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What I'm reading

July 25th, 2004

The Yellow Admiral and Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian. These are respectively the 18th and 20th in the Aubrey-Maturin series. I particularly enjoyed Aubrey’s role as a paternalist squire preventing the enclosure of a local commons – almost the only time in the entire series where he is heroic and successful by land.

Blue at the Mizzen brings me to the end of the series, always an ambiguous feeling for me. There’s still a couple I haven’t managed to get hold of, including The Nutmeg of Consolation and The Hundred Days. Perhaps I should set up one of those Amazon wishlists

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  1. July 25th, 2004 at 16:27 | #1

    Beep! Solecism alert.

    Consider “a paternalist squire preventing the enclosure of a local commons”. There is no such thing as a “commons” since “commons” is, as one would expect, merely the plural of the noun “common” as found in “Wimbledon Common” (or “Boston Common”, if one has the temerity to suggest that the American dialect is not only different but to be preferred).

    At best this error is an Americanism along the lines of “a woods”, but in the area of commons (plural) it is rather important to keep ideas of singular and plural, individual and collective, each and all, clear in one’s mind – because these distinctions lie at the heart of the “Tragedy of the Commons” mechanism.

  2. stan
    July 25th, 2004 at 18:10 | #2

    Did you find that you started to speak ye olde English after reading a few books?

    Every now and again, normally in a holiday break, I read the whole series again (it’s my favourite), but at the end, my language starts to become incomprehensible to my friends, and every life experience seems to have some sort of Naval dimension to it!

    There’s actually also a companion to the series that makes it a lot easier to understand. It contains maps etc, as well as explanations of the more obscure references. It was like a whole new series when I read it again with that companion book — there’s so much tucked away in the plot.

    Such a shame the author died when he did.

  3. stan
    July 25th, 2004 at 18:23 | #3

    A shame he died of course, but what I was really hinting at was that he might have had another book in him to complete the series. I would have liked to see Jack Aubrey become First Sea Lord or something. (Selfish I know).

  4. July 25th, 2004 at 19:16 | #4

    ‘Ambiguous’ for all love! Your future yawns darkly, meaninglessly and emptily before you, man! Isn’t that why you left Two Of The Canon unbroached? C’mon admit it, Quiggers.

    There are those among us who would understand.

  5. Spasm
    July 26th, 2004 at 05:31 | #5

    Is there any other series quite like it. It is a tremendous gift to be able to write so well that 1/3 of the story is incomprehensible jargon and yet the reader still comes away with at least a general if not more specific understanding of the goings-on. And the reader keeps coming back for more.

  6. John Quiggin
    July 26th, 2004 at 22:39 | #6

    Admittedly, my future yawns darkly, meaninglessly and emptily before me (apart from the Nutmeg of Consolation).

    OTOH, I avoid the even greater risk of entering eternity with the series unfinished.

    Hence, an ambiguous feeling.

  7. July 26th, 2004 at 23:22 | #7

    Ah, I smoke it now.

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