1718 – Nantucket Beach

 

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I’ve seen boats as big as this whale.  I’ve seen gryphons the same size, with teeth growing in even as they were taking their last breath.

You have not.  And not a live one.

I’ve been to sea, I’ve seen all you’re supposed to, being at sea. I am sixteen, after all.

I have a note from when I started my fifth novel, Pirate Talk or Mermalade in 1997: “Why this is only dialogue: history is a series of whispers. The landscapes change but the whispers continue.” While landing Pirate Talk, I kept having to justify why only dialogue. “Talk Like a Pirate Day” by David Sedaris had yet to be invented, and Philip Roth hadn’t run his all-dialogue story in the New Yorker. Thirty years ago, Chip McGrath at the New Yorker told me I did description well. With my usual perversity, I did without. Both for the fun of it, and because I love Daniel Defoe’s dialogue. People from another time in history differ in culture from ours, their world and language is closer to sci-fi than the contemporary. I wanted the reader to feel as if he were listening through some temporal fold that physics is always promising that would allow him to overhear voices in the 18th century. But really, contemporary life is all about dialogue now, tweets and blogs overwhelming the well-made descriptive. And would you look at that cover! The great Brian McMullen made it talk!