Pursued by a mermaid, two boys talk their way into pirating and end up in the Arctic where a secret unhinges them both. Disabled piecemeal, harassed by a parrot, marooned on a tree-challenged island, posing as Pilgrims, scrimshawing and singing their way out of prison, the spunky pirates of Pirate Talk or Mermalade defy and indeed eliminate all description: it's a novel in voices. The many faces of Terese Svoboda's luminous writing include eleven books of poetry, fiction, translation, and over one hundred short stories. Trailer Girl and Other Stories, her third novel, was reissued in paperback last fall.
Lauren Cerand (@luxlotus) is one of my favorite publicists because she always knows the best books and the best authors and then she sometimes even gives away copies of those books by those authors to plebs like me. So when I saw that she was handing out copies of Pirate Talk or Mermalade by Terese Svoboda like it was delicious, delicious booty I knew I had to get one for myself if I valued my reputation as a book blogger. (I also previously enjoyed another book Ms Cerand gave away, Please Step Back.)
Well. Ms Cerand hasn’t let me down! Pirate Talk or Mermalade is WONDERFUL, in that way that makes me want to go back and reread it another three or four times. I admit the format was a little confusing, because it’s in dialogue and sometimes I lost track of who was talking (especially when more than two people were talking), but it’s a fantastic story. A fun story. A story with pirates and mermaids, the really good sort that use their wiles on silly sailors and have peg legs and everything! (The mermaid have the peg leg. Because that’s just silly– one of the pirate brothers had the peg leg. And, oh, the way he got that leg was so. funny.)
I wasn’t expecting the humor! I was expecting magical realism and a bit of adventure, which is what’s in there, but there’s also funny bits! And exciting bits! And creepy bits as well! By the time I got to the last chapter I think I was out of breath, and I KNOW that when I finished the last page I just sort of stared at it for a while. In shock, see. Because it was SUCH a perfect ending even if it was a little bit sad, and it stole my breathe away. Yeah.
So I really like Pirate Talk or Mermalade. I think you should buy it and read it, especially if you like Emma Donaghue’s sort of books books. The symbolism! As an English major, I got really into the symbolism. I could write a paper about this book. I could write several papers, and I don’t even really like writing essays after four years of being an English major! But I would write one for Pirate Talk or Mermalade. Oh yes.
How did she even manage to get so much STORY and CHARACTER into only so many pages of dialogue? Eh? Who can tell me? (This is probably why I should have taken more creative writing classes.) It makes me sit there with my mouth open. It’s quite different from what I normally read, but I like that. It’s good to read some different things once in a while, so don’t let the fact that it’s in all dialogue through you off. You’ve probably read Ellen Hopkins‘ books, and those are all written in verse. This is much less weird.
Read: October 2010
What are your favorite pirate novels? I’m quite fond of The Princess Bride, as well as Piratica and The Princetta (although that one’s less pirates and more high seas adventure. It FEELS like a pirate book, though?). Oh! And my dirty secret: Vampirates. I’ve only read the first one, but I’ve bought the next two and am just waiting to feel sick enough that they’d cheer me up. Maybe I’ll read them in December, when my yearly cold comes.