The White Ham! The White Ham!
By Kate Shnur
Pirates! In an Adventure with Ahab
The genre of humor based solely on random absurdities has a long and glorious history, ranging from the Marx
Brothers to Catch-22 to Monty Python. Comically entertaining inanities can even be seen in the classical characters
of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. Gideon Defoe makes a feeble attempt to find for himself a place in this history
with his second installment of the Pirates’ adventures, who did not, unfortunately, drown sometime in between the
first adventure and its sequel.
In order for this book to be somewhat successful, Defoe would have had to learn one key rule of comedy: just because it does not make sense, does not mean that it is funny. What Defoe has sadly mistaken for humor is, in reality, only a string of barely intelligible gibberish. It almost appears as if he wrote in the hopes that his readers will be so confused that they will laugh anyway, afraid to admit that they just do not get it.
I would say that Herman Melville would be rolling in his grave, but the fact is that the title is somewhat misleading. An adventure with a character implies that the said character would make more than three brief appearances, during which scenes the reader cannot help but think, “I get it; he is surly and bitter; move on!” Or at least one would assume, that Ahab would be mentioned more than a prize-winning ham. What this prize was exactly or why the ham won it, nobody really knows.
The obvious effort Defoe has placed into this book to try to be funny is almost tangible. The Pirates! In an Adventure with Ahab is essentially about a gang of dull-witted pirates who do everything short of pleading for laughter, but it never comes. One begins to wonder exactly what it was Defoe was on while writing this book and whether it is necessary to be in a similar state in order to find this book remotely amusing. I believe the narrative lost me around when the Pirates starred in a Las Vegas casino act in which the key attraction was the albino pirate scaring small children.
One may assume that when the actual plot of the story was finally introduced more than halfway into the book, the story may begin to be slightly humorous, or at the very least make some sense, but most assumptions one would make about this book would be quite inaccurate. One would assume that if this is the second book in a series that the writing would at least be decent enough for one to understand why at least the first book was published, but one would be wrong. One may also assume that in a book about pirates, a pirate would be the protagonist of the story, but seeing as the prize-winning ham is the true hero, one would, once again, be sadly mistaken.