Saturday, September 1, 2007

yo ho ho

My study hall duty a couple of days ago came after a very long day. School had already drained me of more than its fair share, and I could not be bothered to spend the time shuffling papers and scheduling the learning that has to happen. Being in the library, I started perusing the eclectic collection of books that finds its way to an international school.

In recent months, I have read three books by Hemingway, but his writing is often much better than his stories. I have spent at least as long being partway through Seven Years in Tibet, but Heinrich Harrer's story is often much better than his writing. While I am willing to track a dying Kudu with Hemingway in exchange for the occasional gem, it is a telling test of my fortitude to climb an un-described mountain with Harrer in exchange for an unknown sensation that feels very much indeed like seven years.

I read Hemingway with a certain double edged fear. I think that if I were a writer I would tend toward and aspire to certain of the same strengths.

Anyway, when my eye caught on Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, I felt an unexpected invitation to return to something that I had counted among the lost. I think that when the book first ended and I had to close it knowing that Long John Silver is toiling away to a pirate's freedom without even a goodbye, I was more than a little sad to have finished it at all. I would rather, almost, have left them all on the Hispaniola, bound for treasure and intrigue. I have since learned that this was one of the books that can stand to be read again. I have read it three or four times, and it is still a solid story with excellent dialogue. Young Hawkins can return to the Admiral Benbow Inn and start it all over again. The aging monster Billy Bones can stamp around on the cold beaches of England yet again in his tormenting anticipation of Flint's men. And Long John Silver can play once again the master pirate that he surely was.

This is the first time in a few years that I have read it. I suppose that I read the book differently after having seen a few more ports, having met a few more people, having walked a few more roads, and having passed a gazing night on a cold and crashing Cornish beach.

This time I was on page 72 when study hall ended and I restarted reading it so I could read it aloud to Joie, and we are on page 38.

An excerpt, from the opening of the dead man's chest...

A strong smell of tobacco and tar rose from the interior, but nothing was to be seen on the top except a suit of very good clothes, carefully brushed and folded. They had never been worn, my mother said. Under that, the miscellany began--a quadrant, a tin canikin, several sticks of tobacco, two brace of very handsome pistols, a piece of bar silver, an old Spanish watch and some other trinkets of little value and mostly of foreign make, a pair of compasses mounted with brass, and five or six curious West Indian shells. I have often wondered since why he should have carried about these shells with him in his wandering, guilty, and hunted life.

This text can be found in its entirety at the project gutenberg website.

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