Friday, August 3, 2007

The Porcupine-Lay


I first learned about Patrick O'Brian through David Mamet, of all people. He claimed--I think it was in an interview--that the best novelists then writing (this was 15 years ago) weren't the so-called "literary" ones (Auster, DeLillo, Roth, etc): they were genre writers. As examples he listed John LeCarre and Patrick O'Brian. I read LeCarre almost immediately. (He's excellent, by the way). O'Brian, for some reason, I put off. Maybe I wasn't ready for twenty straight 300-page novels. I think I knew that once I started, I wouldn't stop. It was a big commitment.

Five years ago, I finally picked up Master and Commander, the first book in the series. I read it, then I read the series. A year later, I read the series again. In the process, I bought eight of the novels. Perhaps unfortunately, they now reside six inches from my reading chair. The result is that I reread them over and over--generally to the neglect of whatever book (usually 'literary') I'm supposed to be reading. At this point, I've probably read each of them at least ten times. I know them better than anything else in my shelves.

I don't have the time or ability to attempt a full-length appreciation of O'Brian. Briefly: he is amazing, and I would encourage you all to read him. As far as it's possible to know what it would be like to live in a different era, O'Brian, I think, knew. (By which I mean: imagined.) To read him is to have, at least in flashes, hints of that same knowledge. He's a writer of phenomenal intellect and great wisdom, of course; but more than that, he is a writer, like Shakespeare, able to depict fully-realized portraits of society on every level. Dukes and princes, admirals and captains, sailors and whores: they're all there. None of them are sentimentalized, and all of them are somehow real.

Big claims, I know, and ones that I can't illustrate in a single passage. Here, though, is one of my (current) favorites. The ship is about to leave port. "Jack" is Jack Aubrey, the captain and one of the book's heroes. The other character, Heaven, is insignificant to the plot:

...and now they had been together long enough, with a good deal of foul weather and some very hard fighting, to have formed a distinct community with a great sense of their ship and a great pride in her.

A somewhat anomalous community however in a ship that looked so very like a man-of-war, for not only did it contain no Marines, no uniformed officers and no midshipmen, but people walked about at ease, even with their hands in their pockets; there was a certain amount of laughter in the forecastle in spite of the parting; and the quartermaster at the con, wiping a tear from his cheek and shaking his grey head, did not scruple to address Jack directly: "I shall never see her like again, sir. The loveliest young woman in Shelmerston."

"A lovely young woman indeed, Heaven," said Jack. "Mrs. Heaven, if I do not mistake?"

"Why, sir, in a manner of speaking: but some might say more on the porcupine-lay, the roving-line, if you understand me."

"There is a good deal to be said for porcupines, Heaven: Solomon had a thousand, and Solomon knew what o'clock it was, I believe. You will certainly see her again."

77 comments:

Bryan said...

'Why, as to that,' said Jack, blowing on his coffee-cup and staring out of the stern-window at the harbour, 'as to that ... if you do not choose to call him a pragmatical clinchpoop and kick his breech, which you might think ungenteel, perhaps you could tell him to judge the pudding by its fruit.'

'You mean, prove the tree by its eating.'

'No, no, Stephen, you are quite out: eating a tree would prove nothing.'

Sebastian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sebastian said...

The writer of the foreword to Twenty-One, which O'Brian was writing when he died, offers the opinion that O'Brian was the greatest fantasist ever to have written in the English language: certainly the greatest of the modern era, at any rate. As O'Brian himself admits in a prefatory note somewhere around volume 6, what we have in the Aubrey-and-Maturin stories is not the true world of the age of Nelson, but that world as O'Brian vividly imagined it. His creation is so complete, so absorbing, and so masterfully layered as to render the efforts of other world-builders - including Tolkien, LeGuin, and Eddison - quite eclipsed by comparison.

Whatsoever the other writers have provided in terms of talent, invention, and skill, O'Brian matches and exceeds. Where Tolkien is cold, relegating Arwen to an appendix, O'Brian pulses with humanity: the thrashing with which Sophie threatens Diana is but one example, given sharp relief by the prematurely hardened Clarissa Oakes, who pistols a man at point-blank without a moment's hesitation. Where LeGuin is thoughtful, O'Brian is encyclopedic in his attention to detail from the mizzen topgallant down to Dr. Maturin's beloved insect collection. Where Eddison is lyrical and whimsical, O'Brian is legible, deftly plotted, and above all brimming with gallant action, keen emotion, and humor at every level.

O'Brian is often compared to Melville, Forester, and Dickens, comparisons I find demeaning to O'Brian. To the mind of this reader, O'Brian blows them all out of the water like one of Jack Aubrey's target rafts. The Aubrey-and-Maturin chronicle is a boys' story, to be sure, but it is a boys' story par excellence. I can think of only one other English writer who seemed to share O'Brian's talent for reaching the pit-gallery as well as the educated elite, and that is the Bard himself.

Huzzah for the Doctor, three times huzzah!

Cartooniste said...

my friend matthew, a novelist himself, points out that of the fiction of the nineteenth century we still read those books which were meant in some ways as genre, or popular, fiction. all the serious "literary" fiction was absorbed in temperance novels and works of moral uplift which are now regarded to have very little merit.

L's favorite o'brien moment is the drunken sloth that they take aboard the ship, who rides around in the rigging. i am thinking of getting a sloth for our sailboat. we will feed him cape-codders exclusively.

Sebastian said...

Stephen looked sharply round, saw the decanter, smelt to the sloth, and cried, 'Jack, you have debauched my sloth.'

Anonymous said...

Hey there! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect against hackers?
I'm kinda paranoid about losing everything I've worked hard on.
Any suggestions?
Also see my site: make money online free and fast

Anonymous said...

This text is worth everyone's attention. Where can I find out more?
Also visit my web-site online investing websites

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

This piece of writing presents clear idea for the new viewers
of blogging, that really how to do blogging.
Feel free to visit my blog :: affiliates

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I desire to subscribe for this weblog to obtain hottest updates, therefore where can i do it please assist.
Also see my website - binary Options

Anonymous said...

Hi, I do think this is a great web site. I stumbledupon it ;) I may come back once again since i have bookmarked it.
Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be
rich and continue to help others.
Feel free to surf my blog :: casino supplies - go!!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

hi!,I love your writing very so much! proportion we keep in touch more approximately your article on
AOL? I need an expert on this house to resolve my problem.
May be that's you! Having a look forward to look you.
Feel free to visit my blog ; usa casino online

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the good writeup. It if truth be told used to be
a entertainment account it. Glance complex to far delivered agreeable from
you! However, how can we be in contact?
My page ; Practice stock Trading

Anonymous said...

Brokersring.com - Learn how to turn $500 into $5,000 in a month!

[url=http://www.brokersring.com/]Make Money Online[/url] - The Secret Reveled with Binary Option

Binary Options is the way to [url=http://www.brokersring.com/]make money[/url] securely online

Anonymous said...

free-casino-bonus.com - Claim Your $100 free casino bonus!

[url=http://www.free-casino-bonus.com/]free casino[/url] - No risk casino games

Claim more than $100 in [url=http://www.free-casino-bonus.com/]free casino bonus/url] and more than $20,000 in casino bonuses.

Anonymous said...

I've been exploring for a bit for any high-quality articles or weblog posts in this sort of area . Exploring in Yahoo I at last stumbled upon this web site. Studying this info So i am happy to convey that I have an incredibly excellent uncanny feeling I came upon just what I needed. I such a lot indubitably will make certain to don?t overlook this website and provides it a glance regularly.

Feel free to visit my web page; is cedar finance
my site: day trading stock picks

Anonymous said...

I have been exploring for a bit for any high-quality articles
or blog posts on this kind of house . Exploring in Yahoo I at
last stumbled upon this site. Studying this information
So i am glad to convey that I have an incredibly just right uncanny feeling I discovered just
what I needed. I most unquestionably will make sure to don?
t forget this web site and give it a look on a relentless basis.



My blog post :: Cedar Finance App

Anonymous said...

Terrific work! That is the type of information that are supposed to be
shared across the internet. Disgrace on
Google for no longer positioning this post upper! Come
on over and talk over with my website . Thank you =)

Also visit my homepage: cedar finance withdrawing funds

Anonymous said...

I'm extremely impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it's rare to see a great blog
like this one nowadays.

Also visit my site; what is forex trading

Anonymous said...

Asking questions are truly fastidious thing if you are not understanding anything
entirely, except this paragraph presents fastidious understanding yet.


Visit my website; how to make money on google

Anonymous said...

Hi to all, the contents present at this website are
in fact remarkable for people knowledge, well, keep up the nice work
fellows.

Here is my page watch money talks

Anonymous said...

Hey there are using Wordpress for your site platform? I'm new to the blog world but I'm trying to get started and set
up my own. Do you require any html coding expertise to make your own
blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

Visit my weblog binary options trading system

Anonymous said...

Magnificent beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your website, how could i subscribe for a blog site?
The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit familiar of this your broadcast provided brilliant transparent concept

Also visit my website ... binary options system

Anonymous said...

I believe what you posted made a great deal of sense.
However, what about this? suppose you were to write a killer
headline? I am not saying your content isn't solid, but what if you added a post title that grabbed a person's attention?
I mean "The Porcupine-Lay" is kinda plain. You could glance at Yahoo's front page and note how they create news headlines to grab people interested. You might add a video or a related pic or two to get readers excited about everything've got to say.

Just my opinion, it might make your posts a little livelier.


Feel free to surf to my webpage ... Win instant money For Free

Anonymous said...

When I initially commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added" checkbox and now each time a
comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment. Is
there any way you can remove people from that service?
Bless you!

Stop by my web-site - easy ways to make money online fast

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure exactly why but this web site is loading very slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a problem on my end? I'll check back later and see if the problem still exists.


Here is my homepage comefaresoldifacili

Anonymous said...

Hi all, here every person is sharing such knowledge, therefore it's pleasant to read this web site, and I used to go to see this blog all the time.

My website :: comefaresoldi

Anonymous said...

Spot on with this write-up, I truly think this site needs a great deal more attention.
I'll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the advice!

Also visit my page :: gagnerdelargentrapidement

Anonymous said...

Hi! I could have sworn I've been to this website before but after browsing through some of the posts I realized it's new to me.

Nonetheless, I'm certainly pleased I came across it and I'll be bookmarking it and checking back frequently!


Check out my web-site - gagnerdelargentsurinternet

Anonymous said...

Admiring the hard work you put into your blog and
in depth information you provide. It's nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't the
same outdated rehashed information. Wonderful read! I've bookmarked your site and I'm including your RSS feeds to my Google account.



my page - how to deposit on cedar finance.com from bank account

Anonymous said...

Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.
I've been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this. Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

Feel free to surf to my homepage - strategies for trading binary options

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you so much, However
I am going through issues with your RSS. I don't know why I cannot join it. Is there anyone else getting identical RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanx!!

Also visit my web blog :: online work at home jobs
My site - the best work At home Jobs

Anonymous said...

Hello there! This post couldn't be written much better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept preaching about this. I most certainly will send this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

Also visit my web site :: trade binary options

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I am really enjoying the theme/design of your
web site. Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility problems?
A small number of my blog readers have complained about my blog not working correctly in Explorer but looks
great in Firefox. Do you have any tips to help fix this issue?


Also visit my blog post forex binary options

Anonymous said...

Spot on with this write-up, I honestly think this amazing
site needs much more attention. I'll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the advice!

My website ... how to make money blogging

Anonymous said...

Thanks on your marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it,
you will be a great author. I will be sure to bookmark your
blog and will often come back sometime soon.
I want to encourage that you continue your great posts,
have a nice day!

Look into my homepage :: futures and options trading
My webpage - binary options australia

Anonymous said...

It's truly very complicated in this active life to listen news on Television, therefore I only use world wide web for that purpose, and get the hottest information.

Also visit my web site: schnell geld verdienen

Anonymous said...

Good post. I will be experiencing some of these issues as well.
.

my web-site - im internet geld verdienen

Anonymous said...

Great beat ! I would like to apprentice whilst you amend your site, how can i subscribe for a weblog web site?
The account helped me a acceptable deal. I have been a
little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided vivid
clear idea

Feel free to surf to my web-site ... binary options trading platform

Anonymous said...

Heya are using Wordpress for your blog platform? I'm new to the blog world but I'm
trying to get started and create my own. Do you need any coding knowledge to make your own blog?
Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Here is my web-site :: binary options brokers

Anonymous said...

Hello there! I could have sworn I've been to this website before but after going through many of the posts I realized it's
new to me. Nonetheless, I'm definitely pleased I stumbled upon it and I'll be bookmarking
it and checking back often!

my website :: Binäre Optionen

Anonymous said...

Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have
you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy.

The overall look of your web site is excellent, let alone the content!


Feel free to visit my weblog - binary options brokers
My web page > How to trade binary options

Anonymous said...

Τhіѕ аrtіclе wіll
asѕist the inteгnеt ѵisitors for сrеаting
new ωeb site or evеn a blog frοm staгt to end.


Heгe іs my site: casino online

Anonymous said...

Hello to eѵery оne, іt's genuinely a fastidious for me to pay a quick visit this web site, it consists of priceless Information.

Look into my web-site: Strap On
my page - strap On online shop

Anonymous said...

Wow, awesome weblog layout! How lengthy have you ever been
running a blog for? you made blogging glance easy.
The entire look of your web site is fantastic, let alone the content!


Here is my page online design jobs work from home

Anonymous said...

Hello everyone, it's my first visit at this web site, and post is genuinely fruitful in support of me, keep up posting such posts.

my weblog: make money fast online

Anonymous said...

Hi there i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anywhere, when i read this article i thought i
could also create comment due to this good
post.

Visit my blog post - fast make money online

Anonymous said...

Hi there to all, how is the whole thing, I think every one is getting
more from this web site, and your views are fastidious in favor of new people.


Also visit my website i Need Money

Anonymous said...

Hi i am kavin, its my first time to commenting anywhere,
when i read this paragraph i thought i could also make comment due to this brilliant paragraph.


my site automated forex system trading

Anonymous said...

Hello Dear, are you truly visiting this website regularly, if so afterward you will
absolutely obtain pleasant experience.

Check out my web-site :: ways to make money fast

Anonymous said...

Today, I went to the beachfront with my children. I found a sea shell
and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said "You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear." She placed the shell to her ear and screamed.
There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I
had to tell someone!

my web site :: earn easy money online

Anonymous said...

Good information. Lucky me I ran across your site by chance (stumbleupon).
I have book-marked it for later!

My page how to make some extra money

Anonymous said...

Your means of telling the whole thing in
this paragraph is genuinely good, every one be able to simply be aware of it, Thanks a lot.


Also visit my homepage: Easy ways to earn Money

Anonymous said...

Hello, i think that i saw you visited my weblog so
i came to “return the favor”.I am attempting to find things to enhance my site!
I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

My web-site - make fast money online

Anonymous said...

hello!,I love your writing so much! share we keep in touch more
approximately your post on AOL? I require a specialist in this space
to unravel my problem. Maybe that is you! Having a look
ahead to peer you.

Review my page :: get rich

Anonymous said...

What i don't understood is if truth be told how you're no longer actually much more neatly-preferred than you may be now.
You are so intelligent. You already know thus significantly on the subject
of this subject, produced me for my part believe it from a lot of various angles.
Its like women and men don't seem to be fascinated except it's
one thing to do with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs great.

At all times handle it up!

Feel free to visit my webpage - how to lose weight really really fast

Anonymous said...

Hello there I am so excited I found your blog page, I really found you by mistake, while I was searching on Askjeeve for something else, Regardless I am
here now and would just like to say thank
you for a tremendous post and a all round exciting blog (I
also love the theme/design), I don't have time to browse it all at the moment but I have saved it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the great job.

Also visit my blog :: how to make money working from Home

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger.

I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of
your excellent post. Also, I've shared your website in my social networks!

my page; best ways to make money online

Anonymous said...

Can you tell us more about this? I'd love to find out more details.

Feel free to visit my homepage ... how to make easy money

Anonymous said...

hi!,I really like your writing very a lot! proportion we communicate extra approximately your post on AOL?

I need an expert in this space to unravel my problem.
May be that's you! Having a look ahead to peer you.

Also visit my site: legal work at home opportunities

Anonymous said...

Appreciation to my father who told me concerning this web site, this blog is
in fact remarkable.

Feel free to visit my page ... best ways to make extra money

Anonymous said...

For latest information you have to visit the web and on the web I found this web page as a best web page for most recent
updates.

Feel free to surf to my homepage :: trading signals

Anonymous said...

I've been browsing online greater than three hours these days, yet I by no means discovered any fascinating article like yours. It is beautiful value sufficient for me. Personally, if all site owners and bloggers made excellent content as you did, the net will likely be a lot more useful than ever before.

My web blog - how to make fast money online

Anonymous said...

It's wonderful that you are getting ideas from this paragraph as well as from our argument made here.

my blog :: top game Slots

Anonymous said...

Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an extremely long
comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn't appear. Grrrr... well I'm not
writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say great blog!


my website ... blackjack online real money

Anonymous said...

You have made some good points there. I looked on the web
to find out more about the issue and found most
people will go along with your views on this web site.


My homepage ... Day Trading Definition

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon everyday.

It's always exciting to read content from other authors and practice something from other websites.

Feel free to visit my blog post - forex trading alerts

Anonymous said...

Hello, Neat post. There is an issue together with your site in internet explorer, might test this?

IE nonetheless is the market leader and a large element of other people will miss
your magnificent writing due to this problem.

Also visit my web blog; work opportunities from home

Anonymous said...

Everything is very open with a precise clarification of
the challenges. It was really informative. Your site is useful.
Thank you for sharing!

Feel free to visit my weblog ... how to make money fast and easy online

Anonymous said...

We're a group of volunteers and starting a brand new scheme in our community. Your website offered us with helpful info to work on. You have performed an impressive task and our entire community will be grateful to you.

Feel free to visit my site ... how can i earn extra money fast

Anonymous said...

The other day, while I was at work, my cousin stole my iPad and tested to
see if it can survive a twenty five foot drop, just so she can be a youtube
sensation. My iPad is now destroyed and she has 83 views.

I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone!



Also visit my blog swing trading options

Anonymous said...

Hi, every time i used to check web site posts here early in the
dawn, as i love to find out more and more.

Also visit my blog :: commodities options

Anonymous said...

I savour, lead to I found exactly what I used to be having
a look for. You have ended my 4 day lengthy hunt!
God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

Feel free to surf to my webpage - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN36K29q7_Q

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.