Sunday, February 7, 2016

Action, adventure, and overexposure to Muppets

I've been meaning to read Treasure Island for years but have just never really gotten around to it - I think it's another of those books that I initially started to read before I was a teenager or speed-read and completely forgot before I was a teenager because I know I'd sat through at least the scenes that take place at the Admiral Benbow but I could recall essentially nothing else about the book.

What I could remember was just a whole lot of Muppet Treasure Island. It was actually really hard for me to see Long John Silver as anything other than a Tim Curry character, so it kept jarring me when he was described as large and blonde in the book. The Muppets are amazing, don't get me wrong, but sometimes I feel like a lot of my interactions with the books are as a direct and highly colored result of my consumption of the kid's version. Treasure Island is an adventure story, for sure, and probably one that is fairly appropriate for somewhat young children, but there's a whole lot more violent murder in the novel than I recall encountering in the Henson adaptation.

It's a decent book, by the way, and a fast little read, but it's far from the best R. L. Stevenson I've ever encountered and it doesn't even rank in my top five pirate/treasure stories (for reference my top three pirate/treasure stories are all written by a DIFFERENT Stephenson - Neal). The story really does seem to be written with a young audience in mind, and there's never enough drama to really put you on the edge of your seat or worry you for the fate of various characters. In fact, if anything, there's FAR too much foreshadowing and forewarning because Stevenson uses Jack, our protagonist and narrator, to interject things like "he wasn't long with us, as you soon shall see," liberally throughout each chapter. All of that contributes to a low-pressure story with not much other than the quick pace to pull you along. It's not bad, not really, and you can't really fairly call this story boring, but Treasure Island is predictable and the style of narration makes the story more low-stakes than it honestly deserves. I had a lot of fun reading it but in the future I might as well stick to the Muppets.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island. Adventure Classics. Naples: Florida. 2001. (1881-82).

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