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Hush Y'all 10 min read

Hush Y'all

A midweek edition that touches on a live professional golf event, plus celebrating rap's 50th, family secrets, Branson, MO (again), Banksy, and much more.

By Cary Littlejohn

Hush Y’all. Those are the words stamped all over the place at TPC Southward, the golf course home of the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee, which just concluded this weekend and marked the first event of this year’s PGA Playoffs.

It’s our Southern-fried way of rebranding “Quiet Please” placards that volunteers hold up at tee boxes to remind spectators that golfers expect quiet when they’re about to swing.

I like the signs. I like the twist on the classic with a taste of home.

My brother and I went on Saturday, amid the masses of golf fans who decided to brave the relentless heat on a very soggy golf course after some very heavy rains earlier in the week, which left a person with the sensation of sitting in an oven—the evaporating moisture seemed to rise up and cook you from below as it passed through you and the sun pressed down from above, as if someone had turned on the oven’s light just to check that things were cooking as expected.

Some of golf’s biggest names were there, and that was exciting because the FedEx St. Jude hasn’t always been a marquee tournament. It was often a week that many big names would take off, resting up before a major that would come shortly after, but now, with the new playoff schedule attached to it, we got to the see Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Colin Morikawa, and lots more.

It would have been a fun trip no matter the year, but it meant a lot to me in this year, just months after losing our dad. He probably would have never gone with us, lost was his interest in professional golf almost as much as was his interest in playing recreationally himself. But we took a minute to recognize that he’d come to very same tournament for years, and we knew that we owed our love of golf to the man.

I got an easier go of it. I was introduced to the game when I was just a toddler, back when he was still playing a lot, and I got to tag along and be bad at an incredibly difficult game (for as easy as its concepts are: hit ball straight, roll ball straight) without any real expectations.

But because I was much more dedicated to baseball than golf and couldn’t separate the two swings (meaning my baseball swing started to look like a golf swing, to disastrous results), I largely left golf behind throughout my most formative years and through high school (right about the time my friends started playing seriously). I didn’t pick it up seriously until college, after my fledgling baseball dream had been laid to rest.

My brother, though, took the opposite route: He retired from baseball, more or less, pretty young. Not for golf, really, because basketball was his game. But he did play on the high school golf team, and our dad really liked that. He got him lessons with a swing coach and new clubs and came to every match. All of which sounds really nice and lovely (and it was), but I doubt that’s the only way my brother would characterize it.

With all of that came expectations and coaching from dad, never shy with tips or strategies that didn’t stray far from those easy, basic concepts laid out previously: Why don’t you just hit it straighter? Why don’t you just putt it better? It was the epitome of “Do as I say, not as I do,” because our dad was no great golfer, even in his prime. He was a weekend plunker just like the rest of us, but he was a sports dad first. His own inability to “just hit it straighter” on command never stopped him from saying it to my brother after a match, and I’m sure that was hard to swallow for my brother.

But none of that was in play, on that miserably hot but very fun Saturday. We reveled in the game we love, and we remembered the man who brought us to it. A memorial service of our own making, in a sanctuary a bright blue skies and vibrant green grass. We raised our arms to the heavens in celebration, and when the time was right, we bowed our heads and gave thanks.

If only those in attendance could have known our thoughts, they’d have said to each other, with hand gestures to bring down the noise: “Hush y’all. This is church for them, and it’s time for the prayer.”

  1. I might be late to this declaration because the piece will be a few days old at the time this newsletter goes out, but I’m saying it as early as practically possible: This New York Times Magazine piece on rap’s 50th birthday is going to be an award-winner. Either the National Magazine Awards or quite possibly a Pulitzer, but I’m calling it now—it’s that good. Wesley Morris’s prose flows as rhythmically as any 16 bars ever could; it’s beautiful writing but also deep and thoughtful, actually saying something that matters, with the power to actually make you consider an entire genre differently. Truly magical stuff.
  2. Speaking of awards, The Atlantic’s Jennifer Senior could be in line for yet another with her latest for the magazine: “The Ones We Sent Away.” It’s a story that unfolds and unfolds and always seems to be providing more than you think it’s going to give you. The print edition gives only a slight teaser to provide any clues as to what it will be, and honestly, I think it’s best you just jump into it and let it reveal itself to you. Here’s that teaser though: “I thought my mother was an only child. I was wrong.”
  3. Why Fish Don’t Exist has been on my list to read (or, more accurately, listen to) ever since it came out. I knew of its author, Lulu Miller, from her days at the podcast RadioLab and, later, Invisbilia. I remember the book, with its quirky, strange title, popping up on countless Best-of-the-Year lists, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what the book was about. But when I recently saw it on sale for a steal from Audible, I scooped it up. And, much like Senior’s piece, it just works so much better when you don’t have too much knowledge about it. But even if you’ve read it, perhaps you know what I learned from my encounter with it: Why Fish Don’t Exist is incredibly hard to categorize. Which is ironic or perhaps intentional considering the ostensible subject of the book, which can be summed up thusly: David Star Jordan was a scientist, but more specifically, he was a taxonomist. His passion was to impart order on the natural world, especially fish. But his efforts were on more than one occasion almost entirely undone by natural disaster. And in some small way, the book is about his efforts and his resiliency, but it’s actually about so much more. Jordan’s story takes not one but two very unexpected turns and each is an enthralling tale. In ways I couldn’t have expected, it was a perfect companion piece to Senior’s story. More than that though, it unfurls as a wonderful piece of memoir writing, lyrical and honest and unexpected. Listen to the audiobook if you can, as I did; Miller’s NPR background is a strong asset as she narrates the book. You can get a taste of the book and Miller’s voice in this interview from when the book came out.
  4. That wonderful, uncategorizable book was published by Simon and Schuster, the venerable publishing house that is one of the numbered Big Five in book publishing. It recently was the acquisition target of Penguin Random House, which would have reduced the Big Five to the Big Four, and book-lovers had no reason to think such consolidation was a good thing. But this Slate piece talks about where S&S landed instead—not in the arms of another publisher but in the arms of a private equity firm. While it remains to be seen how things will fare for the company under new leadership, there’s definitely cause for concern. My former industry—newspapers—was beset by private equity, and from the quality of the journalism to my friends and colleagues struggling for jobs to pay their bills, the decline has been steep. The piece from Slate knows that all too well:

And the bad private equity stories are very bad. Private equity came for newspapers, and local news coverage in America is decimated. That sector is a particular cautionary tale because newspapers, not unlike books, are both businesses and something of a public utility. The world is dumber and poorer when newspapers are hollowed out—something that might have happened even if PE firms never arrived, to be clear—and it is similarly worse off when good books are less readily available.

  1. If you read my dispatch a few weeks ago, you’ll remember my trip to Branson, Missouri. It struck my as quite timely that *Eater* turned out a feature story on perhaps the defining tourist attraction of the city: Dolly Parton’s Stampede. A friend of mine, who’d made the trip to the Tennessee version of the dinner theater show, suggested it as a possibility before my trip to Branson. I considered it briefly, but honestly didn’t feel like paying such top dollar for the experience. Luckily, Amy McCarthy’s write-up of her experience feels like I was there without having to suffer the horse shit.
  2. Not sure why, other than because it was there, I listened to the full run of episodes of The Banksy Story podcast from the BBC. Because of the artist’s anonymity, there’s no way the podcast could just give you a straightforward biographical recitation; instead, you get this interesting look at the man from one of his employees, Steph. Know the famous piece he did where a French maid sweeps the dust under the carpet? According to the podcast, that was Steph. In many ways, the podcast becomes her story, and it’s well worth the listen.
  3. Two pieces of new fiction, one successful review looking at both. The Economist (be forewarned: It may ask you to register to keep reading) ran this on the new novels from Richard Ford and Colton Whitehead. I’d bought one already (Whitehead’s), but based on this review (and a few others as well), I’ve held off on Ford’s. The review begins like this:

RICHARD FORD and Colson Whitehead are two of America’s most distinguished living novelists. Mr Ford ,who is 79 years old, has published eight novels and four short-story collections and won the Pulitzer prize once. Mr Whitehead (pictured right), 25 years younger, claims a pair of Pulitzers over his eight-novel career. The two have a colourful history: at a party nearly 20 years ago, Mr Ford, angered by Mr Whitehead’s negative review of his story collection, “A Multitude of Sins”, spat on the younger writer. (Mr Whitehead, who is funnier by far, warned “the many other people who panned the book that they might want to get a rain poncho, in case of inclement Ford”.) Both have new novels that reveal two strains of American fiction: one declining and the other thriving.

  1. The Oppenheimer fervor is not done over here. I went back to see it again last week, and then afterwards, I watched The Day After Trinity. About that time, I saw an actual news story related to the Manhattan Project, all these years later.
  2. The New York Review of Books reviewed the four books that bound the four seasons of HBO’s Successionbecause, I imagine, the show is built on the back of brilliant writing. Sure, there are Emmy-worthy performances at every turn, but the writing is what makes the world come alive. It creates for us a world of degenerates, and even though the show has ended, I just can’t quit them.

Jesse Armstrong, the creator of the HBO series Succession, dispenses with its media family’s toys and horses and goes straight to the “carnival of mind-fuck.” Logan Roy (Brian Cox) is very much a mogul of the twenty-first century, and he and his three sons, Connor (Alan Ruck), Kendall (Jeremy Strong), and Roman (Kieran Culkin), along with their sister, Shiv—short for Siobhan (Sarah Snook)—make up the swankiest, the sweariest, the most delusional, and the most amoral family of turncoats, double-crossers, cheats, and reprobates ever to grace the small screen. Logan, born in the jute and journalism town of Dundee, Scotland, and the founder and CEO of Waystar Royco, the fifth-largest media conglomerate in the world, is the demagogue’s demagogue. “Fuck off” is his signature; “Fuck off” is his punctuation, his religion, and his brand.

  1. Veteran film director William Friedkin passed away last week. Here are two pieces about his work. One highlights a under-sung film that I loved because of Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway; the other is a famous film that’s gotten a modern upgrade that cleaned it up but removed so much of its magic. William Friedkin's 'Blue Chips' Is Better Than You Remember | What Happens When You Cut Six Seconds Out of ‘The French Connection’?

More From Me

Over on my blog , I’ve been writing about various topics of interest to me.

A Quietly Beautiful Call to Keep Writing

Perfection Pursued

Sports Betting and ESPN? You Bet.

Culture Diary

Here’s a collection of what I’ve been consuming in the past week.

The legend for my list was stolen from Steven Soderbergh, where ALL CAPS represents a movie, Sentence Case is a TV show, ALL CAPS ITALICS is a short film, Italics is a book, and bold is a live performance or show. A number in parentheses after a TV show highlights how many episodes I watched. An asterisk after an entry means it’s a rewatch. The source of the movie or show, whether streaming service, physical media, or in theaters, is shown in parentheses as well.

8/7: Top Chef, S10; The Righteous Gemstones, S3; OPPENHEIMER*
8/10: Justified: City Primeval
8/11: Everybody Behaves Badly-Lesley M. M. Blume
8/12: FedEx St. Jude Classic
8/13:Why Fish Don’t Exist-Lulu Miller; UNKNOWN: COSMIC TIME MACHINE