Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Arrgh! There be pirate books on me shelf!


In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, I'm listing the few pirate-related things on my bookshelf.

Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates>. By David Cordingly.

under the black flag

I bought this for my history buff of a grandpa, who read it and immediately gave it to me to read. Cordingly, former curator a the National Maritime Museum in England, peels away the rumors and myths of well known pirates (Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, etc) and gets at their real stories. He does an excellent job in not just dispelling the myths but also exploring them and explaining why we romanticize the very violent lives of these men none of us would like to meet in real life. For a twist, he also looks at the often ignored state supported pirates, like Sir Francis Drake. Highly readable popular history.

A General History of the Pyrates. By Daniel Defoe.

defoe's pyrates

By the author of Robinson Crusoe, this 1724 classic chronicles the tales of the nutcases who sailed the seas and plundered anything they could. Although there are dozens of reprintings of this by different publishers, I really like the Dover Publications edition, put out in 1999. It comes with a useful index as well as footnotes marking things Defoe got wrong and making links to larger issues.

Isaac the Pirate Volume 1: To Exotic Lands. By Christophe Blain.

isaac the pirate

Volume 1 of an ongoing graphic novel series, Isaac is a young painter living in Pre-Revolutionary France. To make ends meet, he takes a job as illustrator aboard a ship he's told is taking cargo and passengers to America. Much to his surprise, Isaac learns that the ship's Captain---a wanted pirate with dreams of becoming a living legend---is actually taking his barge and crew farther south so he can be the first to captain to steer a boat around the South Pole. It's a nice mixture of humor and adventure, and plenty of hearty pirate speak.

Treasure Island. By Robert Louis Stevenson.

treasure island

Robert Louis Stevenson described Treasure Island as "a book about a map, a treasure, and a mutiny, and a derelict ship, and a fine old Squire Trelawney, and a doctor, and a sea-cook with one leg…" and I don't think I could put it any better. This is one of the few books of my childhood that survived my bedroom fire of sixth grade; being a book I read over and over again, I'm glad it's still around.

Bluebeard. By Kurt Vonnegut.


Next to Breakfast of Champions, this is probably my favorite Vonnegut novel. This story focuses on a side character that's appeared in other novels, a World War II veteran and abstract painter named Rabo Karabekian. Karabekian writes his "hoax autobiography", and Vonnegut uses it to satirize anything and everything about the art world. Why is this one in a list of pirate books, you ask? Well, I ran out of pirate books and this was the next closest. A myth of Bluebeard becomes a central theme to the story, so it's not completely out of nowhere. If you don't like it, I'll keelhaul ya!



Maktaaq said...

Thank you for writing about Under the Black Flag - I've been wondering if I should pick up that book one day.

I liked the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, but yes, the pirates are getting too sympathetic (sort of) and rather tedious. I long for the old days when pirates were scary.

Mind you, re: getting to read this book - I have 220 books on my list right now, plus reading for work and my university course (thought I'd get me some more museum education).

Hebdomeros said...

Under the Black Flag is a pretty fun read. I can't vouch for how authoritative it is, but I enjoyed it.

I too know the woes of having too many books. Aside from text books, I have at least 100 sitting in various places around the house that I want to read. And it doesn't help that I work at a library and check things out all the time. Am I too old to retire and spend the rest of my life reading and taking classes?

Miss L said...

"Am I too old to retire and spend the rest of my life reading and taking classes?"

*Gives dirty, mean look*

I can barely afford to pay for myself on my museum salary, let alone both of us :P Start playing the lottery, sweetie.