Sunday, December 30, 2007

Toonamint of Funny

Funny is not as easy as it looks. Many try, and few succeed. A lot of what passes for funny requires having a few drinks first. Most years I give myself a Christmas present. I do not set out to do this, but while I am shopping for other people, I find things I can’t resist. This Christmas I gave myself a book called TOONAMINT OF CHAMPIONS by Todd Sentell. This book reads like Kurt Vonnegut overdosing on five fried foods from Folks, the notorious Southern cholesterol den, formerly called Po’ Folks back when there were more people who could take a joke. "And still would," as Merle Haggard sings. If you can’t take a joke, don’t read TOONAMINT OF CHAMPIONS.

Did you ever dream of playing the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the legendary Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Ga.? Me neither, but that is all Waymon Poodle wants from life in the world Todd Sentell creates in TOONAMINT OF CHAMPIONS. Waymon is a teller at the bank branch located by the condoms and genital lubricant isle of the Publix grocery store on Confederate Victory Parkway in Mullet Luv, Ga. People can’t tell if Waymon is just from the shallow end of the gene pool or has lost his way looking for an E.T. family reunion. Todd Sentell channels the voice and vocabulary of a certain Southern charmlessness as he grants Waymon his dream and in fact makes me happy to be a part of it. He opens our imaginations to a new meaning of Bermuda grass, as the club receptionist, an overheated 79 year old sex pot, flashes Chi Chi Rodriguez at the final hole of the Masters.

You do not need to be a golfer to enjoy this novel. You may be better off if you’re not. There’s a long list of things I have done in my life that I am not particularly proud of. Playing golf is on that list. I played in Atlanta at the Piedmont Park golf course that used to stretch up Tenth Street from Monroe Dr. to Piedmont Ave. My wife played in the Alabama Future Masters Tournament as a pre-teen, the first and only female ever to do so. When they tried to turn her away at the registration table, her Daddy, a venerable South Alabama lawyer and George Wallace delegate to the 1972 Democratic Convention, said, “Show me in the rules.” Immediately after the tournament, the rules were re-written. My wife and I played golf together on the course of the Hotel Mena House at Giza in Cairo, Egypt, the green of one hole close enough to one of the Pyramids you could fling your putter at it. Hazards included wild geese that would steal the ball from your drive right off the fairway. The very existence of grass anywhere on this course was maintained by the method of agriculture used in Egypt since the Pharaohs, flooding with Nile River water, followed by standing back and waiting for the baking sun. Maybe the Hotel Mena House would be the perfect setting for Todd Sentell’s next novel. Maybe he’ll go for professional wrestling. Maybe Georgia politics.

Todd Sentell is not a golf buddy of mine. In fact I have never met him. But he has written a fine book in TOONAMINT OF CHAMPIONS, unless you’ve got something against laughing. A native of Atlanta, Mr. Sentell currently teaches Georgia history and social skills at Mill Springs Academy in Alpharetta, a school for kids with learning disabilities and mild behavior problems. He names his literary influences as Flannery O'Connor and Lewis Grizzard. If you’ve ever read anything written for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that made you laugh because that’s what the writer intended, chances are it was written by either Lewis Grizzard or Joel Chandler Harris.

Copyright 2007 by William C. Cotter


Tina said...

Well, I will have to get a copy pf this book and read it as I surely need some laffs to begin 2008. If you haven't read MAMA MAKES UP HER MIND by South GA teacher Bailey White, that's one you might enjoy too. Not ribald, but ever so southern. As for golf, my daddy, also a southern small town lawyer, was quite good at the game. My efforts in that direction were pretty awful and so far as WATCHING it--like on TV--in my estimation golf ranks right up there with watching bowling or maybe tole painting. Of course I have some hobbies, like listening to Teaching Company courses, that bore other people to the point of their eyes glazing over.

Todd said...


Happy holidays ... and many thanks for your fine review of Toonamint. It's unexpected and has made my day. I deeply appreciate it ... and have really enjoyed reading Paw Paw Bill, too.

All the best for 2008 and many thanks again for your attention to the book and your wonderful thoughts on the literary world. It's insightful and appreciated by me.

Raising Hell for Jesus,


sunny said...

Bill - this is exactly the book I was looking for as a gift for a friend, and I didn't even know it till I read your latest blog! Thanx - Sunny

Oreo said...

Happy New Year, Paw Paw Bill! I'll surely give this one a read, if I happen to come across it in my daily travels.

EHT said...

Hi Paw Paw Bill. I'm so glad you presented this post about Todd's book to the Georgia Blog Carnival. I never hung around with Todd....doubt he would remember me....but he graduated a year before me in high school. I knew he was heavily involved with golf (my husband and son live for the stuff), but I didn't know he was teaching...especially history. Now I know I must look him up somehow as well as run out and purchase the book as well.

I never would have guessed you were such a world traveler with golf.


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