What I'm Reading (No. 55): Tiger Woods & the new Stephen King
This week I finished a new-ish bio of Tiger Woods (had a hard time putting that one down), and Stephen King's newest book, which garnered plenty of praise . . . despite being pretty mediocre in my opinion. Let's get to it.
Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict & Armen Keteyian
There are so many words that can describe the picture of Tiger Woods painted by this book: Cold. Ruthless. Detached. Unforgiving. Unrivaled. It's not a very pretty picture, frankly. One word stood out the most, though, and was repeated a few times throughout: Programmed.
From the age of two — yes, two! — Tiger Woods was playing golf for 2+ hours a day at the direction of his overbearing father. And he was a prodigy. As a child he could swing a club better than a lot of pros — coaches didn't really even know what to do with him because he was so naturally talented.
He was programmed to be a golfer. Full stop. There was nothing else. What mattered to the Woods family — all that mattered — was how Tiger performed on the golf course.
And what he did was become the most talented golfer of all time. (I came away from this book fully convinced of that.) His list of accomplishments is unlike any other golfer to have ever played. It's an astonishing story.
Lurking in the background, though, is what happens on Thanksgiving night of 2009. The whole time you're reading, you know that night is coming. A mysterious car crash. A torrent of affairs being brought to the surface. The instant crumbling of perhaps the most famous person on the planet.
There's of course some voyeurism (Tiger reportedly slept with over 100 women while he was married), but the fascination here is about so much more than that. Few stories can serve as better lessons as to what happens when success is sought after at the expense of all else. And few stories can serve as better warnings for parents who go all in writing out their child's future.
There's so much more I could write about this book; the anecdotes about his interactions with friends, associates, and fellow golfers — particularly his close friend Mark O'Meara — are especially interesting (and revolting). But you really just have to read it for yourself.
Tiger Woods is story is so gripping that the writing just had to get out of the way and not be a hindrance, which veteran journalists Jeff and Armen perfectly accomplish. This is a biography that anyone can read, and certainly one that most will enjoy.
I can't wait to read some sort of follow up in a few decades; the authors do find some glimmer of hope for redemption near the end. And in a bit of good timing on my part, Tiger's 2019 season just started. I for one will be watching rather closely, and even rooting for the guy.
(Kudos to Ryan Holiday for highly recommending this one.)
Elevation by Stephen King
I love Stephen King. He writes horror on such another level of brilliance that he far eclipses all others in the genre. He uses fear to teach the reader something about the nature of good and evil. There's almost always a lesson about people and communities coming together and what happens when they don't. (At least that's what his best books do.)
His newest book, though, which got plenty of acclaim and positive reviews, gets a bit heavy-handed with that message.
The story centers on programmer Scott Carey, who bizarrely keeps losing weight, but never size. He prodigious belly is still there, and no matter how many clothes he's wearing or random objects he's holding, the scale records the same number. There's also the restaurant-owning "lesbeans," the retired doctor and his conservative wife, and a cast of mostly close-minded townspeople.
While I won't give the plot away (what happens when/if Scott's weight gets down to zero?), King makes it clear that he thinks if we can all just get to know each other, the country will be a less divided, less angry place. This is probably why it got good reviews, frankly. People are clamoring for stories like that.
Now I obviously have nothing wrong with the message itself, I just didn't love how King got there. As a longtime fan, it felt too easy, and too many plot points went unexplored. He was going for an easy fairy tale lesson here, and in my opinion, it fell short.
That said, at just 144 pages of large-ish type, Elevation is not much of a reading investment. If you're into Stephen King, give it a read. But truthfully, there's no need to go out of your way to get your hands on it.
Next up for me is his 1986 classic: It. At over 1,100 pages, it'll keep me busy for a while. I have far higher hopes for that one.
That's it for me this week. Thank you for reading, and let me know what you've been into lately.