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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

(No, Ol’ Robbo is not watching this evening’s edition of the Democratic Clown Car debate:  They all seem to want me dead, or at least silenced, defenseless, and impoverished, so I fail to see why I should vote for any of them.)

Ol’ Robbo just got finished re-reading a delightful set of stories, Dr. Dogbody’s Leg by James Norman Hall.

Dr. Dogbody is a one-legged, semi-retired Royal Navy surgeon of the Napoleonic Era.  In each of the ten stories, he holds forth among a group of regulars at the Cheerful Tortoise, a Portsmouth inn,  telling each time a completely different story of how he lost his leg.  The stories put him at various battles with the French, the Americans, and the Dutch, while one involves the slave trade, another an Australia-bound convict ship, and a third an encounter with Catherine the Great.  There’s no effort to try and reconcile any of them with each other.  Instead, it seems as if each one is true as the Doctor is telling it.

The stories are warm, intelligent, and quite historically accurate.  Hall’s style is not as rich as Patrick O’Brian’s (the Aubrey/Maturin novels), but he’s not as pop culture as C.S. Forester (the Hornblower series), either.  Really somewhere in the middle.  And perhaps more importantly, Hall doesn’t try to sensationalize late 18th/early 19th-Century conditions for the shock-value, as so many historickal novelists are wont to do.  Like O’Brian, he simply takes things as they were and tells his stories within that context.

James Norman Hall, by the way, was an American WWI fighter ace.  He was also co-author of the Mutiny on the Bounty trilogy, which I now also very much want to read.

Anyhoo, if you have any interest in sea-stories, I heartily recommend this book.

(Incidentally, the Heart of Oak Sea Classics is an interesting publishing compilation.  In addition to Hall’s novel, there’s a lot of Dudley Pope, whom I like, and Frederick Marryat, whom I’ve not read but believe has a good reputation.  On the other hand, it also contains James Fenimore Cooper’s The Wing-And-Wing.  I can’t abide Cooper, who’s a pompous, pretentious, limousine-liberal wind-bag, and could never understand how on earth his novels attained the popularity that they did.  Sam Clemens’ literary evisceration of Cooper is a pure delight to me.)

UPDATE:  I originally considered mentioning that I re-read this book because I’ve recently gone back to commuting by Metro because my office changed locations and I need suitable light, episodic material for my travels.  I cut that out because it didn’t seem all that important.  But this nooz about the WaPo shutting down its Commuter Express paper caught my eye and prompted me to come back to this topic.

The Express was a free WaPo-light paper handed out by bums at Metro stops.

I never read it  myself, but back in the day numerous other hip denizens of Your Nation’s Capital did.

That was then.  Now?  All of them are buried in their iThingies.  (It’s pathetic when they’re stationary on the trains.  It’s infuriating when they’re walking through the stations, oblivious of people trying to get by around them.)

Because They Care.

As far as Pravda on the Potomac itself goes, I’d say LOLGF.  But what happens to the bum at my station who suddenly no longer is paid to hand out the Express?  The world wonders.

 

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