Monday, September 29, 2008

On Golf and Literature: Potiki and the PGA

It just so happens that I've started teaching Patricia Grace's 1986 novel Potiki in my Novels and Tales course just in time for the 1st pro-am at the PGA's Turning Stone Resort Championship. Potiki was brought to American readers by the University of Hawaii Press as part of their series Talanoa: Contemporary Pacific Literature. The General Editor of the series, Vilsoni Hereniko, introduces Grace's novel as follows:

Potiki is a moving story that will be familiar to oppressed people everywhere whose livelihood is threatened by "Dollarmen," property speculators who speak of golf courses, highrises, shopping malls, and tourist attractions. There is a lesson for us all in this community's response to foreigners' attempts to destroy their ancestral symbols and values.

Does the fact that the Oneida Indian Nation owns and runs the Turning Stone resort complex which is hosting this week's PGA event blunt the force of Hereniko's critique? These days, it seems that certain members of the surrounding communities are trying to cast themselves as victims of the OIN's development plans, as both wikipedia and a visitor to the conservative Alexander Hamilton Institute's inaugural dinner attest in their different styles and as historian Beverly Gage analyzed in The Nation almost 8 years ago.

Seems to me both Grace's novel and the Turning Stone resort deserve to be read in all their complexity and ambiguity. What can we make of this coincidental intersection between my academic and blogging lives?

[Update 1 (9/30/08, 7:38 pm): Interesting story on South Korean sensation Danny Lee aiming to make a big splash in this $6M event. Wonder if we'll soon be reading many more stories about male golfers of Korean descent like him and Anthony Kim are changing the face of the PGA.... Still a long way to go to catch up to the LPGA in that regard.]

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