive thinking. Hiaasen, turning serious for a moment while watching his young son pounding away on the driving range, muses, “I believe this is how you’re supposed to feel with a golf club in your hands: Full of heart and free of mind.” Unfortunately, his painfully truthful account reveals all too clearly that “constricted of heart and tangled of mind” more accurately describes what most of us feel as we prepare to swing. --Bill Ott --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 Reprint edition (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307280454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307280459
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #267,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John C. Sherwood on February 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Carl Hiaasen's wild and witty novels about Florida lowlifes have provided plenty of entertainment for both my wife and me over the years. I eagerly anticipated the arrival of "The Downhill Lie." I'm a lapsed golfer myself and thought that this story might rekindle interest in the sport. It didn't.

As expected, Hiaasen provides some witty observations, but these are much too rare. This book is little more than the diary of hacker over two years, and there is little entertainment value in that, unless one finds "I had three pars in the first five holes but then had three triples on the back nine and wound up shooting 97" to be engrossing reading.

Hiaasen tries to build some tension as he describes the preparation for his first club tournament, but the redundant episodes that lead to this climax had me frequently checking how many pages I had left before I reached the end of the story. That's not a good sign: it's like checking your watch in the middle of a movie to see when your liberation will arrive.

This book could easily have been written by a CPA ("True Adventures in Accounting?") and provide about the same amount of interest.
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Format: Hardcover
Returning to golf thirty-two years after he gave it up, Carl Hiaasen, author of hilarious mysteries, shares his struggles to relearn the game of golf and maybe, even, learn to have fun with it. Golf is not a natural "fit" for Hiaasen--"I was just as restless, consumed, unreflective, fatalistic, and emotionally unequipped to play golf in my fifties as I was in my teens," he admits. He starts "on the path to perdition" in November, 2002, when Sports Illustrated asks him to go to Barbados to write a humorous piece about the photo shoot for the swimsuit issue, and he ends up playing golf with his editor during the downtime.

Unfortunately, for Hiaasen, he plays well enough that he decides to play golf (with second-hand clubs) back home with friends, and soon gets caught up in the golf-mania of finding the perfect equipment, reading books by gurus like Bob Rotella, David Leadbetter, and legend Harvey Penick, subscribing to golf magazines, and buying anything that may improve his game--from pendants to wear around his neck (to reduce stress) to capsules of herbal supplements (to improve concentration).

Describing himself as a "reclusive, neurotic, doubt-plagued duffer," he keeps a diary for almost six hundred days, obsessively recording, often in salty language and off-the-wall imagery, the rounds he plays with his friends, including Mike Lupica and CBS's David Feherty. Admitting that he suffers from "Wildly Unrealistic Expectations," he reflects the fears and frustrations of all beginning golfers when he 1) has to play in front of strangers, 2) has to play a new course for the first time, and 3) agrees to play in his first tournament.
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Format: Hardcover
Downhill Lie has some very funny parts to it: Hiaasen has a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humor. You'll find tales of toad-wedging: golf practice that consists of chipping toads onto neighbors' houses. You'll find that golf clubs make effective rat bashers. I suspect that the ASPCA wil find some things to offend them here. You'll read about the time he lost a golf cart--it slipped into a pond.

But I founf myself scratching my head in wonderment at times. Hiaasen is not, to be sure, a scratch golfer, but he has a voracious appetite to improve his game--as most golfers do. But we see him resorting to buying things--pendants with wonder powers to hang around your neck (only 75% as effective if kept in your pocket), herbal pills to improve "muscle memory", RadarGolf devices to help you locate lost balls, and the like. I'm at a loss here. Didn't we see Hiaasen regularly poking fun at the people who bought such devices in many of his novels? In Double Whammy, for instance, there's the unforgettable image of a cheap skiff hauled by a garbage truck to a tournament, and fishing with cheap equipment, when everyone else arrives with massive gadgetry--fish radar, gimmicks galore, etc. Hiaasen had always seemed to be fond of satirizing those who shell out large amounts of money for the kinds of devices he happily buys in Downhill Lie. There's almost an element of Eliot Spitzer here.

I would guess that Hiaasen describes parts of perhaps 200 rounds of golf. Some of this is a pleasure and a delight to read. Some of it is, well....have you ever heard a golfer tell you about one of his rounds, shot by shot, hole by hole? It's never actually that bad or that detailed--but there are times when you feel as if half your mind was on other things.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Disclosure: I'm not a golfer. If I'm going to spend that much time on a piece of real estate, I want to own it. My brother, however, loves the game. He hates it, too, but I guess that's how some golfers are.
Anyway, I bought the book for him and he thought it was terrific, Several months later, he's still quoting from it and chuckling.
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