The SFFaudio Podcast #357 – READALONG: Captain James Hook And The Curse Of Peter Pan by Jeremiah Kleckner and Jeremy Marshall
The SFFaudio Podcast #357 – Jesse and David Stifel talk about Captain James Hook And The Curse Of Peter Pan by Jeremiah Kleckner and Jeremy Marshall.
Talked about on today’s show:
that Burroughs guy (or Captain Hook), Jeremy Marshall, Jeremiah Kleckner, a modern book?, a little under six hours, a take off on a well known property, not a kid’s book, the Peter Pan play, the starting point for this book, childish irresponsibility, a Twilight Zone episode, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, written for adults, vocabularies, they got a dog, in-jokes, Alice In Wonderland, he workshopped it, Hook wasn’t in the play originally, kids love pirates, this kid kidnaps other kids, a sequel, the timeline, Harry Potter of a hundred years ago, Hook, Pan, the Disney film, the black and white Broadway broadcast, kinescope, what a great role, the prototypical adult, the Etonian accent, Cyril Ritchard’s voice, The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, the writing is so good, subtly twisted scenes, why it is short, Jeremiah Kleckner is an English teacher, how to enjoy reading, pre-production, the competition, an ACX book, Jeremiah Kleckner’s blog, auditions, the new publishing model, the cover art, Jesse is very cynical, so is David, self-published, word-wooze, wound and wooze, guberreality?, Chinese food, David Baldacci, what writing is about, a lot of gushing, an alternate take, a prequel to Peter Pan, fairies, a crocodile, Neverland, the Lost Boys, a jigsaw puzzle, who is Captain Hook?, Hook is right, Peter Pan is a self-indulgent little brat, flying, too bad!, Peter Pan treats the Lost Boys like toys, set on a course for evil, with Billy Mumy, It’s a Good Life, “happy fun”, the alliterative punctuation, the god Pan, the god of lonely shepherd boys and the god of panic, panopticon, pan was able to multiply himself infinitely, not the horny goat god, the god of wildness, children and childhood became a thing, children’s literature, child focused culture, child labour, Barrie was the peak of child culture, anti-science, “who believes in fairies?”, why we need Mr Jim Moon, the push pull of science, science killing all the fantasy of being a child, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he just wants to believe, The Best Of Sick Jokes,
Willie, with a thirst for gore,
Nailed his sister to the door.
Mother said, with humor quaint,
“Willie, dear, don’t scratch the paint.”
the symbol of how good the writing is, James Hoodkins, breaking the bottle, the night before his thirteenth birthday, “have fun forever”, a lucky escape, Michael Darling, the Darling family, a failed adult, a funding problem, Smee, Captain Hook’s boatswain (bo’sun), an interesting backstory for Smee, “it’s me”, Blackbeard, Long John Silver, Treasure Island, Black Sails mixes historical and fictional pirates, Robert Louis Stevenson, the second reality, Jesse Labette, Smee by A.M. Burrage, clean fun, hide-and-seek, The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester, sardine, a retelling, why does Hoodkins have a sidekick in William, responsibility, double-sided reality, watch out for William, a first step towards manhood, be his mommy, what if…, a stunning achievement, “I’m taking them to heaven.”, a child’s heaven, death, never land, just step out the window, jumping off the roof, almost a real place, The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through The Hidden Connections Of The English Language by Mark Forsyth, the impact of Peter Pan, Wendy, Jonathan Swift, Vanessa, Hermione, a romp, a great performance in a meaty role, natives will tell, by today’s standards, losing regionalisms, mid-Atlantic accent, the Edgar Rice Burroughs audiobooks, a swashbuckling adventure, a completely flawless performance, a sleeper that deserves to be heard, a really fine audiobook that deserves more exposure, the Amazon.com reviews are excellent, “masterful narration”, little Billy at 5, an undersold masterpiece, with the marketing budget…, David’s tastes, science fiction as a modernization of fantasy, thinking critically about a classic, Hook was right!, Hook’s the hero!, it’s not just what you know about Peter Pan, a lot of pirate research, more real than The Pirates Of The Caribbean, not an arrrgh until the appearance of Long John Silver
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #349 – Jesse and Mr Jim Moon talk about The Ghost Pirates by William Hope Hodgson
Talked about on today’s show:
1909, from the later middle, more sophisticated than The Night Land, more tightly plotted than The Boats Of The Glen Carrig, all the letters of H.P. Lovecraft that talk about William Hope Hodgson, revisions to Supernatural Horror In Literature, a doomed an haunted ship, terrible sea-devils of quasi-human aspect, latent horrors in nature, “reaches enviable peaks of power”, the LibriVox audiobook, not as jam-packed with incident, the Carnacki stories, cosmic vistas, accessibility, a straightforward story, what it was like to being a working sailor, cliques and alliances, tremendous fun, time travel that good literature can give you, the poopiest book of all of Hodgson’s work, the taffrail, mood, a ghostly haunted ship, From Beyond by H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows, an intrusion by other forces, shadows, strange figures, disappearances, underwater ships, not just a ghost, predation, dimensional drift, pirate skeletons ghosts don’t fit, its the ship that’s haunted, but not only the ship, the ship’s name is “Mortzestus”, “Sangier” (the bloodier), “I’m going to get my money out of this ship”, the pay scene in Aliens (1979), a thing from outside, bubbling below the surface is the corporatism problem, a commercial venture, mutiny, the officers want it hushed up, writing it up in the log, it is regrettable that Bryan isn’t here, why Marx wrote his works in England, the relationship between the means of production (the ship) and its sailors, taking care vs. making money, commercial considerations, historical piracy, in the lulls between sea-devils, “mate” reminds us of “comrade”, we’re all in this together mate (or comrade), why were there so many pirates?, why piracy happened, a Freudian (or Marxist) reading, the Sindey Sime illustration of The Ghost Pirates, “pale eyes”, mummified figures, are the ghost pirates a projection of the crew’s submerged collective unconscious?, the pirate articles, communism and democracy, parallels the Russian Revolution style, the captain, the quartermaster, the hatred that Hodgson had for commercial sailing, spooky, a sub-layer to the tale, the frustrations of the crew, “that old bully”, we are in trouble now, the devils take them all, the slang for the ship is “this packet”, the crew as a wrapping on the parcel, the language of spiritualism, Jessup’s theory as to what’s going on:
“Well, I’ve formed a bit of a theory, that seems wise one minute, and cracked the next. Of course, it’s as likely to be all wrong; but it’s the only thing that seems to me to fit in with all the beastly things we’ve had lately.”
“My idea is, that this ship is open to be boarded by those things,” I explained. “What they are, of course I don’t know. They look like men— in lots of ways. But—well, the Lord knows what’s in the sea. Though we don’t want to go imagining silly things, of course. And then, again, you know, it seems fat-headed, calling anything silly. That’s how I keep going, in a sort of blessed circle. I don’t know a bit whether they’re flesh and blood, or whether they’re what we should call ghosts or spirits.”
this ship is “open”, what happened on this ship that “opened it up”, The Haunted Jarvee (a Carnacki story), there’s something about the ship, there’s a crack in it, a tear in the fabric of reality, a sitting duck for otherworldly buccaneers, what is the goal of the sea-devils, what are they doing up in the rigging, four ghost ships, aliens?, aliens from the ocean?, are they Doctor Who sea-devils?, are they deep ones?, a parallel reality, From Beyond, Crawford Tillinghast is turning up ghosts, vestigial organs, ultra-violet,
“What do we know,” he had said, “of the world and the universe about us? Our means of receiving impressions are absurdly few, and our notions of surrounding objects infinitely narrow. We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos, yet other beings with wider, stronger, or different range of senses might not only see very differently the things we see, but might see and study whole worlds of matter, energy, and life which lie close at hand yet can never be detected with the senses we have. I have always believed that such strange, inaccessible worlds exist at our very elbows, and now I believe I have found a way to break dawn the barriers.
if this was adapted today it would be explained by the cargo, an intra-dimensional material from atomic tests, 1920, The Dreams In The Witch House, 1934, The Banshee Chapter (2013), From Beyond (1986), a Freudian reading, Bill Clinton, in the language of apology, venereal disease, drugs, a found footage film, the framing story, believe it or not, The Ghost Pirates would make a great audio drama, showing the figures, crystallizing, Carnacki’s explanation in The Haunted Jarvee:
‘Well,’ replied Carnacki, ‘in my opinion she was a focus. That is a technical term which I can best explain by saying that she possessed the “attractive vibration” that is the power to draw to her any psychic waves in the vicinity, much in the way of a medium. The way in which the “vibration” is acquired – to use a technical term again – is, of course, purely a matter for supposition. She may have developed it during the years, owing to a suitability of conditions or it may have been in her (“of her” is a better term) from the very day her keel was laid. I mean the direction in which she lay the condition of the atmosphere, the state of the “electric tensions,” the very blows of the hammers and the accidental combining of materials suited to such an end – all might tend to such a thing.
making a magnet by hammering a nail, it’s not a person, it’s not something on the ship, it is the ship, electrical technology, a blend of science and the supernatural, BPRD: Plague Of Frogs, Mark Turetsky, slaves in chains at the bottom of the sea, a ship on its last voyage, the detritus of previous voyages, a Marxist resentment of the treatment of every crewman brought to the ship, end the of The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, working the same mine of feeling, the preface to the original edition, The House On The Borderland, certain conceptions of elemental kinship, flinging open the door wide, a kaleidoscope, scene upon scene, the door is open only a crack, speculation, what was the purpose, four shadowy galleons, the four ships below, are they mirrored (upside-down in the water), visualizing it is shocking, the Red Scare, they’re going to come here and take what we have, the Spartacus rebellions, an inter-dimensional idea, overwhelmed and pulled down, the other side of the veil, working a different passage in a nether dimension, if Neil Gaiman were to take this book as inspiration…, the surface of the sea, scraping along the surface of another world, the power of nautical ghost stories is in that liminal space between an ocean of air and an ocean of water, water as a liminal place in folklore, “where two elements meet strange things may intrude”, an inverted frog-men version of our world, are the sails like fins?, trade routes, how you portray the shadow ships, invisible would be fun, mirror world beneath the waves, the covers of various editions, skull and crossbones with a cutlass, whatever you see when you see through the eyes of Jessup, a fishy version of the pirate captain, mood effect, what the hell’s going on with those pig men?, a short novel, extended novellas, “I AM A NOVEL”, the Wikipedia entry, the unfinished novel, had Hodgson lived longer…, Captain Dang, the Sargasso Sea, the dawn of the pulp era proper, embracing the 20th century, The Hog, a complete collection.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
Time Pawn by Philip K. Dick, 1960, The Little Black Bag by C.M. Kornbluth, Science Fiction Hall Of Fame: Volume 1, The Marching Morons by C.M. Kornbluth, Idiocracy, if smart people don’t have babies…, a kind of Heinleinian authority, a little grey case, his bag is missing, grey vs. black, a doctor from the past visiting a future society, medicine as a crime, interfering with euthanasia, another weird interesting post nuclear war world, primitive or advanced?, we don’t talk about death, reflecting our world back at us, youth culture, worshiping youth, movie heroes used to be old men, Logan’s Run, Nolan’s world, what is the appeal of that world?, a culture will run things for you if you don’t think a lot, the Ancient Egyptian culture of death, you will live your life in your death, the soulcube, immortality through the species itself, The City And The Stars by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, nobody wants to see that, kids are stupid, the wisdom of the grandmothers, the Vietnam War, genetic stupidity, Language For Time Travelers by L. Sprague de Camp, Stargate, Astounding, an editorial note for Time Pawn, the right to live, ruthless euthanasia, time travel, Dr. Jim Parsons, the character is a time pawn, the second arrow, an inevitability, to ensure their own existence, deterministic, the standard classic scene, being careened, the auditorium at the first Beatles concert is only filled with time travelers, Dick’s take on time travel, familiar stars. not familiar? why aren’t they familiar, figuring out the future of the character as he’s writing it, “huh, that’s weird”, completely unpredictable vs. completely predictable, van Vogtian, Paul employs a railroad metaphor, Sir Francis Drake, line by line rewrites, from New York to San Fransisco, matter to mine, Time Pawn vs. Dr. Futurity, glittering vs. illuminated, darting like silver fish, no aircars?, nobody is going to be reading Time Pawn anytime soon, “the chamber was a blaze of light…dead gods waiting to return”, a rushed novel?, what’d you do with all that?, standard Dick tropes: a wife shuffled to the side, missing the wife less in Dr. Futurity, the description of the women is much lengthier, always heaving breasts, there’s no questioning of reality, no surveillance, less questioning, an uncharacteristically straightforward story, it feels like all the other Ace Doubles, in the mode of reading SF, all the tropes are assumed, Margaret Atwood, Michael Crichton, going through the evolution to understand the SF tropes: Wells -> Gernsback -> the 60s, three a week, that’s all we need to know, airbags everywhere, flame retardant spray, toxic chemicals vs. being on fire, we live in a screwed up culture, mercury poisoning, asbestos, guide beams, the google car, GPS, if there was a solar flare…, Aftermath, a Charles Sheffield novel, old infrastructure could save us, Cuba, Alpha Centauri goes supernova, the Three Hoarsemen podcast, steam-punk without the steam is just punk, Pastwatch: The Redemption Of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card, a monster, the Columbian exchange, Dick has just read about Sir Francis Drake, Drake’s voyage, he’s famous for making Queen Elizabeth I a big pile of money, Expo 86, the Golden Hind, Drake’s landing point, Oregon, Vancouver Island, Nova Albion, Albion, British Columbia, albino, a weird figure to fixate on, Cortez, Pissaro, The Mask Of The Sun by Fred Saberhagen, caught in the machinations of time traveling empires, more bushwhacking, Daniel Abraham, the way they talk in this future society, it keeps not working, his presence eventually changes their society, starting that whole tribe, the scene with the arrow, a predestination paradox, those stone markers, “I’ll get around to it”, that whole planet is covered in markers, the way Dick ended it, leaving it loose, why Time Pawn is so much of a better title, he feels he is the chess master after a certain point, the extended spaceship to Mars scene, the robot computer with a rat brain, such a creepy scene, “I wonder what’s going to happen”, if the character doesn’t want to get on track, what’s that about?, what are those guns for?, Shupos?, always people confronting him, make remarks about the women, this is NOT a book written by committee, don’t read this as your first Dick, more fodder for your feed.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #323 – Jesse, John Feaster, and David Stifel discuss the audiobook of The Monster Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs (narrated by David Stifel)
Talked about today’s show:
Project Gutenberg, Ace Book, The Girl From Hollywood, The Mucker, dope rings, The Efficiency Expert, ERB’s wife meets Earnest Hemingway, Frankenstein, The Island Of Doctor Moreau, nitric acid, what Frankenstein studies at university, alchemy, growing people, mandrake root, Luigi Galvani, the chemical tradition, girl with a machine gun, a feisty heroine, an axe, Virginia, constant clinging Deja Thoris, how old is Virginia?, there’s nobody good enough to marry my daughter, eugenics, racism of the period, Sing is the hero of the story, stalking, I bet you a car, some of the most improbable stuff, Number 13’s identity, “The Man Without A Soul”, a Scooby Doo theme, a nice rich stalking man (if he’s rich), test tube men, playing to the audience, nothing is more horrible than miscegenation, noble savages, Burroughs hated Germans, more of the creation, Burroughs is good at action, the bullwhip, the orangutan females (beautiful ladies), Von Horn, pirates, headhunters, evolution, brutish, stone age, The Synthetic Men Of Mars, the Caspak series, slow evolution, the progression of man, Charles Darwin, “oh, by the way you’re all apes”, Gods And Generals, why not a European castle?, nameless creatures, a series of unfortunate events, the aborted second creation (the bride of Frankenstein’s monster), a woman’s right not to marry, Penny Dreadful‘s Frankenstein Caliban and Proteus, Professor Maxon’s madness, why Borneo?, an exotic location, silly laws, Breaking Bad, the edge of the world, Jack London, black-birding, Dayak, Sarawak, James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak, go west young man, poor demonized orangutans, Edgar Allan Poe, Fritz whipping the monster, playing god, one of the most fun writers ever, the spice of this guy, a satisfying writer, the Hollywood recipe, a forced love connection, Burroughs seems genuinely interested in man-woman romance, a Heinleinian father figure, Edgar Rice Burrough’s Twilight, a heroine with gumption, Christan waitresses worshiping Twilight (save yourself before marriage), no vampires, severed head creatures in Chessmen Of Mars, mind-flayers, Erol Otus, no supernatural elements, Mastermind Of Mars, Turus Tur, the power of will, a man of action (from money and breeding), if Tarzan’s parents had been plumbers, the most undercooked part of the book, had the man actually not had a soul…, Burroughs bully Teddy Roosevelt athletic men, conventional morality, a clean cut white man, the alternate love interest turns out to be the villain, is Townsend Harper a late addition?, y’ever seen a newborn baby?, just out of the cooker, that dull yellow eye, Young Frankenstein, lookism, in Edgar Rice Burroughs world it seems reasonable, was there cannibalism in that boat?, it is strongly inferable, drawing straws, tiger woman, cheetah lady, a light romp, wondering about H.G. Wells as a person, The Island Of Lost Souls, vivisection, unpleasantness, no Negroes in Tarzana, California, with not a single European, loyal Sing, yellow perily, Burmese, its the U.S. Navy!, this book really has everything, every kind of possible conflict, he wasn’t interested in doing dangerous quirky stuff, there’s a reason this isn’t an Earnest Hemingway podcast, a grand connected universe, Tarzan in Africa, John Carter on Mars, John Feaster should be pitching this as a show to the ERB estate, public domain tropes, Tarzan At The Earth’s Core, the Gridley Wave, more mash-up, the John Carter movie should have been more popular, picking a couple of nits with the film, limiting the focus of their world, Woola, the missing dog!, just another superior white man, number zero, Cornell, Ithaca, NY, Beyond Thirty (aka The Lost Continent) by Edgar Rice Burroughs, how will WWI wind up?, a submarine/airship, all the Mars are finished, Caspak is finished, Tarzan is finished, social realism, The Efficiency Expert, The Outlaw Of Torn, The Mad King, a Ruritanian romance, Winston Churchill’s ruritanian romance, helping to restore the monarchy (except it’s a republic), other authors?, meeting with the ERB estate, James Sullos, Edgar Rice Burroughs audiobooks need to be read by a California, Singapore, “Celestials” as a term for Chinese, Deadwood, the politically correct term at the time, negro, the “c” epithet?, on the side of the heroes, ERB was liberated for his time, Robert E. Howard didn’t have the wealthy heroes, Jack London, conservative free enterprise, the power of will, big muscles, when Roosevelt was obsessed with breaking up the trusts.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #290 – The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving; read by Chip (for LibriVox). This is an unabridged reading of the novelette (1 hour 23 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and John Feaster.
Talked about on today’s show:
1820 (1819), the idea behind the story, Celtic folklore, Sir Gawain And The Green Knight, the Wild Hunt, Geoffrey Crayon, Popular Tales Of The Germans, Volksmärchen der Deutschenby Karl Musäus, racing to a bridged, a shattered gourd, Sir Walter Scott, “the wizard of the north”, Tam O’ Shanter by Robert Burns, headless ghosts, Anne Boleyn, headless horses!, jack-o’-lantern, is this a Halloween story or a Thanksgiving story?, 1834, the word “coconut” (head and soul), the South Pacific, breadfruit, The Red One by Jack London, the shattered pumpkin becomes carved into a Jack-O-Lantern, Brom Bones, meta-textual inference, Washington Irving is buried in Sleepy Hollow, NY, a Hessian artilleryman, a sleepy forgotten area, Rip Van Winkle, the Dutch of New York are like the Irish of the British empire, a Connecticut Yankee teacher, sleep, bustling New York City, Tarrytown, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Irving’s loving description of the landscape is like Lovecraft’s loving description of architecture, the jokey Washington Irving, Guests From Gibbet Island by Washington Irving, pirates, Pluto, “nod, wink, and giggle”, a comedy with a great sense of mood, the many birds, Crane, pudding in their bellies, the Van Tassel larder, a low yield version of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne, an excellent ragù, an exquisitely painted portrait, Jeff Goldblum playing Ichabod Crane, the dilating abilities of an anaconda, the full orchards, the rooster with his wives, The House Of The Seven Gables, “the world’s first Scooby Doo ending”, Brom Bones is a colossal prick, anti-intellectual, having read several books all the way through, Cotton Mather, the labour of headwork, headlessness, a practical joke, the post-script, the moral (if it has one or if it needs one), The Cask Of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe, a deathbed confession, family portraits or a mirror, “in pace requiescat”, alternate endings, the 1999 movie adaptation with Johnny Depp, “Rip van Kolchak”, beheading an embryo, the imagery, Christopher Lee, Marvel Comics adaptations, Ghost Rider, a goblin, J.R.R. Tolkien, distinguishing between goblins and orcs, interchangeable terms, Scrooge, FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY – Headless Horsemen, a whip made of a human spine, the Comics Code Authority, Morbius: The LIVING Vampire, the gaffers at von Tassel’s quilting frolic, an old brower, the Wild Hunt (again), rivers marking town boundaries, “liminal areas”, “a marvelously gruesome book”, Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality by Paul Barber, vampires can’t cross running water, a Dukes of Hazzard crossover, the Disney/Bing Crosby cartoon, The Wind in the Willows, The Partially Examined Life (talking the American philosophers), walking while reading a book vs. walking while reading a phone, van Ripper, Gunpowder (the horse), anti-intellectual vs. hyper-competence, Sleepy Hollow as a vision of America (as opposed to Europe), William James, Henry James, young and different, Henry David Thoreau, Walden, the American Revolutionary War, NYC vs. NY State, Irving regretting the American revolution, Lovecraft’s nostalgia, a very American story, “the world’s turned upside down!”, Ivanhoe, enbosomed in the mountains, a debunking, Frank L. Baum’s new creations for an American fantasy, Kansas, the tin woodsman’s chopping, a cyborg version of the Ship of Theseus, written for little children, the heart is more important than the brains, Brom Bones as the hero, Ichabod mucks-in, haunted tulip tree, Major Andre, an unselfconscious hero, corporal punishment, Wackford Squeers from Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, a wise-schoolmaster, spare the rod and spoil the child, “six of the best when they were ten”, dancing around the issue, squishing, Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, “if this were the middle ages and he were a viking…”, Sons Of Anarchy vs. Vikings, bearded vengeance, ichthyology, von Ripper, von Brunt, von Tassel, von Brunt Colonel Ichabod Crane, The Castle Of Indolence by James Thomson, Gothic credentials, autumn, the sleepy hollow boys, Twin Peaks and the Bookhouse boys, the good old boys, more references to NASCAR, Brom Bones as an archetype, the Sleepy Hollow TV show, we can’t CGI our way out of bad writing, “Alan Moore-esque”, “nice, self-contained, and pretty much done”, Katrina as a master manipulator, singing lessons, it’s been haunted forever (maybe 30 years), belief in hauntings vs. belief in ghosts, a haunted green shag carpet, the stain, something was dragging itself on the ground, “The Stone Tape” hypothesis, “creeped by some creepy creepness”, a bad place, Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, poltergeist activity, Brom Bonesey, the 1790 setting, a haunted beach?, Center Lake, a hat sodden with blood, a headless borrower, a local Jimmy Hoffa, folklore becomes enmeshed, why does she settle for Brom Bones?, “a man of great parts”, Shakespeare: “Ale promoteth the desire but taketh away all performance”, Diogenes: “If only I could alleviate my hunger by rubbing my belly”
Posted by Jesse Willis
The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates
By Peter T. Leeson; Read by Jeremy Gage
Audible Download – Approx. 7 Hours 41 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible, Inc.
Published: September 4, 2009
Themes: / Economics / Piracy / History / Slavery / Democracy / Anarchy /
Pack your cutlass and blunderbuss–it’s time to go a-pirating! The Invisible Hook takes readers inside the wily world of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century pirates. With swashbuckling irreverence and devilish wit, Peter Leeson uncovers the hidden economics behind pirates’ notorious, entertaining, and sometimes downright shocking behavior. Why did pirates fly flags of Skull & Bones? Why did they create a “pirate code”? Were pirates really ferocious madmen? And what made them so successful? The Invisible Hook uses economics to examine these and other infamous aspects of piracy. Leeson argues that the pirate customs we know and love resulted from pirates responding rationally to prevailing economic conditions in the pursuit of profits.
I love non-fiction, and I love books that look at history, books that look at history through one lens or another are even better! And so there is much to love in The Invisible Hook. The title is a play on Adam Smith’s elegant metaphor for how markets work, the invisible hand. Most of the examples cited deal with the Atlantic and Caribbean pirates, rather than earlier Roman era or modern day pirates. But we get a sense of how it likely worked in other regions and times. Chapters on the paradoxical attitudes towards pirate slavery, the wildly contradictory stories about piratical impressment, and the chapter on the Jolly Roger, the pirate flag, are absolutely fascinating. And, as something of a piratical hobbyist myself, I’m pleased to report they deliver clear insights only hinted at in other non-fiction books about piracy. You know you’ve got a good book in hand when you find yourself relating the premises, arguments, and conclusions of whole chapters to friends.
How good is the analysis really? That’s kind of hard to tell. Democracy and equality as a function of economics? Wonderful! Seems logical, seems plausible. And that’s the sort of thing you don’t hear often enough. Indeed, economist Steven Levitt, of Freakonomics fame, gets a shout out early on in The Invisible Hook. This is a book in that vein, a kind of entertaining pop-economics, well written, and very thoughtful. But it also boasts the same kind of inarguable psychohistory-style post-analysis of such books. It reminds me of books like William Rosen’s The Most Powerful Idea in the World, and Jared Diamond’s Collapse. Well written history looked at through the lens of a soft science makes the seemingly inexplicable events of history seem almost inevitable. That is to say, this book should be just one of many such on such topics. In the end though how can you not wanto to read a book that makes piracy, as depicted in The Princess Bride, actually very plausible?
But this is not as merry a ship as it might be. As with many book published these days, there’s some bit of puffery. Concepts well illustrated in a paragraph or two are revisited, whole passages nearly reworded, and I’m betting that this for reasons of market driven economics. It might be that each chapter can be looked at on it’s own, textbook style, but listened to as I did, back to back the chapters have a tendency to revisit the same ports too often. This is one of my major complaints about books these days. Too many books are being published with too many words that don’t say different things. At under eight hours even this relatively slim volume, by today’s market standards, but it’s still puffier than any pirate’s shirt really ought be. It is like a pirate cutter on the stalk, slowed down by a sea-anchor of unneeded repetition. Saying the same thing over and over and over. Get my point? Okay, its the market, and to be fair Adam Smith’s own The Wealth Of Nations is a bloody long book, 36 hours! I’d be willing to bet my strong right arm that the original article, as published by Levitt (mentioned in the book), would be an even better audiobook than this very fine one, and no doubt it’d measure at least a peg leg shorter.
Narrator Jeremy Gage is from the old school of audiobook narration, the kind I like. He doesn’t so much as perform a book as read it. His conspiratorial tone typically him a great choice for first-person POV novels, like Lawrence Block’s Burglars Can’t Be Choosers. This is the first non-fiction book I’ve heard him narrate. So now I can say he’s great for non-fiction too.
Posted by Jesse Willis