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October 4, 2005

Book Notes - Gideon Defoe ("The Pirates! In An Adventure With Ahab")


Page for page, Gideon Defoe's novel, The Pirates! In An Adventure With Ahab, is as funny a book I have read since The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists (I kid you not). Defoe's pirates are a ham-loving, good-natured sort, and their captain (named "the Pirate Captain") has a heart of gold and a beard to die for. As the pirates search for ways to pay off their new pirate ship (or face the wrath of Cutlass Liz), their adventures take them to Las Vegas, a meeting with Captain Ahab, and finally, white whale hunting. Defoe's wit never lets up, I laughed my way through the entire novel.

After the acknowledgements at the end of the book, Defoe lists over two hundred other Pirates books in the series. My hope is that all are written, even The Pirates! In An Adventure With A Steep Hill.

In his own words, here is Gideon Defoe's Book Notes submission for The Pirates! In An Adventure With Ahab:

Here’s my soundtrack for The Pirates! In An Adventure With Ahab. I hope it’s not too stupid.

Bonkers Goes Back To School - DMX Krew (Fresshh!)

You’ve probably only picked the book up because you liked The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists. But how do you know the sequel will be any good? It doesn’t even have a monkey on the cover! What if the author turns out to be a one trick pony? What if you’ve wasted sixteen dollars? You could have bought half an Arrested Development DVD for that kind of money. This song deals with the same kind of issues, in as much as going back to school is both exciting but also nerve-wracking. “Got brand new shoes and a pencil case, to make going back less hard to face,” sings Ed DMX. Why not buy yourself a new pair of shoes to go along with the book, just in case?

Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble - Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince

Chapter two is pretty scary, because the pirates meet the ruthless Cutlass Liz - a dead ringer for Julie Christie in her hey-day, and famed for eating twenty babies in one sitting. So it’s best to listen to something that’s bouncy and upbeat, otherwise it might all get a bit much. This track is bouncy, but it’s still relevant, because Cutlass Liz is a girl, and she’s certainly trouble. Though at no point does she keep the Pirate Captain waiting for a Run DMC concert.

Wouldn’t It Be Good - Nik Kershaw

Not that much happens in chapter three, but it’s always worth noting how good the Pirate Captain’s shiny pirate boots are. In this song Nik Kershaw is singing about how much he envies another, un-named, person’s shoes. Though it’s doubtful whether the Captain’s shoes would even fit Nik Kershaw because he’s a tiny sort of child-man, and the Captain is quite big.

Look at this face - Handsome Boy Modelling School (So… how’s your girl?)

Not only does the Pirate Captain have nice shoes, he has a good face too. This is a song about faces.

Vitamin - Kraftwerk (Tour De France)

When the pirates are knocking about the ocean the biggest danger is not sea monsters with terrible gaping maws, but scurvy. Scurvy is a horrible disease, leading to spongy gums, joint pain, and livid spots on the skin. Luckily it can be easily prevented with an adequate intake of vitamins. Of course, Kraftwerk themselves don’t need vitamins at all, they just eat nuts and bolts.

Rejoice in the Sun - Joan Baez & Peter Schickele (Silent Running Soundtrack)

An important theme of The Pirates! In An Adventure With Ahab was going to be the environment, but it kind of got forgotten in favour of a few cheap shots about harpooning whales. So listen to this track to make up for the book’s lack of an environmental message. The song makes you feel bad about how your kids might grow up never to see a tree. Apparently because they’re all going to be blasted into space with Bruce Dern, which seems a bit of a waste.

Girl/Boy Song - Aphex Twin (Richard D. James Album)

Another important theme of the book is mental illness. In chapter seven, having become increasingly obsessed with finding the whale, the Pirate Captain exhibits all the classic signs of stress and depression - pacing about, glowering, being a bit grumpy and throwing stuff at seagulls. This song sort of reflects those feelings, because it’s all over the place, with nice melodic sections and then messy drum bits, just like what goes on in a loopy person’s brain.

Phiesope - Mu-ziq (In Pine Effect)

There’s always going to be a point whilst reading any humorous fiction, apart from maybe PG Wodehouse and EF Benson, when you get to a bit and think “Hang on a second! I’ve seen that gag in an episode of The Simpsons!”. Obviously in the case of the pirate books this is down to sheer coincidence, and anybody saying otherwise is a liar. Unfairly, it’s much easier to steal stuff in the world of music. This track is mainly just the guitar part from Kristin Hersh’s Your Ghost on a loop, but it’s no less great for it. And didn’t The Simpsons steal ‘Eat my shorts’ from Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club anyhow? Exactly.


Boo is Boomin - Betty Boo

My tenuous excuse for including this is that it’s the sound that the pirate cannons make. Though I have mainly chosen it because I am in love with Alison Clarkson.


Empire State Human - Human League (Reproduction)

Locked in hand-to-hand combat with a gigantic whale at the book‘s climax, the Pirate Captain doesn’t stand much of a chance. If only he’d have taken Phil Oakey’s advice here, which is to grow to enormous proportions through sheer force of will alone.


Depeche Mode - Nothing To Fear

This is a fantastically heroic “making it” track that you should listen to at the end of any book. Maybe do a little dance and punch the sky as well, and then hold really still like you’re in a freeze frame at the end of a film. It doesn’t work so well if you’ve just finished , but you shouldn’t be reading books with miserable endings anyhow.


It’s quite a short novel so you shouldn’t need much more than that. An alternate soundtrack, in case you decide to read the book twice, might have been:

Seventeen - Ladytron
Positive Contact - Deltron 3030
Do the Whirlwind - Architecture In Helsinki
Les Fleurs - 4Hero
Asteroids Over Berlin (live) - Bochum Welt
Cock Mobster - MC Paul Barman
Together in Electric Dreams - Giorgio Moroder & Phil Oakey
Debra - Beck
Rewind - Cylob
Roygbiv - Boards of Canada

But you really should have better things to do than reading idiot books about pirates twice.


see also:

52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)

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