Typhoon – 3/5 Stars
This is classic storm story. What’s interesting about it, as is contained in the opening lines is that the captain of the boat is not remotely remarkable in any ways. He’s perfectly competent, and not a buffoon, but also not a hero. To me the idea of writing an adventure thriller where the main character does not stand out for his bravery, does not stand up to the challenge, or does not reveal some great moral failing or lack of character is pretty interesting. This would be the ways most stories would actually go. There is a little of the pointing out of how ordinary is that is slightly artless about the whole affair. In a way, this reminds me of Moby Dick, where we meet the would be hero Bulkington, early in the book, and who dies unceremoniously from an illness early on, clearly showing that the one hero we maybe had to save us from the doomed voyage of the Pequod would not be around to do so. There’s some to this idea of unremarkableness that has definitely had its heyday in the 20th to myriad effect. The presentation of the unlamentable mundane, whether its Proust, or Prufrock, or John Stoner, or any of the other kind of everyman heroes who achieved little here works a little differently because of the highly dangerous circumstances of a ship in a terrible storm. It makes think of say a Star Wars movie where there’s only 100s of ships fighting, many dying, and only three we ever pay attention to.
The Children of the Sea – 3/5 Stars
Man, I would not be reading this one out in public, or maybe at all if not for it being contained in a hardback omnibus I could take the cover off of. I cam choosing to post this review under the American release which retitled this book as “The Children of the Sea” a not great title on its own, but the original title The N– of the Narcissus is a ridiculous one on its own and is certainly part of the reason no one reads this book. It’s also not a great book. Conrad begins with a preface that is so either out of sync with the achievements of this text, or worse pretentiously navel-gazing that the following pages where the prose is stilted and overly simplistic made we wonder what he felt like he was even doing. He tells us that any work that contends to be art needs to justify itself with every line, which fair enough, but is that your sense of this book?
I think Heart of Darkness which is still still year off can stand up to that kind of evaluation, but this can’t. The novel involves a ship called the Narcissus, who among its crew, as you can guess is a Black man who is sick. But maybe he’s not sick? The crew has suspicions. When the ship runs afoul of a dead calm, his position in the ship becomes more and more precarious as he languors and doesn’t help with solving their problem. And it turns out….well, you’d have to see.