Book Review: We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler


Author: Daniel Handler
TitleWe Are Pirates
Publication Info: New York : Bloomsbury, 2015.
Summary/Review:

This is an “adult” novel written under Handler’s real name instead of his more famous pseudonym, Lemony Snicket.  Set in contemporary San Francisco, the story details the lives of a dysfunctional family living beyond their means in an Embarcadero condo.  The storylines alternate between Phil Needle, a radio producer looking to exploit the legacy of an African American blues musician, and his 14 y.o. daughter Gwen, who has grown disaffected by the upper middle class life and eventually puts together a crew to steal a boat and run amok on the San Francisco Bay (the “pirates” of the title).  Snicket-like touches are there such as the unreliable and mysterious narrator who begins as a guest at the Needles’ party but then locks themselves in the bathroom to begin telling the story of their hosts.  And the story of Gwen and her youthful companions (plus her grandfather with Alzheimer’s) is far more engaging that Phil’s story. Ultimately, this novel felt a bit drab and I ended up finishing reading it more out of courtesy than interest.

Favorite Passages:

Phil Needle wasn’t a good person, in a what-a-good-person-you-are sort of way, but he was good, somehow, surely. He was merciful. He stepped on wounded bees. He did good, and when he did bad it wasn’t his fault. It was a mistake. He was so sorry, behind the bumper sticker, for whatever and everything it was he had done.

Rating: **

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Book Review: Pirates Past Noon by Mary Pope Osbourne


Author: Mary Pope Osbourne
TitlePirates Past Noon
Publication Info: New York : Random House, c1994.
Summary/Review:

Swashbuckling adventure awaits Annie and Jack as the magic tree house takes them to an island, and they have to help pirates find a treasure.  I love pirates, but this is a weak story in the series, albeit still entertaining.  It also introduces Morgan in a section at the end that feels a bit tacked on.  Apparently this was supposed to be the last book in the series, but I’m glad that they didn’t stop there!

Rating: **1/2

Book Review: The Invisible Hook by Peter T. Leeson


Author: Peter T. Leeson
Title: The invisible hook : the hidden economics of pirates
Publication Info: Princeton : Princeton University Press, c2009.
ISBN: 9780691137476

Summary/Review:

I awaited the release of this book with great anticipation as it contains three elements I can’t resists: pirates, quirky application of social sciences,  and a terrific pun in the title.  Overall it did not disappoint.  Leeson examines the Golden Age of Piracy (roughly 1680-1720) through the lens of economics, seeking economic reason for what pirates did.  Much of pirate behavior is based in reaction to the harsh and unrewarding life of sailors under cruel captains.  Leeson shows how pirates preceded both James Madison and Adam Smith by decades by creating democracies and free market capitalism aboard their floating communities.  It was beneficial to the crews as a whole to elect their captains and to sign pirate codes that would determine fair treatment – and a fair share of the booty.  Pirates also should a fair amount of tolerance for black sailors among their crew making their racism subservient to the economic benefits of a good hand on board no matter what his color.

The “Jolly Roger” and the wild antics of pirates like Blackbeard also have an economic purpose – to force the pirates’ prey to surrender without a fight.  Sea battles would damage the pirates’ prize, their own ship, and perhaps even the pirates so it behooved them to act as threatening and crazy as possible to actually prevent violence.  For many of these reasons, pirate ships were actually popular among the ordinary sailors who were willing recruits into a society that would allow them a voice in how things are done and take home a greater share of wealth than they’d earn in the merchant marine.  The book concludes with a humorous management course as taught by a pirate with a syllabus of articles and books that back up the economics behind the pirate way.

One quibble I have in this book is that Leeson often deviates from economics to slip in Libertarian ideology in tangents that seem odd and out of place.  For example, he takes up several pages to convince the reader that all government is based on the threat of violence as opposed to pirate societies which were freely joined.  He even writes of the benefits of pirate torture in regulating the behavior of commercial ship captains (who had to treat their sailors well lest they too be caught and tortured by pirates) but seems to see only evil in any regulation whatsover by government.  Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable and educational book that brings the dismal science to life through the romance of piracy.  Arrr!

Recommended books: Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt; Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates by David Cordingly
Rating: *** 1/2

Avast, me hearties…


It be International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Before ye proceed further, click ye this link to continue readin’.

More ways for ye landlubbers to cel’brate this great day:

And, shiver me timbers ye scallywags can even see Facebook and Google in its proper pirate language!

Don’t forget to get yer pirate name like these fine piratelibrarians, and meself:

My pirate name is:

Mad Sam Flint

Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. Like the rock flint, you’re hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you’re easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from piratequiz.com.
part of the fidius.org network

Previously: Arrr!!!

Book Review: The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe


The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists (2004) by Gideon Defoe is a natural book for me to read.  I like pirates!  I like Charles Darwin!  I like humor!  This slim book brings them all together.

The gist of the story is that a ragtag bunch of pirates known only by their attributes (the Pirate Captain, the pirate with the scarf, the pirate with the accordion) join Charles Darwin in adventure to take on the Bishop of Oxford with his trained ape, the Man-Panzee.  And from their it gets rather absurd.  I enjoy the silly adventures and the even more ridiculous footnotes.  I suspect it very easily can be seen by someone with different tastes as stupid, but to each their own.

A lot of reviews compare The Pirates! with Monty Python and Douglas Adams.  That’s because Gideon Defoe is British and writes funny things.  I would say instead that this book is reminiscent of Tom Holt, who is yes, British and yes, writes funny things like The Portable Door.

Defoe, Gideon.
The pirates! : in an adventure with scientists / Gideon Defoe.
London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004.
135 p. : ill., maps ; 17 cm.

Banned Books Week


September 30-October 6 is Banned Books Week, set aside to promote great literature that has been banned or challenged.  You can learn more online at the ALA Banned Book Week website (should you be luckier than I and find that the website is actually functional).  They have great promotional posters with pirates, and you know how I feel about pirates.

bbw.jpg

Jessamyn West of librarian.net has collected useful links for Banned Books Week as well as a related post on union issuesUnshelved takes a funny look at books challenged in the library (keep reading, it may be the start of a series).  Amnesty International also has a Banned Books Week page.

In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve scanned the lists of books frequently banned and/or challenged and selected two books I’ve never read before to read this week: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (a banned book about banned books, what could be more appropriate?) and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.  I have to stop by my new local library to pick these up.  And when I’m done, I can wear this pin:

bbwpin.jpg

Arrr!!!!


Avast me hearties, it be International Talk Like a Pirate Day. All ye lubbers head over to the official web page and learn how to talk like a pirate. Shiver me timbers, ye’ll even learn pirate pick up lines!

Today is a good day for ye bilge rats to:

It be a great day to be a pirate, maties.

Arrrrrrrr!!!!

My pirate name is:

Mad Sam Flint

Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. Like the rock flint, you’re hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you’re easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from piratequiz.com.
part of the fidius.org network