2014: The Best & Worst
This is the time of the year when writers coast. They dream up their
totally subjective best and worse lists for the year that's rapidly
coming to a close. Why? So they can focus on the important things...the
holidays. So with that in mind:
Please do not tell the author that I bought his book at a yard sale. I am an author. If you buy one of my books in some one's yard, keep it private. Authors want to think of their books being loved and cherished, lying on a nightstand or there on the bookshelf beside "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Color Purple."
Yet, I did buy In Search of Robinson Crusoe by Tim Severin at the Ijams Yard Sale in November. The book's concept seemed fascinating: the background behind Defoe's classic novel of the shipwrecked, marooned Crusoe. First published in 1719, it was based on an actual marooned castaway and was an overnight success. And it's "still in print," sweet words to any author.
Daniel Defoe himself was most phoenix-like, he rose from his own ashes many times. Severin writes, "Highly intelligent and ferociously
hard-working, he was willing to turn his hand at almost any occupation. Yet his
schemes rarely worked out quite as he hoped. His first enthusiasm had been
commerce. He tried in turn to make money by wholesaling hosiery, then by
underwriting insurance, and finally by running a brick and tile factory. When
all these businesses miscarried, he turned to journalism, financial
speculation, and a murky career as a spy, agent provocateur, and political
protagonist for both the main political parties of the day. In the course of
his activities he wrote numerous political pamphlets, and also a book on moral
instruction, which had sold very well. His robust literary style, vigorous wit,
and a delight in exchanging strokes in the political fray meant that he spent
much of his life gyrating from one crisis to the next."
"Twice bankrupt, he had
been pursued through the courts for debt and sedition or on false charges made
by his enemies. A warrant issued for his arrest on a charge of seditious libel
in 1703 describes him as "a middle sized spare man, about 40 years old, of
brown complexion, and dark brown-coloured hair, but wears a wig, a hooked nose,
a sharp chin, gray eyes, a mole near his mouth."...Defoe was exposed for
three days in the public pillory. Famously, the London mob who approved of his
satirical view of the failings of the government and the judicial system
escorted him to the pillory, decorated it with flowers, drank his health, and
bought copies of a satirical poem that Defoe had penned with typical feistiness
while waiting for the sentence to be carried out...finally Defoe launched yet
another career: at the age of 59, with a wife and six grown up children, he
became a novelist."
Ergo, when all else fails, write a novel. Perhaps you'll get rescued from your own marroonedness. [Don't look it up. Not a real word.]
Severin's book about buccaneers, shipwrecks and castaways [which happened more often than you might think in the 1700s] proved the jacket promo copy on the cover to be true—"A fascinating read...Blending travel narrative, maritime history and a literary mystery."
But, please don't ask me what I paid for it. It was far too little for such an interesting read. And, yes, the hard-working author received nothing. They rarely do. Such a shame. If you are out there Tim contact me. I will happily send you a royalty check.