Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Moby Dick Revisited

 Before I left my house 5 weeks ago, I pulled a box out from the top of the coat closet- one of 3 boxes that I would regularly mail to and from my old ship the "New River" prior to starting and shortly before finishing a voyage. Books, clothes and things like that which I picked up and wanted to bring home or to work, pretty much. Well, it had been a few years since I opened this box. I was looking for some work-quality (stained) flannel shirts and stuff for the upcoming autumn. I found my paperback unabridged copy of Moby Dick by Herman Melville. No shirts, though.

        I'm a voracious reader. Although unedited from the archaic english Melville wrote in, it took me about 5 nights to read the book. About 1/3 slower than normal. I try to drag it out, enjoy it, you know?

 Anyhow, among my favorite passages is Ahab's moment to harpoon the whale after chasing it across time and much of the globe. There are so few passages in books that truly capture the emotional weight of a true emotional climax for a man who has utterly and entirely committed himself to an action. You know that moment you think of, maybe one you've never truly even had to be in, where you utterly throw yourself at a goal that has become an obsession, where costs, consequences and calculations become meaningless in the name of a shot at catharsis? To me, surviving a moment like that is the very epitome of what it is to be a man- and the genius of Melville shows when he narrates this moment where a simple case of revenge has devolved into a one-way journey into hell.


All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby-Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.

Goddam right he did. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This post is an example of why this blog is so much fun to read. One day we can be looking at pictures of half-naked Brazilian beauties, the next considering the worlds great literature.