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The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailor Paperback – March 26, 2012
From the Author
This book is dedicated to anyone--regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender and all its breathless facets, sexual orientation, non-sexual orientation, sexual non-orientation, spirituality or lack thereof, religion or lack thereof, nationality or lack thereof, political affiliation or lack thereof, occupation or lack thereof, education or lack thereof, good looks or lack thereof, height, weight, shoe size, or any other ways we have identified and implemented as means to compare and contrast and separate and segregate and relegate and rank ourselves as humans--who has ever once regretted his or her or their identity.
This book, then, is for us, all of us
From the Inside Flap
Sometimes you have to fight -- even if it kills you.
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Mr. Brindley's writing is refreshing and clear. The text is clear of typos and grammar errors that mar so many other books, so you can concentrate on the story. He communicates richly the facets of navy life, and we are given enough description to vividly picture the places on the ship such as the quarters, the bowels of the tanks, and the ship's mess.
Ultimately, this book examines prejudice and assumptions and wrestles with the inevitability of our actions: Are we programmed to act as we do, or are we free to act in whatever way we please? Do our roles define us and others around us?
The travails of Brindley’s protagonist condemned for his sensitivities in ways fundamentally at odds with his true identity arise from a tellingly different perspective than those of Melville’s hero who falls beneath a similar fate.
When Brindley’s sailor becomes fixated by the “beauty” of one of his fellows all while trying to find his place in a patently homophobic environment as a “straight” if extraordinarily self-conscious individual of ungainly physical appearance, he is obviously on dangerous ground from the get-go. Unlike Billy Budd, the “Handsome Sailor [who] … seemed to accept the spontaneous homage of his shipmates,” Brindley’s seaman is the recipient of groundless antipathy. The object of his admiration makes himself blindingly clear: “If I ever catch you looking at me again, I will f....g destroy you.” Where Billy Budd is celebrated - “[a] young Adam before the Fall,” Brindley’s protagonist remains nameless but for his humble acceptance of “Boot” as his handle.
Melville adorns his sailor with the epithets “handsome” and “beautiful.” His shipmates venerate him not only for his skills but also for his physical presence. According to his admirer, Billy Budd’s modern counterpart looks “like one of those perfect underwear models found in magazines.” Where Melville’s novel localizes the operative malevolence in “some peculiar human creature the direct reverse of a saint,” Brindley exposes it as having escaped into the body politic with its “beautiful sailor” as the blind agent for all of the enmity. An inversion has occurred: protagonist and antagonist - hero and villain - have switched roles and ruptured the universal celebration of the human being that permeated Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor.
Billy Budd goes willingly when “impressed” from a ship named “The Rights of Man.” More than two hundred years later these same rights have yet to be codified and one finds a modern naval crew divided against itself.
The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailor rightly celebrates those persons who overcome the dehumanizing enmity directed their way by stubbornly and courageously owning their differences. “I want to look so good that heads turn when I walk by. I want everyone on this planet to want me, to desire me, to think about me when their eyes are closed,” proclaims one - dressed to kill - on shore leave.
Brindley’s spare seamless writing style gives authentic voice to the various crew members of today’s American naval ship. At the same time, it is a meditative prose that sustains its lightness of touch when it focuses on details: “Her skin was white, so white that it seemed to glow in the dark bar, and looked as soft and smooth as freshly risen cream.” That The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailor advances Melville’s narrative to today’s conditions is its further achievement.