Timothy Bazzett's Reviews > When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man

When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man by Nick Dybek
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Mar 30, 2012

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Read from March 27 to 30, 2012

While first-time novelist Nick Dybek made it quite obvious that his book was meant to be a modern take on TREASURE ISLAND, for this reader it simply didn't work. Too long by at least a hundred pages, WHEN CAPTAIN FLINT WAS STILL A GOOD MAN is fatally flawed by a surplus of simply awful metaphors and similes - hands "as thick as strip steaks"; cellar walls that "smelled of sweet grease"; a radio "staticky, low, buzzing like a table saw"; a dashboard "lit in stereo-tube orange"; "each punch is a private explosion"; hair "matted and messy as an angry sea" and on and on. Contrived expressions such as these do not constitute art; rather they seem to signify pretentious writers' workshop excesses, which should have been summarily excised by a good editor. Moreover, the pretentiousness is further exacerbated by a continuous stream of trivial and snobbish name-dropping details about music and film which add little to keeping the plot moving forward. In the end, Dybek's attempt at retelling a classic story of adventure and pirates fails miserably. While there are flashes of decent writing here and there, the book seems to sink in a meandering mire of meaningless 'stuff', making it a tedious slog of a read. Even the ending was anticlimactic. I do wonder if this book was intended for a much younger reading audience, the YA crowd perhaps. Because the world-weary attitude of protagonist/narrator Cal, looking back from the advanced and wise old age of 28, seemed forced and silly. Nope. The writing here is, to me, just plain lazy and undisciplined. Not recommended. Two and a half stars, tops.
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