The first and only book I didn’t finish in time for this year’s autobiography book group. I did finish it, but only about a week late. I wasn’t the one that picked it, and honestly was probably the one who enjoyed this most out of the group.
I grew up listening to Jimmy Buffett thanks to an aunt who has been to many of his concerts. I’m not going to lie though, when I re-listened to Songs You Know by Heart (Amazon link) right after finishing the book I did have to question why I was given that album couldn’t have Jagged Little Pill (Amazon link) until another aunt bought me a copy and said don’t tell your mother. Some of the lyrics are down right questionable! Without reading the book I never would’ve connected Cheeseburgers in Paradise with Buffett’s party days and he ACTUALLY talks about staying skinny doing speed. If you’ve never listened, I’ve dropped the video in at the end of this post.
What really surprised me was that a lot of people in the group (aka 2 out of 4) had issue with the privilege of Jimmy Buffett as a white heterosexual male nearing his fifties. Now I can see why it could be a problem, especially as it came across as slightly racist and slightly sexist on slight occasions, but more often than not it came across as holier than though. And honestly, I don’t think that was what Buffet was going for.
I think this book, being nearly 20 years old (it’s 18), you have to take a lot of it with a grain of salt. Sure he could’ve said things better, but considering the fact that no one in the book group had even entered high school (I was first in ’99) when this book was written, I think you can imagine how much has changed since the book’s publication. Throw in that Buffett grew up in the deep South (Alabama/Mississippi) in the 1950s I’m surprised there wasn’t more overt racism.
[Don’t get me started on people that want to remove words from books, i.e. Twain, or who wan to rewrite history/books. Yes, I think there should be conversations and things should be brought forward to have a discussion but getting rid of things that have occurred in the past only dooms us to repeat them. Whereas if they remain and we acknowledge them and discuss the importance of how wrong they were we educate people and don’t build a system of fear and murmurs.]
Overall the book is a happy-go-lucky look at a big trip right as Jimmy Buffett turns 50. There are a lot of great passages about fishing and about flying that made me want to both (and I don’t enjoy fishing). The way he described flying and boating in one passage and compared it being in a space ship really moved me. The stars and the lack of a horizon at night fascinated me and I could imagine exactly what he was describing without having to work for it.
What this book really made me want to do was to read his fictional works Where is Joe Merchant? and Tales from Margaritaville. His writing style in this book was so conversational and easy to read that I can only imagine how easily it translates into his fiction work.
Recommendation: If you have any interest in flying, fishing or traveling through the Caribbean or South America then this book would be an interesting read. You also might find it interesting as a case study of someone who grew up in the deep South who never left (for long at least) but found the alternative to the deep-rooted racism and insularity that seems to be making a come back.
Opening Line: “When I was growing up in Alabama, the beginning of the new school year was a bad time.”
Closing Line: “As the song says, ‘The stories from my favorite books, take on many different looks and I’m home again gone again.'” (Not whited out as this is a work of nonfiction.
Additional Quotes from A Pirate Looks at Fifty
“Then, just as I was about to get serious about journalism, along came that ‘devil music,’ and my whole life and direction changed course. Music replaced literature, and night-clubs were more fun than libraries.” (11)
“One of the inescapable encumbrances of leading an interesting life is that there have to be moments when you almost lose it.” (33)
“More often than not, the writer’s original ideas or inspiration are replaced by those of the listener, and the song takes on a whole new meaning.” (83)
“I wanted to fly because it is artistic. A machine in the process of defying gravity is the ultimate independence.” (143)
“I learned a long time ago to leave my Yankee bravado at home when I travel. The best way for an American to get around in the world is to not act like you saved it or own it. My other ace in the hole if I smell trouble brewing is to somehow relate my reason for being where I am to making a movie. Hollywood has more clout worldwide than the U.S. State Department.” (167)
“If there ever was a time and place where the beauty of nature and the accomplishments of aeronautical engineering come together, it is the occasion of a flying about arriving on a tropical shore.” (281)
“I know the places I would go, but I won’t put them in this book, because then I might set out on my journey and find you at the end, waiting for me with a margarita and a hundred questions. That’s not how it works. Fun is about as good a habit as there is, especially when your search for it becomes tempered with the wisdom of time on the water. Your destination is not that rewarding if you have not had the experience of the journey. My walkabout place cannot be yours. Your walkabout place cannot be someone else’s you have to find your own.” (332)
“Home is where you come from. It is not where you live at the present time, and though I doubt I will ever live in Alabama again, I will always think of it as home.” (402)