The dreary seaman

goldman.jpg Apart from a couple of short music books from the wonderful City Library, I spent most of the month working my way through “The Ordinary Seaman” by Francisco Goldman. The dramatic cover caught my eye at a secondhand bookshop in Perth last year, and I had that wonderful feeling the THIS WAS A NEW UNKNOWN WRITER THAT I WAS ABOUT TO DISCOVER AND CHERISH. I did end up cherishing one thing – the end of the novel, but it had it’s moments. I didn’t realise it, but the book was based on the real life event in 1982 where 17 poor central-American sailors were lured onto a boat to a largely disused Brooklyn waterfront, where they were abandoned, and left to fend for themselves. Goldman’s book is pretty much a carbon copy, with a love interest for the one member of the crew who dared to leave the dock and brave the gangs of local ruffians, and enter the Spanish-speaking working class neighbourhoods nearby. There was a lot of Spanish slang sprinkled in amongst the dialogue, and I have to admit, I just fluffed my way through it without caring too much – it did add a lot of authenticity though. I found it a little bit flat and lacking in the “mulatto magic realism” that one critic from the Observer seemed to notice. Having said that, the characters were well drawn, and the descriptions of the communal life of the 15 men, coping as best they could in difficult circumstances over the 9 months of their exile were very believable. 3.5 stars.