Move Rick Reilly's "Shanks for Nothing" to the top of your reading list
“When I really wanted someone to look at my swing, I always asked a blind guy.”
-Shanks for Nothing, page 46
Rick Reilly, Sport Illustrated writer and recipient of the National Sportswriter of the year ten separate times recently released Shanks for Nothing, the sequel to his 1997 novel Missing Links. The connotations of the word sequel bring up thoughts of such disasters as Caddy Shack 2, Vegas Vacation, and Closing Time, Joseph Heller’s complete failure at attempting to duplicate the brilliance of his novel Catch-22. Shanks for Nothing could have very easily been the next victim in the long line of embarrassingly bad sequels, as Missing Links, which is arguably the funniest book ever written, and inarguably the funniest golf book ever written, is almost impossible to match.
But once again, Reilly has found a way to succeed with this almost impossible challenge. Reilly’s municipal world of Ponkagaque Municipal Golf Links and Deli, notoriously considered the worst course in America, is home to ridiculously bad course conditions, some of the most outlandish golf wagering imaginable (mostly contrived by Leonard “Two-Down” Petrovic), and a loyal group of regulars who will use any means necessary to keep their course from being sold and converted into a parking lot.
Each of the “Chops” (Ray “Stick” Hart, Two-Down, Cementhead, Hoover, and the new additions Blind Bob, Dom, and Resource Jones) who call Ponky home are wonderfully written and vital to the novel’s overall success. Also, those who have read Reilly’s Who’s Your Caddy? will recognize that two of the new characters in Shanks for Nothing (Blind Bob and Dewey) are based on players he met during two of his loops from his 2003 “documentary". And while Shanks for Nothing is not quite as funny as Missing Links, it is a better story overall.
Reilly beautifully blends three ongoing situations - Resource Jones’ attempts to escape from prison, Dom’s desperate attempts to seduce the new girl in the pro shop, and Stick’s efforts to save Ponky by qualifying for the British Open - keeping the story interesting and fast moving. Just as one of the stories-within-the-story is about to reach a climax in action, Reilly shifts the focus to another character, making it very difficult to put this book down.
The final aspect of this novel and its prequel that puts them in a league of their own amongst sports novels is the author’s clear appreciation and understanding of all things golf. Anyone reading Shanks for Nothing will come away with at least one nickname, saying, or new gambling game that is sure to enhance his or her rounds of golf for life.
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I did hear that rumor. I'm a little disappointed that there's nothing too it.
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