I wish I could say that I was tired of this news cycle
If Justin Taylor has taught me anything, it that we won’t be able to beat the pirates until we understand the pirates. I’ve put together a quick primer for budding armchair piracy experts:
1) Seven Tenths: The Sea and its Thresholds, by James Hamilton-Paterson. The ocean is vast. Real vast. Supports much life (including buccaneer life). Says Hamilton-Paterson:
It is well known in these parts that fish choose not to speak in order to risk nothing worse at men’s hands. Being wrenched from the depths into thin and bitter light to drown slowly in is bad, but not bad enough to merit speech.
2) The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World, by Frank Lambert. This was a golden age of plunder and booty on the high seas. Probably dubloons all over the place. And strong moves:
America’s bold action against the pirates earned the United States respect among European powers who had long paid tribute rather than fight.
3) Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Henry Dana, Jr. Pirates can be stuck a long time out at sea. Lots of stuff might go through their scurvy heads. It’s a lonely, briny existance. Show some empathy:
The rest of the cleaning was divided among the crew; one having the brass and composition work about the capstan, another the bell, which was of brass, and kept as bright as a gilt button; a third, the harness-cask; another, the man-rope stanchions; others, the steps of the forecastle and hatchways, which were hauled up and holystoned.
4) A High Wind in Jamaica, Richard Hughes. It’s the story of “a group of children accidentally thrown upon the mercy of a crew of down-at-the-heel pirates.” Zoe Heller, of O Magazine, says it’s “a wonderfully sharp and unsentimental portrait of childhood, a subtle disquisition on innocence and power, a startlingly beautiful piece of half-Victorian, half-modern prose.” If I understand this right, we send commando teams of middle schoolers over to the pirates, and then we win:
The tension was first broken by a beautiful young lady in a muslin dress. She sank on her knees beside little Harry, and folded him in her delicate arms.
5) Empire, by Niall Ferguson. Because the bandits on Wall Street are the real pirates here. Am I right? Just kidding. It’s all England’s fault:
In 1615, the British Isles had been an economically unremarkable, politically fractious and strategically second-class entity. Two hundred years later Great Britain had acquired the largest empire the world had ever seen, encompassing forty-three colonies in five continents.