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Typhoon


by Joseph Conrad
Exciting literate adventure


Captain Macwhirr has a lack of imagination that both imperils the crew and may provide their salvation. He sails his ship the Nan-Shan directly into a typhoon because he is unable to envision weather worse than he has seen in the past. Macwhirr must find a way to hold his ship and crew together to weather the storm.

This book is so compelling because of the actions of the colorful and intelligent characters who swirl around Macwhirr. While critical of the captain when becalmed, they hold firmly to his unchanging, stolid figure when things look hopeless. In an uncertain situation, people will follow certainty -- even if its source is dubious. I think this nugget of truth and the reflections of it we see in real-life lend this novel its power. Macwhirr is certainty itself, more from mindlessness than steadfastness, and others follow.

Beyond the fascinating story and character-study is Conrad’s stunning writing. He says so much with so little without the hard edges of Hemingway’s prose. Conrad uses adjectives, but with diamond cutter’s precision.