Bring your mashie and your baffy when you come to discuss The Heart of a Goof Sunday, May 8, at Pints Pub in Denver. It won’t get you anything other than the admiration of fellow members of The Den(ver) of the Secret Nine, but $10 will buy a burger when we meet at 12:30 p.m. You can also bring your mother or mother-in-law with you, as member Shawn once did in living memory.
The Heart of a Goof is a short nine-holes of golf stories related by the Oldest Member of the club, and it’s interesting because several of the stories are related. The 1926 collection unfortunately isn’t in the public domain and I expect to see quite a lot of Overlook Press editions, unless you’re fortunate enough to bring a Golf Omnibus with you.
Member Shawn volunteered to write the discussion notes for this story:
- Oh, those confusing golf club names! Here’s a short guide to the ancient clubs and their modern equivalents.Play Club: Driver
Brassie: 3 wood
Spoon: 5 wood
Baffing Spoon: 7 wood
Driving iron: 1 iron
Cleek: 2 iron
Mid mashie: 3 iron
Mashie iron: 4 iron
Mashie: 5 iron
Spade mashie: 6 iron
Mashie niblick: 7 iron
Pitching niblick: 8 iron
Niblick: 9 iron
Jigger: Modern ‘chipper’ or wedge
There were also ‘Sunday sticks’ or ‘Sabbath sticks’ which featured club heads designed to fit comfortably in the golfers hand until such time as they could surreptitiously drop a ball and play a few strokes. These came about after the Church of Scotland began discouraging golf on Sundays. In the dedication to The Golf Omnibus (and The Clicking of Cuthbert), Wodehouse mentions two golfers imprisoned in Edinburgh in 1593 and 1604 for the crime of playing on Sunday.
- The dedication in The Heart of a Goof” (To my daughter Leonora without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time), was a recycling of the dedication to Herbert Westbrook in A Gentleman of Leisure.
- 1926, the year in which The Heart of a Goof was published, was one of Wodehouse’s busiest and most successful years according to the Robert McCrum biography. It was exceptional in that he published no new novel that year (Heart of a Goof was, of course, a collection of previously published short stories). For Wodehouse, this was a theatre year. He adapted a Russian musical play called The Orlov under the new title Hearts and Diamonds. He also had his most successful straight theater piece with The Play’s the Thing, a show that ran for 326 performances before being transferred across the pond the London. The greatest amount of work went to his musical comedy Oh, Kay! This play, about bootleggers, was the idea of Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, with music by George and Ira Gershwin. Since Ira was taken ill with appendicitis, Wodehouse played an unusually large role in writing lyrics.
- Wodehouse, obviously, was an avid golfer, though he admits to being not so gifted in the sport. The preface to The Golf Omnibus reads: “The trouble about reaching the age of ninety-two, which I did last October, is that regrets for a misspent life are bound to creep in, and whenever you see me with a furrowed brow you can be sure that what is on my mind is the thought that if only I had taken up golf earlier and devoted my whole time to it instead of fooling about with writing stories and things, I might have got my handicap down to under eighteen.”
- The story “Chester Forgets Himself” features some of the most forceful faux expletives I’ve found in all of Wodehouse. In an interview Wodehouse once said of the topic of sex in novels that in his earlier days, sex was so taboo you couldn’t even hint at it. Wodehouse always found a way to indirectly put such topics or taboo words in one’s mind, but it is never quite as direct or forceful as “!-!!-!!!-!!!!-!!!!!” and “!!!!!!!!!!!” and “***!!!***!!!***!!!.”
- In the beginning of “Jane gets off the Fairway” in The Heart of a Goof, Wodehouse has the Oldest Member reading a book entitled Wodehouse on the Niblick.
- And of course, the golf stories are full of great Wodehouse one-liners, including:
“Golf, like the measles, should be caught young, for, if postponed to riper years, the results may be serious.” –from “A Mixed Threesome” in The Clicking of Cuthbert
“Yes, Marcus Aurelius undoubtedly played golf, and all the evidence seems to indicate that he rarely went round in under one a hundred and twenty. The niblick was his club.” (Spoken by the oldest member, who quotes the Stoicism of the Meditations by Marcus Aurelius in an effort to explain how to possess the proper golfing temperament.) –from “Ordeal by Golf” in The Clicking of Cuthbert
…I could go on, but I’m sure you’ve all started compiling your own by now.