"Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee." To the final moment of his death beneath the waves, Captain Ahab pursues the enigmatic White Whale that took off his leg--Moby-Dick, a symbol of all that is deep and undecipherable. In this greatest of all American novels, Herman Melville spins a gripping tale of whales and whalers, but more than that, he examines the mysteries and paradoxes that lie at the very heart of existence itself. Newly designed and beautifully typeset in a modern 6-by-9-inch format by Waking Lion Press..
Let's set the scene...
Rory has been accepted into the prestigious Chilton Academy and is in the process of removing her possessions (mostly comprised of books) from Stars Hollow High. As relived in the Rosemary's Baby post, Dean finally decides to approach Rory for the first time. Rory advises Dean to speak to the all-knowing and ever-present Miss Patty about a job and Dean offers to assist Rory home with her things. After Rory embarrasses herself by describing the cakes baked at Weston's as "round" (that apparently being a feature most desired in your baked goods), the following conversation takes place.
Dean: So, how are you liking Moby Dick?
Rory: Oh, it's really good.
Rory: Yeah. It's my first Melville.
Rory: I mean, I know it's kind of cliche to pick Moby Dick as your first Melville, but... hey, how did you know I was reading Moby Dick?
Dean: Uh, well, I've been watching you.
Rory: Watching me?
Dean: I mean, not in a creepy, like, "I'm watching you" sort of way. I just... I noticed you.
Dean: Every day. After school, you come out and sit under that tree there and you read. Last week it was Madame Bovary [BW&R Note: Madame Bovary has been started! Stay tuned!]. This week, it's Moby Dick
I don't think I've been more glad to get to the last page of a book. And I've read The Sound and The Fury(and have to read it again as it's on the list... why am I doing this again?). I wanted to like the book. It's one of those books where you tend to believe that if you truly enjoy it, it's some sort of indication of your IQ. Well, apparently I've learned that I might as well stick to books that are brightly colored and feature a dog named Spot.
The book did not even get remotely interesting until I was 94% of the way through. This was the moment the infamous Moby Dick finally showed his bulbous head. There were entire chapters devoted to Melville's description of the sperm whale's mouth as opposed to that of the right whale. Not a tooth or ridge was overlooked. He described, in minute detail, how to remove the blubber from a whale, how to arrange the rigging to ensure you don't get decapitated (although I would have preferred the removal of my head to having to read 18 pages about how to coil rope), and the many-varied uses of sperm oil. The most interesting (and odd) aspect of Melville's imparting of these details, was the way he went about it. The language he used to describe the logistics of whaling was flowery. I actually have respect for a man who can make the smooshing of blobs of coagulated blubber sound poetic... rivaling anything written by the Bronte sisters.
If you lose all vestiges of your sanity and decide to still give Moby Dick a go, I highly recommend that you read it out loud (preferably in a place where others can't hear you). I found, with about a chapter to go, that I got much more out of Melville's writing when spoken. The language was beautiful and intense and there is an emotion in his words that didn't seem to hit me when read silently. The man sure can turn a phrase... even if it's about blubber.
I believe that the reason I had such a difficult time with this book was not necessarily the subject, but the voice (or shall I say "voices") through which the tale was told. I give credit to an author who can tell the same story through various points-of-view. Each different voice usually adds further insight into the motives of the characters and their view on the events. I don't believe the same can be said for Mr. Melville. His erratic changes in writing style could happen up to three times within a single paragraph... leading me to believe that Ishmael may have been the world's first literary proof of multiple-personality disorder (although now that we're learning that Sybil was most likely not real, everything I know about this mental disorder is out the window!). Aside from the writing of the characters, this book went back and forth between first person narrative, second person narrative, a screenplay (complete with stage directions), etc... making it seem that Herman Melville may be the literary worlds most indecisive person. Can't decide what kind of book to write?... write them all!
In the end, I felt dumb. I'd like to blame my confusion on my new BFF Herman, but maybe it was just me. This appears to be a book that is best read at least three times to catch all the nuances of the story. I know I most likely wont attempt it, given the reading list I currently have sitting in front of me, but I believe that I would have a different outlook on "my first Melville" my second time through. I don't know if that is a positive testament to Mr. Melville as a writer or a negative commentary on my intellect level.
I'd like to believe it's all good ole Herman's fault.
Who do I see reading this in the Stars Hollow gazebo?
I didn't just select this book for Taylor Doose simply because of my now well-known feelings about this book and him being the Stars Hollow resident everyone loves to hate. I don't even get the feeling that Taylor is much of a reader, but I can see this being a book he spends a few years working his way through (when he's not busy obsessed with ticks or trying to run the town troubadors out of his quiet little hamlet). Enjoy Taylor! ::eye roll::