Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Someone get that old man down from there....

Last night, I went with some friends to see the author of an enticingly titled book:

It's written by Edward Kritzler, a Jamaican Jew (but, sadly, a white one originally from New York). I went into his presentation highly skeptical, because his book:
1. Had laughable footnotes (few if any primary sources)
2. Had no reviews from any historians or publishers, just other "Pirate experts"
3. Had little to do with Jewish pirates.

He spoke at the DC JCC, and we settled in to hear his speech. The next 90 minutes were filled with anecdotes, yarns, stories, legends and, perhaps, a fact or two. He answered few questions directly, especially those that required actual research (like how large was the Jewish population of Jamaica at its height? How were you able to identity conversos when they were trying so hard to obscure this fact, etc.) He used every question as another opportunity to hear himself speak and talk about whatever he felt like.
"He sounds like my rambling Jewish grandmother," my friend Ilan said. It became apparent that his book, rather than talking about pirates, talked more about expelled Jews from Spain becoming wealthy merchants in Jamaica, and their attempts to make the island into a safe haven from the Inquisitors. Interesting topic, but not what we paid for. In one word: Feh.

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