Y'arr, tis a life of litera-sea for me
The latest outbreak of landlubbery and Deppian falsity at Shiver me Cedars takes the form of a banal shopping list of buiks whose names are horrid to soil-fearing buccaneers on every wave. Frantic questions reverberate among the luxurious upholsteries of their indolent, land-locked lounge. “Whither this list?”, they ask, “My own glorious intellect is reflected in its conventional solemnities and (what we pirates reck a great deal worse) ponderous levities, yet I ken not its opaque theme, its sine qua nonce!”. Aye, well the pirates ken.
The list hath two o’erweening characteristics. The first – that each entry on the list has been made into a worthy and tedious film or television extravaganza to lull flaccid lubbers into conformity with spurious universal “truths” and “values”. Pah! True pirates know that lubbers are but cattle for their masters. The second (more despicable) characteristic of this exhaustively tedious list is that nary a one of its obvious, conformist tomes takes as its subject the salty ecstasy of the lives of true pirates who ply the several seas their wonders to perform. Not even Watership Down!
And yet, with never a trace of irony and preening with the shy immodesty of the triumphant child receiving a plastic trophy for victory in the annual egg and spoon race, World be Storm and his grass-loving acolytes make passive-aggressive demands for our applause. “O look!”, they yelp “We have been so good! We have read so many!” Ha! We pirates waited for them all to come out on video and can faithfully report that verily did they suck upon the big one.
Pirates recognise the obsequious embrace of Leavisite diktats when they see it. How old FR must be a-cackling in his grave, the final bolt-hole of all lubbers, six-feet down in the foetid earth where no soothing susurrus of seatide lapping hath e’er been heard! The lubbers report with unmanly earnest that they have diligently attended to this opprobrious list, this ersatz “canon”, and kept the lubber faith by leavening it only with vapid popular entertainments.
Y’arr, we pirates see how they fall upon their Hobbit and their Hitchhiker in bathetic gratitude for the licensed chortles to be found therein. Why a Hobbit is the very embodiment of everything true pirates abominate, with its furry feet and its wretched penchant for burrowing into the heinous mould; its eschewment of precipitous rigging and the call of the crow’s nest. A Hobbit sniffs carefully amid subterranean clays. With deep draughts, a pirate fills his barrel-like chest with the crusty vapours of good sea air. Aye!
Well, pirates can diligently attend to cannon of their own, and are not backward about unleashing a broadside of honest grape on a snivelling pack of unworthy dogs. A pirate wears his (or her) learning lightly, not on his (or her) sleeve like some darling little cub scout on whose geansaí mummykins has sewn a rash of merit badges as long as the yardarm on a Spanish Mano’war. A pirate is apprenticed to old Neptune his self. He is a child of such educational theorists as Britton and Rosenblatt who prioritised the authentic experience of the individual and the subjective responses of the learner over the passive reception of universal ‘truths’ from approved literary historical texts.
The true pirate is not fit for the drab and silent bookroom; he devils for the sea, he is indentured to lived experience. He is in the world, his intercourse is wide, he has known argosies of language from a thousand coasts. He sails proudly and with open heart among privateers, wenches and cabinboys of all nations; he is not some pair of ragged claws scuttling along the floors of silent seas, a (rather damp) copy of The Hobbit clutched twixt his timid pincers.
Y’arr this tragic list is a reflection of the bourgeois tyranny of the Lubber education system with its pirate-disdained emphasis on the attainment of good marks rather than the value of knowledge for its practical use in the governance of a tight ship or the artful running through of an adolescent midshipman bedecked in the gilt livery of the English Queen. Why it calls to mind the despair of the Lubber’s own Chief Education Examiner (whose heart secretly belongs to piracy) who owned himself down on this sort of thing. “It is unfortunate” quoth he, “to witness the syllabus being edited down to a minimum exam-focused path, featuring a very short list of too familiar texts to the detriment of the student’s broader education”.
The pirates note with interest the contribution of Chekov Feeney to this orgy of Lubber self-congratulation. Mr. Feeney refuses to believe that any buik of which he disapproves could possibly have been enjoyed by anyone else. Mr. Feeney does not like any buik which smacks of bourgeois introspection and Mr. Feeney refuses to accept that any buik he does not like has merit. Mr. Feeney is on the right track. We pirates also sneer at the timid witterings of the bourgeoisie. Mr. Feeney, however, is an Indymedian, which, like a Hobbit, is a sub-species of Lubber, and the only thing he likes is social realism about French coalminers, who are anathema to pirates in every way. Mr. Feeney thinks that the only good buik is a social realist buik about social realist lubbery. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. The only good buik is a buik about Pirates!
Let the Lubbers cleave to Leavis and the rest. Let them stick like barnacles to approved texts handed down by their betters, texts which privilege the Lubber experience to the detriment of experiences which are deemed “other”. The world of decent piracy is not the only one which finds no reflection in their wretched lists, but it is the only one that matters. And yet, in a moment of rare tenderness, we pirates wonder how many other benighted souls have strained to hear responses sung in their own registers? Does anyone know? Does anyone care? Not the Lubbers!
Scorn them lads! Run away to sea! Join us on the ocean waves! Drink to the devil and have done with the rest, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!
I love you all,