(14. - 1086.) Albatross by Terry Fallis - The perfect book for me. Sports, reading, writing, fountain pens and a hero who does not quite fit in.
Adam Coryell is 17. He lives in Toronto. He loves fountain pens. He worships words and wants to be a writer. He may be in love with Allison “Alli” Clarkson who equally adores fountain pens and wanting to be an author. Adam and Alli are starting their senior year of high school in 2013.
Adam is in two classes with a new teacher, Ms. (never “Miss” nor “Mrs.”) Davenport. She defies stereotypes. In her 50’s with short grey hair she is “very solidly built”. She too loves fountain pens. She teaches Physical Education (Boys) and Writing Craft. Adam is in both classes with Alli in the writing course.
On her first day Ms. Davenport measures the “extremities” of four of the boys. There is no sexual implication. She has become fascinated with a Swedish Professor Gunnarsson who has propounded the PIPP (Predicative Innate Pinnacle Proficiency) theory that every human has a body which will be suited to a sport and he has developed the measurements to show which sport. For those who exceed the 95th percentile he believes they will excel in the sport to the highest level without practice for practice will alter their natural skills.
Gunnarsson’s theory had yet to be put into practice as he has never found anyone who scored over 89. Adam is a 99.2 in golf. While he considers himself lanky Ms. Davenport describes him as having “orangutanal arms”. Adam has never held a golf club.
At the Toronto Ladies Golf Club Ms. Davenport is Bobbie and a multi-year club champion. As she takes him to try golf I was completely caught up in the story and eager, even anxious, to find out if the theory worked.
Ms. Davenport sets him up with a 9 iron and invites him to close his eyes and think about something other than golf and swing. She cannot believe his beautiful and efficient swing. His first swing hitting a golf ball leaves her mouth agape as he hits the ball high, straight and long. As long as he does not think he can hit the ball perfectly. Eliminating the mind from the swing lets his natural talent take over.
It is no surprise that no body measurements are perfect for putting. It is impossible to putt by neither thinking nor practising. Ms. Davenport has him adopt Jordan Spieth’s heads-up approach. Practising putting is boring but Adam is soon competent.
Watching the early development of a prodigy is exhilarating.
Going to the Masters as an amateur with Ms. Davenport as a caddy was a great written experience. I could see this amazing young man walking on the most beautiful golf course in the world all the while conversing with Ms. Davenport about any subject other than golf interrupted only by periodically coming up to his ball and hitting another long straight shot. Adam is a triumph of the uncluttered mind.
His life is simple, devoted to writing with his collection of fountain pens and playing golf.
While friendly he has no close friends. Golfers cannot understand him. His prodigious unpractised skills leave them uneasy to envious to resentful.
Writing is a solitary pursuit. While he enjoys discussions with Ms. Davenport his heart yearns to be with Alli. Without being stated I knew he longed to complete the antiponal (each writing alternate chapters) novel they began in high school.
Adam is a nice guy. There are not many in contemporary fiction. Dramatic dysfunctional lives dominate crime fiction. To have a nice lead character is almost as rare as 90% plus Gunnarsson measurements. Yet there is subtle drama in the book which drew me through the pages. Fallis is a writer with a gift for irony and humour.
Albatross explores innate gifts. We all have skills. If only there were Gunnarsson measurements for every human endeavour. Few would ever be perfectly suited but we could be guided by our measurements to use our talents. Yet Albatross makes clear that dreams are as important as following your talents. It is a great book.