My two chief pastimes of the season both involve a dash of bonhomie and fellow-feeling. The first is of a literary nature: immersing myself in the Aubrey-Maturin novels, Patrick O’Brian’s 20-volume series of Napoleonic-era naval adventures. The second is more social, but you might say inspired by the first: cherishing the company of a group of convivial, high-spirited friends, with whom I’ve lately formed a kind of budding fraternity of gregarious and outgoing men.
I’m not the only one obsessing over O’Brian’s work: a recent GQ article by Gabriella Paiella explores the mystery of why the film adaptation of Master and Commander “has found a new life on the internet, simultaneously the subject of memes and sincerely beloved by a certain type of guy.” She concludes that above all else, male viewers have been responding to the “healthy male bonding between the characters,” giving themselves over to the fantasy that it “could be fulfilling to live and work on the HMS Surprise.” Or as Anthony Lane put it in his review of the film, “we feel ourselves to be in good company with these men, and strangely jealous of their packed and salted lives.”
It’s no surprise that this kind of camaraderie has come to seem so appealing. The U.S. Surgeon General recently warned of an “epidemic of loneliness,” and the imposed isolation of the last several years has only accelerated the problem: men in particular are literally desperate for friendship, and unremitting solitude continues to damage their health. Certainly, it would be fun to drink grog and fire carronades with the likes of Captain Jack Aubrey on the high seas. But the vision the novels describe isn’t appealing simply for the nautical setting. More to the point, it’s fun to imagine a rollicking adventure with the boys.
This feeling of cheerful brotherhood courses through our Spring issue. It’s embodied by Giannis Antetokounmpo, the widely decorated NBA All Star who has abandoned his pursuit of individual accolades in favour of working for the common good of his team, the playoffs-bound Milwaukee Bucks. It’s touted by character actor turned celebrity chef Danny Trejo, whose acclaimed Los Angeles cantina was designed to celebrate the hard-won sense of fraternity he forged on the prison yard. And it’s commended — perhaps unexpectedly — by the notoriously cantankerous Brian Cox, our Spring cover star, who extols the need to work together, as a team, on any film project worth its salt.
As I write this I’m preparing for another boisterous night on the town — another lively evening at our favourite local watering hole, of cheap ale and howling karaoke, of shots all around when another of the boys rolls through. (And I hope to squeeze in a few more pages of O’Brian before then.) All this brotherhood is plainly good for the heart and good for the spirit. So, let’s have a toast — to friendship.
— CALUM MARSH, Managing Editor