jimmy buffett's "a pirate looks at fifty," is more than 10 years old and buffet has now eased into his 60's. it's a long book, coming in at 420 pages. but even if it had a 100 fewer pages, it would still be a long book. don't get the wrong impression, i did enjoy the book. but, anyone venturing to read it, ought set aside a good chunk of time. it took me 3 weeks of commuting time (rides to and from the city on the metronorth) to get through, and i finished last night while i proctored the final exam for my grad students.
"pirate looks at fifty" is really two books, an autobiography and a travelogue. the autobiography is awesome. i found buffett's recounting of his childhood in the south, how he learned to play guitar (and become a musician), his hardscrabble days at college(s), and the early days of his career riveting stuff. the travel stories, on the other hand, were pedestrian. one story about the fish that got away is fine - but a dozen of them - too much. pages of what he carries in his flight bag? way too much.
but fishing and flying are this guy's passions (outside of family), so it's easy to forgive the non-existent editing when he lashed together the bits, pieces, and minutia of the three week trip he and his family took across central and south america (plus the caribbean) to celebrate his 50th birthday - christmas, 1996. he loves to sail, loves to fly, and loves the combination so much that he even owns a seaplane (in addition to a garden-variety jet). buffet taught himself celestial navigation on the off-chance that modern electronic wonders (and gps especially) failed him mid-voyage!
while i don't consider myself a parrot head (being a dead head is work enough), i do enjoy buffett's music. he's a great entertainer, and that skill carried over to his story telling. buffett has a breezy and, at times, self-deprecating writing style that keeps the reader interested. what else accounts for me getting through all those "damn the fish got away again" stories. maybe because i loved to fish so much as a kid growing up in sheepshead bay.
the book is (seriously) too long - and he did fess up to that at the outset, "i don't know when to stop telling the story!" it's ironic, however, that he related the genesis of this book as a trade-off to not having another work of fiction in him at the time: "i wasn't able to take on the task of a big book. i didn't know what i was going to write about, if anything at all." he did wind up writing a big (and enjoyable) book after all.