Typhoon and Other Stories Review

Typhoon and Other Stories
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Typhoon and Other Stories ReviewTyphoon and Other Short Stories -By Joseph Conrad *****
"She seemed, indeed, to have been used as a running target for the secondary batteries of a cruiser. A hail of minor shells could not have given her upper works a more broken, torn, and devastated aspect; and she had about her the worn, weary air of ships coming from the far ends of the world - and indeed with truth, for in her short passage she had been very far; sighting, truly, even the coast of the Great Beyond, whence no ship ever returns to give up her crew to the dust of the earth." Typhoon
Conrad is a master of observation. His novels and short stories aren't great narratives and dramas so much as they are depictions of the mind and the human spirit. In Typhoon, to be sure, nothing really happens: a coastal ship with a bizarre captain encounters some "dirty weather knocking about" and barely survives. Except for the ending, it's "The Perfect Storm" without the A-List cast.
The relationship between Mr. Jukes, the first officer, and Captain McWhirr, the distant and preoccupied ship's master, is the story, such as it is. The Captain is infuriatingly obtuse, choosing to trust his own judgment rather than the experience of others:
"Captain McWhirr, took a run and brought himself up by an awning stanchion.
"A Profane man," he said, obstinately. "If this goes on, I'll have to get rid of him first chance." "It's the heat,' said Jukes. "The weather's awful. It would make a saint swear. Even up here I feel exactly as if I had my head tied up in a woolen blanket." Captain McWhirr looked up. "D'ye mean to say, Mr. Jukes, that you ever had your head tied up in a blanket? What was that for?" It's a manner of speaking, sir." Said Jukes,Stolidly.
I cite another paragraph of Conrad's simply for the beauty of his language (which, after all, he didn't learn until he was 20 years old):
"The Nan-Shan was plowing a vanishing furrow upon the circle of the sea that
had the surface and the shimmer of an undulating piece of gray silk. The sun, pale
and without rays, poured down leaden heat in a strangely indecisive light, and the Chinamen were lying prostrate about the decks. Their bloodless, pinched, yellow
faces were like the faces of bilious invalids.
... The smoke struggled with difficulty out of the funnel, and instead of streaming
away spread itself out like an infernal sort of cloud, smelling of sulphur and raining soot all over the decks."
Another reviewer has taken other critics to task for panning Conrad's work. I won't bother: it's enough for me to know that Conrad is ranked among the greatest of writers of English. From his novels (Nostromo, Lord Jim) to short works (Heart of Darkness; The Secret Sharer) he is a universally acknowledged master. -Philip Henry
FIVE STARS *****Typhoon and Other Stories Overview

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