Friday, June 14, 2019
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Damn New Yorker writers. I sat there in the U.S. Open media center this morning reading a story in the online edition about Augusta National Golf Club and its relentless artifice, and I couldn’t get past “prelapsarian.”
I was on the grounds of Pebble Beach Golf Links, the only place that can reasonably claim co-equal status with Augusta in the iconography of American golf courses.
One is public (but prohibitively expensive for commoners), the other ridiculously private; one carved (seemingly) straight from the cliffs and dunes of the Pacific coastline, the other sprung pristine and green from the verdant Deep South.
Anyway, these are the comparisons and contrasts that would have come to mind if I’d been able to move past “prelapsarian,” as in a “prelapsarian paradise, a dream of a bygone America … ” Damn New Yorker writer. Made me look it up.
Lexicographical digression: Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged, Second Edition (1983), is heavy — 2,305 11-inch-by-8-inch pages, of good paper — and doesn’t travel well.
So I placed a call, up the coast, by cellular telephone, to see who could break into my office and hoist my Webster’s Un onto the desk and read me the definition of “prelapsarian.”
Who could have known that between its solid covers there is NO definition of “prelapsarian”? It should have been in there between “prelacy” and “prelate” on page 1,420.
It was a good story, the New Yorker piece, and thorough, and spooky, even if we’d heard a lot of it before. The reporter, Nick Paumgarten, had access pretty much everywhere at Augusta National, talked to a lot of smiling faces and was able to observe the general faultlessness in the service and manners and decor, as if it were real, and in the golf course landscape as it’s supposed to look on television, in early April, which is too good to be real.
He’s not the first person to write in similar ways about Augusta National. Right here in this space we did, four years ago, before the U.S. Open came to Chambers Bay, and I was nowhere near the first.
Paumgarten might be the first to write about it in prelapsarian terms, but hey, I didn’t know the word before today.
If Webster’s Un had had it, the definition would have looked something like this:
prelapsarian (adj.): characteristic of or belonging to the time or state before the fall of humankind.
Other sources consulted on the World Wide Interweb define “prelapsarian” as the time before the Snake and the Apple and the Bite and the Nakedness and the Shame, i.e., the Fifties, when Eisenhower (an Augusta member) was president, before the Sixties and the Music and the Hair and the Sex and the Nixon and the Seventies and the Sex and the Eighties and the Sex and so on and so forth with all the Evil that ensued After the Innocence.
The governing reference work of Grey Goatee Nation had it:
prelapsarian (Grey Goatee Global Golf Dictionary, Unmoored, First and Only Edition, p. 17): 1. characteristic of a place where only the golf and the cheese-pimento sandwiches are real. 2. awash in toxic maleness. 3. characterized by fiddling while Rome burns.
Does the writer expect His Godliness to frown down upon us and turn the lights out because Augusta is fake and misogynist?
Will He sound the lightning horn just as we’re making the turn?
Are we at End of Days because of Augusta National Golf Club? Better tuck that thought in the inside lapel pocket of your green jacket, Sir, and ignore it, as usual, until next April, when everybody will have forgotten.