Friday, May 02, 2008

The Object of Envy

"Which book is that?"
"Uh, Post-Captain."
"And you've just started to read the series?"
"I envy you."
"It's amazing, isn't it?"
"I've read the whole series."
"Wow, All 20 books? Including the incomplete 21st novel?"
"Yes I have."
"And you know what? I'm going to re-read the whole series again very soon."
"It's just so amazing."
"I totally agree. The level of detail is mindboggling."
"You know, not many people know this, but there are three reference books out there to go along with the series. There is a lexicon, one about the geography and there's even a cookbook."
"I have them right here in my bag. All but the cookbook."
"Really? Wow. You ARE a fan."
"I am now. I've learned to use the lexicon book because there are just so many words and details that I am unfamiliar with."
"Yes. Totally true."
"But I had to learn not to use "Harbors & High Seas" because each section is broken down by book title and it gives away plot points right there in the text."
"Oh, right. That wouldn't be good at all."
"It isn't. But the lexicon is invaluable. These were a gift to me from a good friend of mine. She got the books for myself, her father and her husband, another friend of mine."
"All of you are reading the series?"
"Did you start with Master & Commander?"
"I read it a few years ago. Reading for school took me away from it for awhile, unfortunately. My friend and his father-in-law just read it, though."
"That's great. New converts?"
"Oh, yeah. I had two copies of Master & Commander laying around so I gave one to Jim - my friend's dad - and once to Vic, my other friend. Both of them have already finished Post-Captain."
"So they're enjoying it."
"Yes, they are. And what I enjoy the most is being able to recommend a series to someone that embraces it as much as I have."
"My neighbor got into the series and loved it so much that he would walk over to my house, return the four books he had recently borrowed and take the next four with him."
"Yup, that guy's a fan."
"Did you see the movie?"
"I did. I enjoyed it."
"Yeah, me too. It's okay but it doesn't compare to the novels. The characters in the movie barely touch the surface of who they are in the book."
"I agree. Russell Crowe was great as 'Aubrey' and Betteny was even better as 'Maturin' but you're right; the books are so much better. They always are, really."
"There's so much history to be learned in these pages."
"I'm glad I like history or this would be greek to me."
"Did you know that the real-life model for Aubrey was Admiral Thomas Cochrane, who served during the Napoleonic Wars?"
"I did know that, actually. It's amazing that someone actually lived this type of life."
"I read the biography of Cochrane; I have it at home. In fact, most of Aubrey's exploits are based directly on actions taken by Cochrane. When you read Aubrey you're reading about Cochrane."
"So, did Cochrane escape France into Spain dressed in a bear suit?"
"No, but he probably could have."
More laughter.
"It's a shame that O'Brian never acknowledged that Cochrane was his source of inspiration for Aubrey before he died?"
"He didn't?"
"Wow, that's surprising. Did YOU know that Cochrane was also the source of inspiration for C.S. Forester when he created Horatio Hornblower?"
"Really? No, I didn't know that."
"Yeah, I've been reading the Hornblower series, too and they're quite good."
"I've never read them."
"Really? That surprises me."
"My boys have read them but I never got around to it. I think O'Brian ruined it for me."
"He could have. The Hornblower novels are fantastic but they are nowhere near as detailed as the Aubrey/Maturin series. At least from what I've read so far."
"Yeah, and you're only on the second novel."
"And they just get better and better. It's amazing how much detail O'Brian put into these novels."
"He really did."
"O'Brian wrote a sequence that's just amazing. I don't remember which novel it was..."
"Was it good?"
"Aubrey is sailing around the Cape - Cape Horn - and he's run into some rough weather. This scene is played out over the next forty some-odd pages and when I was done with it I realized that I was tense; really tense. White knuckles and all."
"Wow. So Aubrey makes it down to the Cape, huh?"
"Actually, Aubrey ends up sailing all over the world."
"How so?"
"Well, the Napoleonic Wars only lasted so long. So we see Aubrey during the War of 1812 where he actually sees the USS Constitution, for example."
"Omigod, that's so cool."
"It is. It really is. In another story he sails to Australia. I don't want to tell you why..."
"Yeah, don't. I'd rather read it for myself. Seeing the Constitution sounds great, though."
"It was."
"What amazes me is the level of detail. Was O'Brian a historian? I figure he must have many doctorates in history or the Napoleonic Age,you know..."
"I think he was either a translator or a linguist..."
Like Tolkien?
"Really? I can't even imagine how long he took to research these novels."
"I've read that he spent his life in the National Archives, reading the actual logs of naval captains."
"Can you imagine?"
"His wife must have loved that..."
"I believe he was actually estranged from his wife; his children."
"Jeez, I can't imagine why. This depth of detail must be a singularly, solitary pursuit."
"I would say so."
"But it was worth it?"
"Yes it was. Every single book was worth it."
"I can't wait to read them."
"You're going to love it." A deep sigh. "I envy you. "


Blogger Bridget said...

How cool that you encountered someone like this who knows exactly the type of journey that you have just begun. My Dad has already started #3 H.M.S. Surprise and I'm looking for at least #4 for him. So, will you be making black pudding anytime soon?

8:22 AM, May 05, 2008  
Blogger FoxInDetox said...

Awesome. I have all the points. Now I don't have to read the books.

9:26 AM, May 05, 2008  

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