This is a book about pirates, treasure, swordfights, betrayal, cannonballs, Caribbean islands, the roaring main, and ladies in fetching corsets.
The laThis is a book about pirates, treasure, swordfights, betrayal, cannonballs, Caribbean islands, the roaring main, and ladies in fetching corsets.
The last thing you'd expect from such a book is for it to get tiresome and repetitive, to trudge through the same formulaic episodes again and again, to gloss over the kick-ass rapier duels in order to linger on the minutiae of colonial administration - and yet this is what happens.
Here's every chapter of this book, pretty much: Captain Blood is in a sticky situation. Nobody thinks he can get out of it alive. Captain Blood comes up with a plan just crazy enough to work. The plan works. Everyone talks about how amazing Captain Blood is.
This is great the first few times. But the protagonist's relentless suavity and brilliance starts to get old, and eventually becomes downright irritating. I mean, this guy can do no wrong. From his piercing blue eyes (described in numerous faintly erotic passages) to his impeccable fashion sense, from his unerring eye for strategy to his skills as a miracle healer, Peter Blood is perfect.
He can't lose a fight. Two seventy-gun Spanish warships? No problem, consider those puppies sunk. Invincible stone fortress? Flattened. Drunken pirate king with a cutlass? Dead in two sentences.
It starts to get ludicrous. Captain Blood is eloquent, handsome, and has a finely calibrated sense of honor. His enemies are unfailingly ugly, vicious, small-minded brutes. And then there's the love interest, Arabella, as boring as she is "slim, cool, and beautiful."
Captain Blood is a good read for putting in context why writers and readers turned increasingly over the course of the 20th century toward the flawed, fallible hero (or in some cases anti-hero). He or she is much more interesting. Captain Blood, vaulting from triumph to triumph despite the odds stacked against him, quickly grows dull.
That said, you can also see why this book has survived when most of its ilk are forgotten. Sabatini is a better-than-average writer in the adventure genre, though he expends most of his energy in long scenes of two men declaiming angrily at one another, or the aforementioned hot-and-bothered descriptions of Captain Blood. And it's a prototypical pirate adventure tale, employing every sturdy cliche - in fact, it's probably responsible for creating a lot of those cliches.
Suggested further reading would be Richard Hughes' A High Wind in Jamaica, written about seven years later, which subverts every expectation of the pirate genre while still involving lots of bloodshed, subterfuge, and seafaring....more
Confession: I didn't get all the way through this, despite my huge admiration of Chandra's talents. This book has one of the best first chapters I'veConfession: I didn't get all the way through this, despite my huge admiration of Chandra's talents. This book has one of the best first chapters I've read, and is intermittently brilliant thereafter. But it's so maddeningly uneven that I found it gradually more exhausting than enjoyable.
This was his first novel, so it's no surprise that Chandra may not have been in full control of his powers yet. His follow-up story collection, Love and Longing in Bombay, is much more assured....more
This book is out of print. That's proof enough for me that God is either dead or has turned His back on mankind in disgust. Or that He's being held hoThis book is out of print. That's proof enough for me that God is either dead or has turned His back on mankind in disgust. Or that He's being held hostage somewhere, perhaps in a veritable cathedral of ice. Dear Lord-- blink twice if You need help.
Anyway: The Last Samurai. It's an imperfect, magnificent enigma. A page-turner with no plot, a structural experiment, hilarious, argumentative, digressive, satisfying without offering resolution. Do what you need to and get your hands on a copy.
Then find Helen de Witt's utterly bizarre second novel Lightning Rods before that one goes the way of the buffalo too.
It's unfair that a brilliant architect should also write this beautifully.
Take his Faulknerian description of Chandigarh, the planned city: "One arrivIt's unfair that a brilliant architect should also write this beautifully.
Take his Faulknerian description of Chandigarh, the planned city: "One arrives at Chandigarh. One travels through the town, past the houses spread out in the dust like endless rows of confidence tricks; and down the surrealistic roads—V.1s and V.2s—running between brick walls to infinity. Chandigarh, brave new Chandigarh, born in the harsh plains of the Punjab without an umbilical cord."
This book is full of such wonderfully observed scenes and details, along with insights about architecture, cities, and the humans who use them. He's conversant not just with the principles of design, but with the inextricable symbolism, history, and human needs of any building or city.
Unfortunately this book only came to my attention because of Mr. Correa's passing last month, but the spirit of the man comes through clearly in his writing - warm, funny, knowledgeable, with a mind that cuts through the confusion of urbanity to ask the underlying question: Why is there "no relation between the way our cities have been built and the way people want to use them"?...more