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You and the Pirates First Edition

2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0981261201
ISBN-10: 0981261205
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Editorial Reviews


How can you not love a novel with a gang of delightful and righteous killer cats? And, it's narrated partly in the second person like one of those old choose-your-own-adventure novels. Narration using you usually seems like such a gimmick, a forced smart pose. But here, the chapters feel natural; the second person tone is relaxed and just contributes a slight edge to let us know this novel will be unpredictable, difficult to pin down. You re scared, but you want this to happen, writes Allen. You want something to happen. You want this to be over so you can go back to your regular life of being annoyed by Boy.
The novel s protagonist you falls in with a ragtag gang of five pirates, who spend much of the novel trying to find a boat so they can get back to a life on the high seas. The pirates are named for their main qualities the captain, the drunk, the driver, the engineer, and Muffin. Allen has a knack for nailing characters with deceptively-simple descriptions: The driver wonders how Salaryman always manages to sound like he s casually inspecting his fingernails.
Allen's novel challenges two frequent assumptions about CanLit. First, that it has to be serious, that it has to feel good for you. The book is an entertaining, joyous, daredevil leap. Without becoming anything like a genre novel, You and the Pirates plays with chicklit expectations: a whimsical female narrator, unwilling to marry her lackluster boyfriend; and thriller/action stylings: pirates, a stolen boat, a conspiracy that threatens the universe as we know it.
And the second assumption Allen challenges? That CanLit needs to be set in Canada. You and the Pirates is set in a slightly-parallel-universe contemporary Japan. Allen brings us the believable grit of a real city, not pretty, not perfectly designed: They obstacle-course their way around the cat-scaring water bottles, a non-scared cat, varying piles of garbage and a rusting miniature shopping cart in the alley. William Gibson would feel at home here, though he d have more techie stuff (although Allen can t resist a boyfriend-bot). Allen comes by her exotic locations honestly: she spent a decade living as a gaijin in Tokyo, working as a translator, and the novel apparently started during her daily subway commute. She let her brain wander, and came up with this story of mysterious forces trying to change the direction of the universe.
But really the story is about finding your place in the world. Whether you re a pirate who has lost your ship, or a woman who keeps getting in the way of terrorist attacks. You and the Pirates perfectly expresses the one thing that consistently thrills me about CanLit so much of what we re writing these days is about the struggle to find our place in a world where the only really consistent quality to our lives is change. How do you figure out how to be the person you re supposed to be? You and the Pirates offers a completely unexpected answer. --Lisa Pasold, The Afterword

You and the Pirates is set in Japan and as I was about to travel there, I was very excited. I was assured by the publishers that Allen's version of Japan was fictionalized, and I might not see many similarities, but I ended up seeing many. One of the characters is nicknamed Salaryman, and it turned out that salaryman is an actual term the Japanese use (basically a corporate business man in a suit). Allen's army of cats reminded me of all the maneki nekos I saw there (Japanese cat sculptures). Another character nicknamed Lolita shows off a very common fashion trend in Japan known as, what else, Lolita fashion.
But all the Japanese culture wasn't the best part of the book...The best part of the book was the risks taken by Allen herself. The first part of the book is told in the second person (She smiles at you, gently, like you'd expect a lady in a kimono to.). I know Allen is not the first person to employ this perspective, but you have to admit, it's pretty rare, especially with Canadian novels. Allen pulled it off masterfully. My reservations that I could slip into the mind of a young female in Japan were gone by page 3...I found myself thinking of the old Choose Your Adventure childrens' book series. But without the choices at the end of every other page, I then began to think of old Bugs Bunny cartoons when the artists' eraser threatens to wipe him out unless he cooperates. Then with the zany plot involving explosions, armies of cats, people obsessed with changing up to left, hypno-travel, and of course, pirates, I found myself thinking of The Master and Margarita, The Matrix, manga comics, and Alice in Wonderland. I don't imply that Allen ripped off the ideas of others, but it should give you some sense of the book's feel. If you said bizarre, you'd not be far off the mark. --John Mutford, The Book Mine Set

About the Author

Jocelyne Allen is a Japanese translator based in Toronto after a decade in Japan. During her time in the Land of the Rising Sun, she worked as an unwitting erotic magazine columnist, interpreted for foreign correspondents and toured with a Japanese drum group. This is her first novel.

Product Details

  • Perfect Paperback: 397 pages
  • Publisher: The Workhorsery; First edition (September 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0981261205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0981261201
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,177,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Prior to leaving Canada for a decade-long exile in Sweden and Japan, Jocelyne Allen's published writing was largely confined to two critically acclaimed fanzines. Great Day For Up obsessed over Dr. Seuss and smoking, while The Official Publication of the Independent Republic of Josi devoted its pages to the trials and tribulations of lording over a small, fictitious dictatorship.

But Allen's first paid work was as a columnist for a Japanese magazine. Her "Oh, Japanese" column focused on her perceptions of Japan as a foreign resident. She had been writing the column for over a year when she finally went looking for a copy. After asking a blushing bookstore clerk in carefully rehearsed Japanese, she was led to the adult section of the shop, where she discovered that the Selected Stories monthly which had been faithfully publishing her column was a softcore porn magazine.

After subsequent stints in a touring Japanese taiko drumming ensemble and as a teacher at a high school for delinquent Japanese girls, Allen found herself living in Tokyo, working full-time as an editor and translator at a downtown agency. It was on her daily three-hour commute on overcrowded rush hour trains that she began what would become her first published novel, You and the Pirates, in an attempt to ignore the men in white gloves cramming her into the trains so the doors would close.

When she noticed her Japanese skills outpacing her English ability, Allen decided it was time to return to her homeland and moved to Toronto in the summer of 2007. Presently working as a freelance Japanese translator, she no longer has to force her way through the rush-hour crowds and she is much happier for it. She spends her days translating a wide variety of pieces from Japanese into English and is currently working on a collection of manga.

Although Japanese and English are her two strongest languages, Allen also speaks Swedish and French and is menulingual in German. She has a degree in Mathematics and spends much of her free time trying to convince people that math is fun.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. White on October 6, 2009
Format: Perfect Paperback
This is an assured and clever debut novel for Ms. Allen. The exotic setting (modern Tokyo), wry sense of humour, bizarre metaphysical mystery, and elements of Japanese pop culture add to the plot and lend the novel a charming, cool tone.

You and the Pirates follows the eponymous You as she (Allen left You's gender uncertain, but I chose to read the character as female) works her way through a series of exploding buildings, deranged salarymen, Japanese hipsters, guardian housecats, and stranded pirates. Her increasingly unhinged journeys are a delight, and reminded me more of Haruki Murakami (perhaps because of the setting and themes) than anything in the Canadian literary cannon. If not as meditative as Murakami's work in A Wild Sheep Chase, say, the characters' frequently deadpan responses to the wild plot shifts evoke something of the same worldview. The restless energy of the work, which reminded me a little of the caffeine-induced fugue portrayed in Wong Kar Wai's Chungking Express, marries the tone nicely, and helps to propel the reader through the story at a solid clip.

Allen takes great risks in content (grounding the book in a part of the world so alien from the everyday experience of her readership) and style (the book shifts mid-way from second-to-third person; the characters go by descriptions or nicknames instead of proper names) and ends up with something unlike anything I've read before. The author does a very nice job imbuing the characters with enough personality to make her naming scheme work, an experiment that could have ended very badly indeed (particularly given the number and range of characters and the complexity of the plot).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By H. Hennessy on March 15, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
I have four kids and very little time to read, and even when I do have time I usually fall asleep. From the first page of You and The Pirates I was absolutely hooked. Every spare moment I had was devoted to discovering the next plot twist. I devoured this book despite my hesitation for fiction in general. Highly recommended.
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