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Ship of Fools [Mass Market Paperback]

Katherine Anne Porter
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: New Amer Library (Mm); Reissue edition (July 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451092724
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451092724
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 10.9 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,417,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Dvd ship of fools 13 April 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Sorry, no subtitles even for hearing impaired! Did not enjoy it much. I wonder why you did not put them in?
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
84 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Closely Observed; A Superior Work 25 Dec 2001
By Gary F. Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Less a plot-driven novel than a closely observed portrait, Porter's famous novel deftly exploits the author's ability to focus on the telling details of personality--and the result is a sometimes funny, often touching, and ultimately stinging examination of the insularity, hypocrisies, and pretensions of shipboard passengers en route from Mexico to Germany on the eve of World War II.
Porter's cast of characters are primarily German, but a handful of Spanish, Mexican, Swiss, and American characters give the novel an international perspective. Whatever their individual backgrounds, the characters tend to adopt reactionary postures toward and make assumptions about their fellow travelers based on both class and nationality; consequently, they tend to regard each other in a stereotypical light--but even as they fail to understand the truths behind the stereotypes, Porter highlights their lack of comprehension in a frequently comic but extremely disconcerting manner, thus demonstrating that her characters are at sea in more ways than one.
There is obviously a certain symbolism to the novel, but Porter does not belabor it, and we are free to decide if we wish to read for pure pleasure or for deeper meanings. Fortunately, there is an abundance of both. Still, this not a novel to read quickly or casually. It requires time to develop clearly in the mind, so readers are advised to approach it with ample time in which to enjoy this superior work.
37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Writer's Writer 14 April 2001
By David E Reed - Published on Amazon.com
I stumbled across this by novel by accident only to discover that this must be one the 10 greatest works of fiction! While a darkish portrayal of the human condition, and man's inability to escape the pettiness of mankind, this is a very clever novel that entertains while thrusting more truth your way than you may be prepared to accept.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World Literature 21 Feb 2012
By Diethelm Thom - Published on Amazon.com
In 1931 the author herself took part in the voyage depicted in the novel. It lasted for one month and according to her she didn't exchange half a dozen words with anybody but kept taking notes all the time. Then she let the material rest for ten years, took it up again and worked on the book for about 20 years more - the result has become world literature. Is it still of interest today?

Porter draws a picture of pre-war society, especially of Germany, for it is a German ship bound from Vera Cruz for Bremerhaven and the passengers in the first class are mainly Germans, almost all of them nationalist and anti-Semitic, narrow-minded and arrogant, so that there are lots of reasons for conflicts. Another explosive element is the gender-specific behaviour of men and women of that time. Relentlessly pungent, sometimes desperately comic Porter characterizes gender-typical behaviour of that time. And it becomes clear that her own emancipation experiences lie at bottom, especially in the case of the American Mrs Treadwell. In a grandiose scene the latter beats up the drunk, sexually roused, repulsive Texan Denny with the sharp heel of her sandal. Last, but not least, there lies immense fuel for conflict in the social and religious differences. But even if the satire is no longer of topical interest and sometimes luridly and grotesquely exaggerated, many of the attitudes and ways of behaviour in a somewhat different form have lived on into our times and you always get a universally relevant picture of human society. For, firstly, apart from the Germans there are also other nationalities, other social classes present - indeed you have a downright political and social microcosm -, and, secondly, the passengers in spite of often being drawn as caricatures are always recognizable as human beings by being multi-faceted characters who are in most cases also suffering from their own shortcomings. The only Jewish passenger on board (Löwenthal), by the way, is presented as an especially repellent character equalling his opponents in arrogance and contempt.

The vital element in the book is the realistic, caustic style of the author revealing her attitude of profound disillusionment. What is especially admirable is how she can put herself into men's shoes and see the world from their points of view. Doing so she oscillates between the points of view of the omniscient author, reported speech or interior monologue. Also the protagonists comment and characterize each other permanently so that the reader is elevated into a superior position wondering : why is there almost never any real communication possible? Must every society be like that? What should/could/must be different?
51 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Will Grow On You 4 May 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Ship Of Fools is a bone chilling account of a world moving into the second world war. Those seeking to get inside the German frame of mind should read this book for it predicts(the book was written before the concentration camps were even discovered)the horrowing images of German hate toward the Jewish Religon. Through all the hate and "Proud German Order" Porter asks us to perform a difficult task; to find love or forever be lost on a ship of fools.
25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Ship of Fools on a Cruel Sea" 16 Aug 2005
By Kevin Killian - Published on Amazon.com
I got into SHIP OF FOOLS back in the day when I was a Deadhead and followed the band around from stadium to stadium. "Ship of Fools" as many know is one of their loveliest ballads and would never fail but put me in a trance. At one bookstore in the Bay Area I spotted lyricist Robert Hunter and I gathered together all my courage to approach him and to tell him how much his lyrics had meant to me and my kind. Somewhat to my surprise he asked me to name one of his songs that I loved. "Ship of Fools," I said. In the years since I have sometimes wondered why I didn't ask about "Row Jimmy" since that is even more puzzling. But anyway Hunter couldn't have been more receptive and even charming. I asked him where he found the inspiration to write "Ship of Fools" and he mentioned the Renaissance or medieval tradition of the ship of fools journeying out into the main without a solid plan and how it's a metaphor for the religious voyage of life. He mentioned other works based on this legend including Lewis Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark" and finally, Katherine Anne Porter's novel SHIP OF FOOLS, which he said he had read in the 1960s, close to when it came out originally.

SHIP OF FOOLS tells the story of a group of German nationals on a boat from Bremen to the USA, and it is apparently based on a real life voyage. Jews by the boatload were attempting to escape from an atrocious abd repressive regime, and what they did not realize is that the shipboard lifestyle was a microcosm for the pains of the rest of the world. We meet dozens of characters, some more skillfully developed than others, including a young American couple through whose eyes we get to see the whole tragedy unfolding.

There is a tragic romance between a middle-aged countess and the ship's doctor, and a sense of foreboding about the whole voyage. The champagne and the crepe paper and the sparklers are out over the dark Atlantic, but we sense the lights going out all over the world.

Porter worked over thirty years writing this, her only novel, and when it came out it was a commercial success and a Book of the Month Club selection, though in general the critics were disappointed that it did not hit the heights of the short stories that had made her name starting in the 1920s. Some have criticized this book as too slow and too portentous. To me it hits the right note over and over again. There is a movie version of this novel, directed by earnest, plodding Stanley Kramer, but I think if I saw it, it could not begin to compare to my experience of either the novel nor the song. "Now I cannot share thy laughter, ship of fools."
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