Recommended Reads: Robinson Crusoe

This week’s Recommended Read comes from Gill Stanyard, our Project Worker in Scotland, who has been cast away with Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe.

Here he is, a pocket sized Ray Mears. Well, ok, a racist, imperialist,  17th Century version of Ray Mears, who actually, if you go by the picture in my hard-backed copy, looks rather like a distant relative of Lady Gaga. Lord Crusoe, ripped, bearded and wild eyed like Nooky bear, with a tan that makes David Dickinson look as though he bathes daily in the milk of a very white ass, is resplendent in goat-fur culottes, with matching gilet, sporting on top of his head what looks like a coconut squashed into a furry pencil case.  To accessorise, he carries a gun, which let’s be honest is bigger than Friday, the grateful ‘native’ who prostrates at Robinson’s hobbity toes, in thanks for being rescued from … Oh, I can’t tell you that! The gun is probably the contemporary equivalent of a man driving a Ferrari.  However, since Freud hadn’t been born by then, we can dispense with the phallic symbolism.

Daniel Defoe’s grand title for this ripping sea-farer’s log is that of ‘The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe –Mariner.’ This is highly misleading and should be changed for ‘Robinson Crusoe -Marooner’ for in the grand scheme of things, he really doesn’t do that much sailing. I’m not going to spoil it for you, you will probably need some sea-sickness tablets at the start. However, you really should read this book for a freeing picture of life without twitter, mobiles, Google, or people!  You can instead catch your own parrot and teach it to talk and if you like you can also maim a few goats and keep them as pets. As a vegetarian, I did not like this book; as a thinking, feeling human being, I loved this book. Crusoe has a way of sharing his thoughts and feelings with you, that at times it was like a crab of emotion had pincered my heart. It was gripping, sudden and made me gasp.

On one of his dark night(s) of the soul (there are quite a few), when he finds a footprint in the sand, he is thrown into a bubbling swamp of paranoia and fear:

“… I went on, but terrified to the last degree, looking behind me at every two or three steps, mistaking every bush and tree, and fancying every stump at a distance to be a man.” 

I knew exactly how he felt on my own dark Saturday night a couple of weeks ago, when a guy tried to break into my house at 2.00 in the morning. (Funnily enough, he had un-nerving Nooky bear eyes too!) I mean, dear reader, I live in the countryside, where these things don’t happen… I stared out of the window long after he had gone, convinced that the dark, strange outline of my wheelie bin was him, hunkered down, underneath the kitchen windowsill, waiting to pounce.  Crusoe became my new BFF as we joined together in the warmth of a soothing bubble bath the next day and merged our doom-laden cogitations of our demises.  He really was a good guy to have around, because whilst I went and stayed on my friend’s sofa for a couple of days until the heebies had found the jeebies and left.  Poor ole Robin had to stay on his own, with no escape from the Island and sweat it out. I drew strength and inspiration from his courage and wondered if it was humanly possible for me to dig a moat in 24 hours? In the end, it turned out ok for me, and for Robinson? It turned out – sorry, can’t tell you that either!

This is a story of survival, ingenuity, resourcefulness, hope, desperation, faith and adventure. Read it to escape, read it to wonder, read it to despair at the brutality and horrors of slavery, read it to make friends with the faithful Friday and see the world through his eyes, but most of all, read it for the description of Robinson’s inner island –a modern day metro-sexual is our Crusoe –you will not be disappointed. (If you are, boo ya sucks! There is always Heat Magazine for ‘Castaway-Chic’ inspiration)

 Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe, Penguin Classics (1719/2003)

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