The complete title of this book is “Curse? There Ain’t No Stinking Chicago Cub Curse – And Other Stories About Sports And Gamesmanship”. The authors are James Wolfe and Mary Ann Presman. It was published in January 2010.
I have to admit, I misunderstood the concept when I first saw the cover of this book. I thought it was an entire book about “The Curse”. And actually, as it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth.
This book contains eleven short stories: four by James Wolfe, and seven by Mary Ann Presman. They are all good.
Author James Wolfe is an engineer, entrepreneur, and lifelong sports fan. He has authored six books, including “Little Balls, Big Dreams”, a novel about golf.
Author Mary Ann Presman has written advertising copy, newsletters and public relations materials prior to creating the seven short stories included in this book.
The first short story, the title story, is not ABOUT the curse, but it is built around the curse, peripherally. James Wolfe wrote it, it’s 40 pages long, and it’s funny as heck.
The other 10 short stories are peripherally about gambling, bocce ball, golf, basketball, tennis, etc. As I said, they’re all good.
Reviewing briefly each story:
- “Curse? There Ain’t No Stinking Chicago Cubs Curse”, by James Wolfe, is built around a fantasy which I truly wish would come true. As it is, there is a lot of truth in this story.
- “Gambling 101”,by Mary Ann Presman, involves blackjack and people. It contains an ending which I didn’t see coming, and with which I do not necessarily agree. But, hey, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
- “Backyard Bocce Ball” is about people, families, and bocce ball. This one struck a little close to home, but it was entertaining. Mary Ann Presman hit a home run with “Backyard Bocce Ball”.
- I’ve only golfed twice in my life (not counting hitting balls on the driving range and hitting whiffle golf balls in my yard), but from what I’ve seen, “Wine, Women & Golf”, by James Wolfe, is an accurate depiction of the game and of the people who play it. That’s why I never allowed myself to become obsessed with golf. This one also has an ending which I didn’t see coming, and with which I don’t necessarily agree.
- “Straight Shooter”, by Mary Ann Presman, while not the funniest of the short stories in this collection, might be the most honest. My jaw was dropping as I read it, because Ms. Presman kept hitting the nail on the head. It’s all true! Oh, did I mention it takes place while shooting pool?
- “Paper Airplanes”, by Mary Ann Presman, is possibly the shortest of the short stories in this book. I do not necessarily disagree with the ending, which I did not see coming.
- “Only Three More Outs”, about Little League baseball, almost brought a tear to my eye with its depiction of the perspective of a little guy. Once again, I did not see the ending coming.
- The story in “H-O-R-S-E” unfolds as two brothers play basketball. It is a sibling relationship which I enjoyed following. Families are really something. And, no, I did not see the twist of the ending coming.
- The setting in “Scrabble Date”, (somewhere between a nursing home and a retirement villa, depending upon your personal bias), has become a little too familiar to me lately, but author Mary Ann Presman handles it deftly. I believe this one deserves the descriptor “poignant”.
- The penultimate story, “If Profanity Improved The Golf Game, There’d Be More Good Golfers”, aside from being true and profound on the surface, is about the game of golf. And born-again Christians. Once again, a little close to home. But I enjoyed it.
- Last but not least, “Double Fault” takes place on the tennis courts, but it’s really the universality of humanity we’re exploring here. Not falling down funny, but definitely satisfying.
As I said before, this book turned out to be nothing like I expected at first glance. I really enjoyed it.
I recommend “”Curse? There Ain’t No Stinking Chicago Cub Curse” highly to anyone with an interest in sports &/or gamesmanship. It’s the human condition we’re looking at here, the human condition and the competitive spirit.
I thank Joe Aiello and the Rensselaer Publishing Group for providing me with a copy of “Curse? There Ain’t No Stinking Chicago Cubs Curse” to read and to review.