Thursday, June 5, 2014

Classics Club: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

Let's see we went to the bookstore on Monday, and its Wednesday night. I've read in two days the book I've been waiting over a third of my life to read. Yes, probably since I was around 9, I've wanted to read this book. I read a chapter of it in an anthology someplace, and it grabbed me. I had to read this book. For some reason or another (I don't know why I didn't get it from the library), I've never read it until now. And I had to add it to my Classics Club list, which is steadily growing ;)


This is a biography, but it reads like a story. This wasn't the best book I have ever read, but it did not disappoint me.  My copy had kinda older type, kinda like a copy of Johnny Tremain I've read. It gave the book character. Also there were two page illustrations scattered throughout, that looked like woodcuts. These were a nice touch!

One of the illustrations
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch tells the life story of Nathaniel Bowditch, a man who taught himself navigation and ended up writing the "Sailor's Bible." Nat Bowditch is a hero who should be talked about more in American history. He exemplifies the American dream: Through hard work, you can do anything you want. 
Nathaniel Bowditch

Nat didn't have an easy life. The book opens with him trying to get his family some "good luck." He had to leave school around aged twelve to become indentured. But Nat, though he was "sailing by the ash breeze" never became "becalmed." (Sailing by the ash breeze refers to when sailors had to row when the wind stopped, hard work) He taught himself lots of navigation, astronomy, math, and even 3 languages. {I loved the process he used to learn a new language. (its my inner polyglot ;) He learned the languages using a grammar book, a dictionary, and a New Testament! He would open to John 1:1 which he had memorized, and could figure out some words! I tried this with Russian, and it worked, even though I already knew some words ;) } 

I greatly enjoyed the story, but the writing sometimes didn't seem coherent at times. For instance, START LONG SPOILER the night Nat proposes to Elizabeth. He is invited to what he thinks is an engagement party for her. It is a husking party and he finds a red ear of corn, signifying that he has to kiss a girl. He kisses Elizabeth, at first in jest, but then tells her he loves her. Next thing you know, they're engaged. I was thinking "Wait, did I miss something? What about that other guy? They're suddenly engaged?!?" END LONG SPOILER Several parts of the book were like this. 

A ship called the "Nathaniel Bowditch"
I greatly enjoyed the parts that taught you stuff about navigation and ships, what drew me to the book at first. (I love books that teach you stuff while you read!) However, I probably should read those parts again because I was eating this book up super fast and I'm not the greatest at understanding math. I also like how Nat wrote everything in notebooks, something I'm considering doing.

There were several lessons and concepts from this book that I will hopefully remember. One of my favorites is what Elizabeth tells Nat once when he gets mad at her: "I'm like the chair you stumble over in the dark.  It isn't the chair's fault, but you kick it anyhow. -- Your brain.  It's too fast.  So you stumble on other people's dumbness.  And--you want to kick something.  Even if people are dumb, they aren't chairs, are they?"  This is a concept I probably will not forget as my brain is fast, and I tend to get impatient! (Nat gets mad and roars a lot)

"It did things to a man to find out he had a brain" Another concept I realized is the power of knowledge. Nat teaches the crews on his ships about navigation and math. This teaching changes the roughest ones into good men! When you realize that you can learn, it really helps you better yourself!
The Nathaniel Bowditch House
Overall, this book was wonderful! It was probably sweetened by my anticipation! I would recommend this book to everybody, but not everyone may like it as it has lots of math. It is an inspirational story about the value of "sailing by the ash breeze."

At the end, Nat's wife asks, "Was it awfully hard?" Nat answers, "Rough weather sometimes. But I'll say this for it - I was never becalmed!"

I don't know who Harry Golden is, but I like the quote ;)

1 comment:

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