Event to Introduce New Dodson Book
Jim Dodson likes to talk.
His conversations become stories. His stories grow into books, which read like face time with the big, teddybearish, plainspoken guy who has an entertaining opinion on practically everything -- but mainly golf, human relationships and how we got in this pickle anyway.
He is the muse of musings.
Dodson's seventh book, to be published in May -- "A Son of the Game: A Story of Golf, Coming Home and Sharing Life's Lessons" -- provides background for themes explored in his Sunday essays for The Pilot, where he is writer-in-residence, and in "Sweet Tea Chronicles," the opening piece in each edition of PineStraw magazine, which he edits.
Dodson's longing and love for North Carolina, particularly the Sandhills, supports them all. His subjects are real people, seen through his incisive-but-kindly eye. His descriptions are virtual. He draws conclusions rich in humanity.
Hearing is believing. From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 21, Dodson will introduce his new book, hug old friends and explore commonalities with new ones at the Pinehurst Member's Club. Admission is $40 and includes wine, beer, appetizers and a signed first edition of "A Son of the Game." The reception benefits the Tufts Archives.
"This is to honor Jim as our writer-in-residence and editor of PineStraw," says Pilot Publisher David Woronoff. "This is an opportunity that won't come along for another decade, for a world-class writer to write an ode to our community."
Dodson, who grew up in Greensboro, is an internationally known golf writer and former columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He lived for many years in Maine in a cherished old house surrounded by a garden he created.
"I've always been home-centric," he says. "I loved my place in Maine, but I knew someday I would come back to North Carolina. I couldn't even pass a barbecue place without stopping."
The decision, Dodson says, became clear when he hit 50-something -- "that plateau in life when you need what Robert Penn Warren called a place to come home to." The magazine he was working for had been sold. He had divorced and remarried. He was poised to become writer-in-residence at Hollins University in Virginia when Woronoff recruited him to cover the U.S. Open in 2005.
"Why don't you stick around?" was Woronoff's message.
The Sandhills had long been Dodson's Brigadoon. He had friends, golf buddies, family memories.
"There's a sweetness to life here that's palpable," he says. "You can hear, smell, feel, see the serenity."
Dodson accepted Woronoff's offer and became writer-in-residence at The Pilot soon thereafter.
After all, he reasoned, Mark Twain (of the same thick hair and earthy wit) held this ad hoc position at several newspapers.
But following your heart can be costly. The decision, Dodson admits, was more emotional than fiscal. His word: "insane." For the first two years, Dodson rented a cabin in Southern Pines and drove to Maine every two weeks to be with his teenage children. Then on Easter morning in 2006, his wife, Wendy, went on record: "I think I know how we can do this -- make the move."
Wendy Dodson had seen her husband's need and made plans. Jim, who had never proposed relocation, was touched and thrilled.
"I was tired of traveling," he says. "I wanted to be part of this community."
The author's roots quickly grew as deep and strong as a dandelion's in rainy April. His portrait by Frank Pierce hangs in Flynne's Coffee Bar. He can't walk a block without getting high-fives.
In "A Son of the Game," Dodson lays it all out in the colloquial, semi-sentimental style that makes his column a first read on Sunday morning. Dodsonites will recognize his spirited daughter Maggie and Jack, his fledgling golfer son. They will recognize Dodson's father, who introduced young Jim to the game and was eulogized earlier in "Final Rounds," a poignant, best-selling memoir about their father-son pilgrimage. They will recognize locals Max Morrison and Harvie Ward. They will feel part of Mid Pines, The Pine Crest Inn and Dugan's Pub.
Algonquin, the Chapel Hill publishing house, has created a Web site for the book at www.asonofthegame.com.
The literary world has room for recluses like John Irving holed up on a Vermont hillside -- and for approachables: Dodson writes from a worn easy chair in the corner of a small, cluttered office on Bennett Street in Southern Pines. He stops to greet passers-by or duck out for lunch.
Ironically, his journey disproves the dictum of fellow-North Carolinian Thomas Wolfe. Jim Dodson could and did go home again.
Contact Deborah Salomon at email@example.com.
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