Okay, so no one is ever going to read this, and that's just fine. I have something I need to say out loud, even in a forest where all the trees have silently fallen down.
I got a book on bridge as a Christmas present: Backwash Squeeze by Edward McPherson. I think his publisher/agent/wife must have sold him the idea by saying, "It'll be huge -- like Word Freak [by Stefan Fatsis; an awesome book about competitive Scrabble -- well worth reading] only with bridge!" As his one other book is a biography on Buster Keaton, Tempest in a Flat Hat, which even he admits few other than his mother have read, the idea must have seemed a good one.
The problem is, Stefan Fatsis really likes Scrabble, and had genuine affection for the crazies who memorize bingos (7- and 8-letter words suitable for earning the 50-point bonus in Scrabble) and other odd words. He even got to be a bit compulsive himself about learning how to compete. McPherson seems to hate bridge, the game, and bridge, the culture.
In the book, McPherson starts to learn bridge, although much of the year seems to be conventional efforts to interview people who talk about bridge. If he'd liked the game at all, he might have cared a bit more about the people and events he was writing about, but there's no love there. He gets on better with the twentysomethings who work as caddies (shuttling duplicate boards around the huge tournaments), possibly because the caddies are scathing about bridge players.
And, to top it off, there's no bridge in the book. McPherson sits behind the very top echelon players at one tournament, and can tell us nothing about what they bid, what cards they played, or anything. Hell, I'm not that smart about the game, but I think I could have reported a couple interesting items for the bridge-playing reader to chew on. Bridge is hard, we know that! But it's not so completely opaque that you can't explain some of it for your readers, buddy. And anyway, who did you think would read your book -- people who share your disdain for the game? Why would they?
I'll finish it, and then I'll pass it along to Starman to see what he thinks. Then we'll pass it along to Dino Burger because there's a lot (relatively speaking) about poker in the book. And Dino is one of these guys who gets it that bridge is smart. He's a reliable player when the family gets together; I like that (and many other things) about him!
What I won't do is donate the book to the library at our local bridge studio. I don't know which would make me feel worse: if someone hated it as I'm increasingly hating it (I'd feel guilty), or if someone loved it.
Addendum #1: Okay, so it got better all of a sudden, perhaps because McPherson went across the Atlantic (where his name might be pronounced MockFairson) and interviewed some colorful -- excuse me, colourful Britons playing bridge in what sound like way nicer surrounds than we Americans are used to. Best joke of the book (so far): In a bridge club that has a bar serving wine and which boasts at least three marriages among players who met at the club, McPherson plays with his usual hunched-over, New York City intensity. Suddenly it occurs to him that the drink of choice in his Manhattan club is coffee, while in London it's wine. "Which explains why we're jittery and they're getting married."
Addendum #2: If the kind soul(s) who gave me this book are reading this, please don't think any of the above detracts from the perfection of your present. I'd have bought this book for myself if I'd even known of its existence, so to be given it was a lovely surprise. Like it says in the best forewords: All faults are the author's!