Book Notes: "The Authentic Swing: Notes From the Writing of a First Novel" by Steven Pressfield

The Authentic Swing: Notes From the Writing of a First NovelThe Authentic Swing: Notes From the Writing of a First Novel by Steven Pressfield

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this work, what might be called a pamphlet, Steven Pressfield tells the story of how he wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance: A Novel of Golf and the Game of Life. The work is interesting on a number of levels. First, it explains, in some detail, how Pressfield conceived of Bagger Vance and recreated the Hindu scriptural epic, Bhagavad-Gita. The protagonist, Rannulph Junuh, is also based on a character in the Hindu text, Arjuna (recreated as R. Junuh). Second, the work tells the story of Pressfield's love of golf, and his idea about "the authentic swing", something "remembered" rather than learnt, and recalling Saint-Exupéry (de) Antoine:
Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
This process of stripping oneself away to reveal the true self recalls James Allen and Kempis Thomas, but Pressfield presents this in an accessible form. Third, the work provides guidance for writers, specifically of fiction novels, but the process can apply equally to any style of writing. While the work is short, and there are entire pages devoted to only one short paragraph (making the book thicker than it need be), there is much below the surface of the iceberg that can be easily missed if this is the only work of Pressfield's one has read. It pays to have read Aristotle and the other aforementioned authors, not because one needs to to understand Pressfield, but because Pressfield brings it all together like a folk song. Read James Allen and then Kempis Thomas and one will see the connection. It is not the same, not just copied, but enlivened. That is what makes this pamphlet, and, indeed, all of Pressfield's shorter works, worthwhile.

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