For those interested in golf, Irish culture, politics and local authors, you’ll be likely to have an interest in “The American Golfer,” the newest novel from retired SUNY New Paltz professor Anthony Robinson.
The sixth novel from Robinson follows Charlie Kingston (a name inspired by the town neighboring New Paltz), a PGA tour golfer who travels to Ireland for the summer to stay in his deceased great-grandmother’s village. Kingston’s peaceful stay soon becomes anything but, as he is quickly enveloped in the lives of the people he meets.
Robinson became a professor at SUNY New Paltz in 1964, and eventually became the director of creative writing and taught American Literature until 2000 when he retired. “The American Golfer,” which Robinson dubbed “an American novel set in Ireland,” was inspired by his own sabbatical leave from New Paltz to a town in Ireland.
For many, the title of the novel may trick you into thinking it’s purely a story about golfing with long passages detailing the game (though those are still pretty numerous). Robinson emphasizes that the title should not put people off.
“This is by no means a golf novel,” said Robinson, “and it was never meant to be only enjoyed by golfers.”
There are a considerable number of themes in the book, which were welcome to someone like myself who has never had more than a passing interest in golf. Robinson lists these themes as, “the history of Ireland, political intrigue relating to the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland continuing conflict, romance, family and political intrigue.”
In the course of a couple of months, Charlie Kingston befriends numerous townspeople, obtains a job on a wealthy Brit’s golf course, has an affair with the Brit’s wife, has a feud with a former MI5 counter-espionage agent, and yet another affair with a pub owner. That’s quite a vacation.
All these subplot threads offer an interesting aspect to the story but at times they tend to burden the reader. There were times when I had trouble recalling the details of one plot when it resurfaced 50 pages later in the novel. More focus could have given a steadier flow to the narrative.
One aspect of the story that was essential to the tone of the book was the historical expositions of Ireland that were interspersed throughout the story. These sections covered Irish history from the 1920 Irish War of Independence through the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. While on one hand it provided information vital to the political sections of the novel, it was also an easy introduction to a topic that is still relevant today.
Underneath all the intricacies of the book lies a story of moral decisiveness.
As the epigraph to the book states, “Sooner or later, one has to take sides.” This is what Charlie Kingston must come to realize in his journey. Robinson’s story speaks to anyone who has questioned their effectual presence in the world, and the reader follows Kingston on that journey to self-realization and responsibility.
You can check out information on this and other books by Robinson on his website, www.arobinson.net. And you can find the book in the campus bookstore or order it on Amazon.com whether you’re searching for a good Christmas present or if you’re simply looking for a solid read.