ingly irrational behaviour, his long silences and his fearsome decisions at sea stemmed from a bipolar nature. Beaglehole attributes Cook’s behaviour to exhaustion. Other writers go further and compare Captain Cook to Melville’s Ahab or Conrad’s Kurtz – solitary figures going mad. McLynn’s gripping final chapters lead to the shocking climax of Cook’s death. Following a year exploring the Arctic, Cook returned to Hawaii and sailed around the island for nearly seven weeks, battered by storms and high seas, not consulting his officers, and refusing to seek a safe anchorage. When he did land, the reception from the Hawaiians was aggressive. After repairing his ships, Cook sailed away but returned unexpectedly a week later to deal with a damaged mast on shore. The Hawaiians were even more hostile.
In the early morning of 14 February 1779, as Cook attempted to recover a launch that had been stolen by islanders during the night, he was bludgeoned, stabbed and forcibly drowned on the beach. The islanders cut up his body and those of the marines who died with him and burned the pieces on a sacrificial pyre. Under threat of bombardment from the expedition’s two ships, the Hawaiians handed over some of the remains. Burnt flesh was still on the bones six days later.
The description of Cook’s body parts reads like an inventory: skull and scalp with one ear attached, thighs, legs, arms, right hand, jawbone, feet and his two shoes. The Hawaiians kept Cook’s smaller bones for their mana – that prestige, power and magic which the natives believe to reside in them. They were valuable relics of a semi-divine being. To order this book for £20, see LR Bookshop on page 29
DRIVEN TO SUCCEED
HIS FATHER’S SON: EARL AND TIGER WOODS
By Tom Callahan (Mainstream 284pp £10.99)
IN THE LATE 1990s, Tiger Woods accomplished a feat many thought impossible – he made golf look cool. Athletic, intense, charismatic and black, he seemed to reinvent a game that had previously been the domain of conservative white guys who looked more like mortgage brokers than world-class athletes. Watching Woods storm the sedate greens of Augusta, one could imagine a whole new generation taking up clubs – kids who would otherwise only have stepped onto the golf course to cut the grass.
What is most valuable about veteran sportswriter Tom Callahan’s gossipy, insightful study of Woods is how it places equal measures of credit and blame for the Tiger phenomenon upon the player’s father. By all accounts Earl Woods, who died in 2006, was a complicated man. A gifted college athlete, he was commissioned as a US Army officer after graduation. He later became a Green Beret and served two tours in Vietnam, where he was ‘a combat specialist … who had taught psychological warfare (and practised some of it at home).’ According to Callahan, he was also ‘a world-class braggart’ and a habitual philanderer who abruptly left his first wife for Tida, the Thai woman with whom he would have a son in 1975.
Earl was supremely dedicated to that boy, who was named Eldr ick but known as Tiger. After the l ad showed very early signs of golfing skill, Earl made the development of that talent his life’s mission. His efforts quickly bore fruit: before his third birthday, the prodigious child was fussed over by Bob Hope on a nationally televised chat show. (Although Callahan reports that
And t hen, i n 2009, Tiger wrecked his car while fleeing his Florida mansion in the middle of t he n i ght , h i s c l ub-wielding Swedish wife i n hot pur s u i t . Stor ies of compulsive adulter y s oon emerged, f o l l owed by a humiliating public apology and a course of behaviour modification at the Gentle Path rehab clinic. Endorsement deals worth many millions evaporated. Woods took a f ive-month break f rom golf . Since returning, he has struggled to regain his previously peerless form. And he certainly has not looked very cool.
A chip off the old block
Jimmy Stewart, who was also on the show that day, was saddened by the spectacle of the youngster.) The paternal hucksterism continued unabated as Tiger climbed to the top of the sporting world, and was perhaps never so cringe-making as when Tiger met Nelson Mandela in 1998. ‘It was the first time Tiger met a human being who was equal to him, who was as powerful as Tiger was,’ Earl preposterously remarked.
Despite the bombast, Earl was undoubtedly a s k i l f u l gol f i ng mentor. Although never a very good player himself, he was able
LITERARY REVIEW April 2011