Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

The mistake amused me.

I mainly read Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe because I knew of its continuity error.

Early in the book, after Crusoe becomes a sailor, survives pirates off of Western Africa and founds a successful plantation in Brazil, he sails on a mission that goes wrong: the ship wrecked off of northern South America, every crew member but him drowned. He's just begun what will be 28 years of living on this island, but his immediate need is to salvage what he can. So he strips to his underwear, swims to and climbs onboard the wreck...then starts filling his pockets.

Stephen King pointed that out in On Writing, and said (deadpan, I hope) "Such literary invention knows no bounds."

I'm not sure Defoe established that a dog and some cats from the ship had survived, too (they eventually appear on the island and Crusoe makes sure they stay reasonably tame), and I'm not interested in looking back to see if those animals just appear like those pockets, too.

Robinson Crusoe is a book of incidents, not really of plot or story; this happens then that happens and so on. Emotionally it's kind of flat, also. A note in the edition I read says that Defoe was writing for an audience that wasn't going to accept anything too outlandish, or at least anything that sounded too outlandish, so a matter-of-fact tone was Defoe's approach. (It's not quite a style.) That audience probably hadn't read a translation of Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quijote; I have, and I loved it, and I'm glad there was at least an audience for something outlandish like that.

I also love Don Quijote because it has a continuity error in the first half that Cervantes then justified in the second half (the book was originally published in two volumes 10 years apart, so he had a chance to deal with the error). He screwed up but made the screw-up work in the context of the story. There's no such high-wire writing in Robinson Crusoe, and I think that at some level I was hoping for some. I get why it's a classic, but it doesn't have to be my sort of thing.

And no surprise, it's icky and awful in its "slavery is awesome!" tone. One of many reasons it's good we're well past the early 18th century.

This is silly to add after complaining about something as big as accepted slavery, but dude, with such a relatively small cast, why name another character Robinson, too? (Defoe did, after a mutinous crew lands on the island and Crusoe takes advantage to hijack the ship from the mutineers and get off of the island.) Lazy writing!

I'll spoil one other thing: Defoe ends the book with a short chapter of Robinson Crusoe, restored to his European wealth and rich from finally selling his share of the Brazil plantation, returning safely to the island and finding...SEQUEL SET-UP. Which never happened, but which I probably wouldn't read if it existed.

Better books later, I'm sure (and I hope).
Tags: books

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