A Shopping List: Maritime Marvels
by Danielle L. Parker
William Hope Hodgson, Adrift on the Haunted Seas — Spectral and spooky Victorian tales from a man who actually spent years at sea, starting as cabin boy. The book reminds me how strange and mysterious the sea can be even without any supernatural element. H. P. Lovecraft owes Hodgson a debt, and though Lovecraft sang his one tune to perfection, Hodgson was a writer with greater scope. The pitiful tale of the shipwrecked husband and wife who call out of the night to the sailor is one of the most moving.
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat — Okay, so it’s a river, not the sea. But this good-natured book is like basking in the summer sun on the deck of your own lazily floating boat. Another vicarious vacation, down an English river this time, and a wonderful read for cold winter months. A Victorian celebration of small pleasures and small difficulties still readable today.
Captain Frederic Maryat, Peter Simple — An enormously funny and sarcastic yarn still readable today. Whether Maryat (1782-1848) was the actual author or not seems iffy, but who cares. This comic tale of the rise of a simple lad in the Royal Navy is full of tongue-in-cheek humor and authentic details from someone who lived the life. Get it for someone who likes the Hornblower stories.
Howard Pease, The Tod Moran Mysteries — All Howard Pease books are out of print so far as I know. I can’t resist using this opportunity to ask someone, somewhere, to re-issue the marvelous Tod Moran sea mysteries. I devoured them as a youngster, and I miss them. They are too great to die. Amazon, you’re missing a chest of pirate gold here.
Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons — This is an early (1930) young adult classic still in print. I enjoyed the series when I was a kid simply because the Walker children had so much fun. The books served as a vicarious vacation for me. As an antidote to today’s snarky teens saving the world with superpowers and attitude, get this book for an intelligent youngster willing to try something different. Or read them yourself. To quote Ratty from The Wind in the Willows, there is nothing worth doing more than simply messing around in boats.
Captain Joshua Slocum, Sailing Alone Around the World — You couldn’t get a man who epitomized shrewd, tough Yankee sea captain more than Slocum. He was exactly the honest-but-sharpster sea captain who made those New England coastal towns rich. Retired or not, the sea was in his blood, and one day he set to work refurbishing an old sailboat. The rest is a grand adventure. Slocum was the first soloist to circumnavigate the globe by sea, and this is one of the great classics of maritime literature.
Nautical literature has a place of pride at Bewildering Stories, in particular:
The short stories of Mike Florian
Sam Ivey, Gilboy’s Quest — In the 1880’s, Bernard Gilboy sets sail from California to Australia — alone.
Alone on the raging ocean, alone in my craft I ride,
Alone on the foaming billows, in all their crested pride,
No man before hath ventured, alone, so far to sail;
Nor mind hath ever yet conceived a ship so small, so frail.— Sydney Punch, February 17, 1883
Copyright © 2013 by Danielle L. Parker
and Bewildering Stories