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A Pirate Looks at Fifty Paperback – November 28, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

Tales from Margaritaville (stories) and Where Is Joe Merchant? (a mystery) secured songwriter Jimmy Buffett's niche reputation as an affable, poetic beach bum. A Pirate Looks at Fifty, a travel-diary-cum-autobiography, features Buffett behind the wheel of his Grumman Albatross seaplane, safely piloting family and friends through a three-week trip around South and Central America and the Caribbean. He blends gentle scenic narration with rambling, unplugged life stories meant to convey that he's made peace with the whole aging process. For Buffett, turning 50 "can be a ball of snakes that conjures up immediate thoughts of mortality and accountability. (`What have I done with my life?') Or, it can be a great excuse to reward yourself for just getting there. (`He who dies with the most toys wins.') I instinctively chose door number two."

On this tack, Buffett plans an opulent, laid-back trip for his brood and goes into so many details about his favorite possessions (three pages on knapsacks!) that the cheerful vagabond in flip-flops is nearly eclipsed by the rich, domesticated businessman/dad he's become. In addition, stinging losses and limitations--his dad's Alzheimer's disease, his own terrifying solo plane crash in 1996--creep into his cozy yarns. Yet Buffett's infectious, grinning attitude towards life eventually finds resurrection in extended riffs on fly-fishing, solo piloting over water, and surfing. In such passages, he earns his claim to a "saline psyche," a legacy inherited from his grandfather, skipper of a five-masted barkentine that ferried lumber from New Orleans to the Caribbean. Sailing and soaring over Atlantic, Caribbean, and Pacific seas, Buffett looks at 50 and sees a very good life. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The breezy pop craftsman of "Margaritaville" and "Cheeseburger in Paradise" famously spends most of his time sailing, trotting out 1970s chestnuts on the summer tour circuit?and writing. Buffett's bestselling Tales from Margaritaville (1989) and Where Is Joe Merchant? (1992), among other books, created a world of sun-baked characters whose doings bore some resemblance to those of their author. This memoir draws back the curtain between fact and fiction, and genially takes stock in a manner likely to appeal to the Me generation. Though he rambles, repeats himself and may even raise hackles ("I have been too warped by Catholicism not to be cynical"), Buffett is earnest and unapologetic in his hedonism, seeing his mock pirate's life as the antithesis of the conformity foisted on him as a child in Alabama. In a series of loosely chronological vignettes, Buffett quickly takes us from his bar-band beginnings to a brush with death when he crashes one of his fleet of seaplanes. A lower-latitude voyage with his family (in a newer, bigger plane) to celebrate his 50th birthday makes up the bulk of the book, and takes them from Florida to the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Colombia and the Amazon. The diaristic logbook that Buffett keeps along the way provides endless opportunities to muse on the music business; his older, wilder ways; navigation and, on the horizon, approaching mortality. Buffett's prose won't itself win him more "parrotheads" (as his fans are called), but those with enough patience or reverence to wade through long descriptions of beloved gear, favorite books or "fucking tikki pukki drinks" will find beneath these amblings a disarmingly direct character. Simultaneous audio, CD and large-print edition; author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 7th edition (November 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449005860
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449005866
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (289 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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56 of 57 people found the following review helpful By R. Miller on July 22, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The simplest way to decide whether to read this book or not, is to ask yourself, "Do I like to read weblogs"? If the answer is "yes," then this is the book for you. This book is as described, a travel diary based on a family trip with stops in the Caribbean and Central and South America. Presumably, it is a time of reflection for Mr. Buffet, based on the fact that he is celebrating his fiftieth birthday.

I wouldn't describe myself as a "Parrothead," but I do enjoy Jimmy Buffet's music a lot. When you enjoy something that someone else has created, you develop a curiosity about the person who created it. So it is with Jimmy Buffet - I wondered what kind of person came up with this music. This book seemed like the way to know a little more about him.

While I did learn a bit about him, this book isn't really a visit to the deep, dark corners of Jimmy Buffet's soul. To be sure, he does talk about personal situations, such as his two marriages and wives, and the problems he has had to work through. Perhaps the most touching, and telling, is when he talks about his father. Also, this book fills in some of the background to his songs, and a song is more interesting to listen to when you have the inside story on it.

But the main theme of the whole book is what a blast Jimmy Buffet is having. I must say that he appears to be living the life that suits him, and that brings him the greatest satisfaction. What more could anybody ask for? I hope that this is the truth, because it makes achieving one's dreams seem possible - an important idea for those of us stuck in a more mundane world.

The most critical thing I can say about the book is that some people will see it as no more than a long brag by a rich, successful man.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 18, 1998
Format: Hardcover
While not a parrothead, I'm a pretty big fan of Jimmy Buffett. As such, I buy into his general philosphy on life and I like the Jimmy Buffett character I've constructed in my mind when I hear his music. That character still looks a lot the same after reading the book, but not entirely. Fact: Jimmy Buffett is filthy rich. He owns some great toys and has the freedom to work "30-40" days a year and spend most of the rest of his time traveling to exotic locales pursuing adventure, fish, and fun. He employs a pilot and other people who iron out logistics and boring details for him. He's a father of 3 who seems to spend a LOT of time not having to change diapers or dealing with his teenage daughter's tough transition into adulthood. I'm sure that I'm suffering from "wealth envy" here, but Jimmy Buffett's wealth seems largly to do what most of us think that having money would do: insulate us from the less pleasant parts of life. Another fact: Jim! my Buffett's fun yet philosophical "no starch in the shirts" persona is still there, and still worth listening to. He has a lot of fun in the book and he tells a pretty good yarn. If you're a Parrothead, it's a must read. If you're not, you'll probably enjoy the book anyway. I did.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Loren Davidson on April 25, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I found "A Pirate Looks at Fifty" to be entertaining, educational, and in some places inspirational.

Within the framework of a family odyssey by the Buffett clan to honor and celebrate Jimmy's 50th birthday is the story of much of Jimmy's life, from his musical beginnings in college to his brush with death in an upside-down airplane off Long Island. Buffett's stories are colorful, self-revealing, and often hilarious.

As a musician in a similar genre, I find myself occasionally returning to Buffett's tales of his early days in music - learning to play three chords on guitar in college to get women interested in him, his early days in New Orleans and Nashville, his escape to Key West. I reread these tales to keep myself inspired and motivated.

As a fan of Buffett's music, I enjoy reading about how certain songs and albums came to be. I enjoy the stories behind the songs and stories, and I enjoy learning more about the Man From Margaritaville.

And sometimes it's just nice to pick a chapter at random and read for a while as an inexpensive escape, a way to travel in my mind to faraway places without needing reservations or even a change of socks.

If you like Buffett, enjoy biographies, enjoy stories about music and musicians or about travel, the Caribbean, and tropical life, then pick this up and give it a try.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Old Fisherman on March 5, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am not a Parrothead. I've never seen Jimmy Buffet play and in fact I only vaguely remember his hit song Margaritaville. So I came to this book with no expectations or preconcieved notions.
What I found was a well written, contemplative story of a man assessing his life at the half-century mark. The device he uses to do this is the three week trip he spent with his family and friends traveling around the Caribbean via seaplane and commercial air. Since he'd already been to many of these places before it is a celebration of homecoming once again and the renewal of old friendships. Mr. Buffet has certainly led an interesting life and just because he's now past the half-century mark I doubt he'll slow down.
I'd recommend this book. It's an interesting travelogue and also a journey through another man's life. Not great literature, perhaps, but easy to read.
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