REVIEW: ROGER SIMON’S THE GOAT. A tennis pro pays a steep price to be the Greatest of All Time:
And so The GOAT follows the Faustian adventures of Dan Gelber, an aging screenwriter with back problems. When surgery fails to help him, he turns to the quackery of Himalaya herbs, offered by a guru who (this is California, after all) practices in a strip mall in Reseda.
The herbs have miraculous effect, promising to restore Gelber’s youth, if only he will swim deeper into the net. Which he does, of course, trekking off to the Himalayas to be transformed into an entirely new person—an athletic man in his twenties who returns to America pretending to be a tennis player from Tennessee named Jay Reynolds. A phenomenal tennis player, as it happens. And rapidly he progresses from local to international success, qualifying for Wimbledon where he will play the likes of Roger Federer and have a chance to prove himself the GOAT of tennis.
Most readers first discovered Roger Simon through his mystery novels about the 1960s student radical turned California private eye, Moses Wine—the best of which probably remains The Big Fix (1973), made into a 1978 movie with Richard Dreyfuss. A dozen books later, Simon is probably best known for his political work, transformed from a conventional liberal to a well-known conservative by such events as the O.J. Simpson verdict and the attacks of September 11. He helped found Pajamas Media (now PJ Media) in 2004 and writes regularly on socio-politics.
Which is all fine, of course, but he started as a solid middlebrow artist, and he’s returned to that art in the nonpolitical The GOAT. The only possibly politicized element is the fact that Simon has self-published The GOAT, which is an interesting option for an established author. Arguing that publishers do not know how to promote books and claim too high a percentage of the purchase price for the supposed power of their imprints, Simon has set out to become his own publisher, offering the book through online sellers. In its way, this is of a piece with the origins of Pajamas Media, which took its ironic name as a swipe at what was called “mainstream media” in those days—proclaiming that the online world of blogs had broken through the old gatekeepers of news, which had long ceased to hold to the political impartiality that had justified their existence.
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