Sunday, June 13, 2010

Two Years Before The Mast

I recently read TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST by Richard Henry Dana Jr. Having attended a school named after Mr. Dana, I always felt vaguely guilty for not having read his book. Well, now I can move on to feeling guilty about other things! Although he spent some time in Point Loma before California was a state, I still don't understand why they named the school after him - he wasn't that complimentary about the experience. ("...Californians are an idle, thriftless people, and can make nothing for themselves.") His book, however, was quite popular and educated folks as to the beautiful California climate. (along with the seafaring stuff)

The publisher offered the young author either (a) $250 & several copies or (b) a 10% share of the royalties after the first thousand copies sold. He went for the $250 in cash. Oops! The publisher made $50,000 during the 18 years they held the copyright. Don't worry, though - Mr. Dana went on to lead a long, successful & celebrated life.

I tend to dog ear pages in books I like. Dog ears for this book included -
  • a reference to Dana finding a good book to read on board ship (Bulwer-Lytton's PAUL CLIFFORD, which starts with the famous words "It was a dark and stormy night...")
  • a line I particularly liked: "His is one of those cases which are more numerous than those suppose, who have never lived anywhere but in their own homes, and never walked but in one line from their cradles to their graves." Being a bit of a nomad myself, I'm always confounded by those folks who never walk but in one line from their cradles to their graves. Great line!
  • a reference to Point Loma (aka the real Shadow Point): "As we made the high point off San Diego, Point Loma, we were greeted by the cheering presence of a light-house." (hmmm, that must have been the OLD old lighthouse, because the current old lighthouse was built in 1855, about 20 years after Dana's visits)

So, thumbs up for TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST. And thank goodness none of the other schools I've attended have literary obligations attached to them. I'm back to writing now, instead of reading, and working on my third novel. It's set in a small (and imaginary) Midwestern town called Romeo Falls. The working title is ROMEO FAILS. Perhaps an excerpt will make its way into the blogosphere some day soon!

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