REVIEW: Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor

REVIEW: Life is a Pirate Ship, Run by a Velociraptor


Can I take a moment and say that this is, easily, the best book title I have seen all month? A close second being the ‘prequel’ to this book, which is apparently Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus, which I need to purchase soon. The cover is downright precious too. Lookit that little velociraptor pirate. Lookit.

I finished this one a few weeks ago, and I’ll be honest, kids. I was torn on whether or not to put a review up here. There are places in this one where the writing doesn’t quite hold up for me. Ms. Hawn gets a little lost in her adpositional phrases. There are occasional sentences where a verb has no subject because the prepositions come in and take over, like spiders in heat. It can get a little bombastic. Some of the similies stretch even my vast simile-reaching patience.

But some of them are spot the fuck on. Some of them are hilarious. And I enjoyed this book. In the end, that’s my criteria for what goes up here. I don’t review because someone asked me to and I don’t do it because I know somebody (neither applies to Ms. Hawn). I do it because I enjoyed something, especially if it’s an indie author. Because there’s so much crap in small press publishing that the good guys deserve some recognition. Even if it’s just me, with my shitty little blog and my large cup of coffee. For this reason, I review without author contact. I want to say what I want to say. I try to pick the good guys. Because, believe it or not, I want to say only nice things, and I want to say only the nice things I want to say.

Ms. Hawn is one of the good guys. Well, good girls. You get what I mean.

Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor is a series of short anecdotes from Ms. Hawn’s life, some of which you really have to read to believe. I don’t want to say too much–again, don’t want to spoil it for you–but the phrase “What have I told you? We don’t kiss people we just met!” occurs in the first couple of pages, and it just goes down(or up?)hill from there. These anecdotes are finished by a brief summary/life lesson section, in which you learn occasionally enchanting (teach your kids to read early) and occasionally esoteric (it takes four college students to move a giant rooster) things.
But what I find enchanting about this book isn’t the humor, which, as mentioned, does occasionally fall flat. It’s the way Ms. Hawn writes these little stories. You can almost imagine you’re on the barstool next to her, and she’s just uttered the phrase “something like that happened to me once. See, when I was (insert life period here)…” This book is close, and personal, in addition to being adorable. You get to know the writer as a character.

This is what first person was invented for, folks. If I felt this close to every narrator in a first-person novel, I’d never read a book written in another point of view again. The anecdotes Ms. Hawn tells take a little setup, but the setup is part of the fun. You learn what life is like growing up with a musician parent, going to college in a tiny town, working with disadvantaged youth. You meet friends (and enemies). You meet sloppily dressed transvestites. You meet LARPers with bad BO. And you meet cats. Quite a few of them.

Ms. Hawn is unapologetic, funny, tender, and occasionally very insightful. She does first person the way it should be done, with unabashed personality, even if her sentence structure gets lopsided and her similies overreach. She’s at her best in the depths of explanation, when she becomes unaware of her audience. You get the feeling this is the part of the story where your friend on the barstool next to you would start making a lot of hand gestures. I wish everybody brought this sort of ‘I can’t wait to tell you what happened next’ vibe to memoirs. I truly do.

For this especially I recommend this book.

3 thoughts on “REVIEW: Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor

  1. Comedy is so very difficult to do. Even a level of levity can be extremely difficult. Any book that succeeds in creating an upbeat, charismatic environment for the reader is awesome. I’ll have to go find it. Also, if you haven’t read it, Good Omens is the funniest book I’ve ever read. Thanks for the post!

  2. Good Omens is one of my favorite books. Terry Pratchett is the man. Neil Gaiman is also the man, but maybe not quite as much as Terry Pratchett. I have a whole Terry Pratchett shelf in my studio, and I can pick at random whenever I need to laugh.

    I’ve got a whole blogpost mapped out on the art of writing quality comedy. It’s tough to do, and it requires a real way with words: standup comedians tend to be good writers for that reason. I mean, think about it. A comedian has to create phrases so memorable that you can repeat them at work the next morning to all your friends who didn’t go to the show. 🙂

    Shit, maybe that’ll be my next post. Thanks for the idea.

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