Friday, January 27, 2012

Moby-Dick Group Read: Discussion 3 (Chapters 56-93)

I am soooo ready for a Whale category on Jeopardy. Bring it on, Alex!  Step aside Ken Jennings!

Thanks to Melville, I never knew so much about whales, nor did I know there was so much to know about whales.  Alas, we are still primarily in non-fiction mode, and things have taken a turn for the technical and anatomical. A couple of things helped me get through this section.

First of all, I cast Ishmael aside for a bit, and Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs took his place in grossing me out with the details of whale hunting and whale anatomy.

Yes, I know how to spice my classics up a bit.  But it's not that far-fetched, right?  Ishmael and Rowe take on similar tasks in giving us glimpse into icky jobs that we don't think about much, and yet we usually reap the benefits from.  In my mind, the Pequod had a few extra passengers--a camera crew and a hunky host showing me all of the blood and guts of whaling.  (Rest assured, in my little "mind movie", Rowe IS wearing pants, unlike Queequeg who seems to prefer the shirt-and-socks-only option.  What is up with that?!?!)

Also, when doing image searches last week, I discovered a children's book about whaling in the 19th-Century:

ISBN 0-531-12356-1

I was in luck--my library actually had it.  I highly recommend this book to anyone reading Moby Dick.  In just 30 illustrated pages (hint, hint, Melville...), I learned about the different whales, the tools used to catch them, how they are cut up and the wreck of the whaling ship Essex, which inspired the writing of Moby Dick.  (One thing I learned that I didn't want to know was how Moby Dick ends.  Ooops!  Watch out for that if you read this.  It's on page 28.)  I actually read this book before reading this section, so it was very easy for me to picture what was happening.  And with Mike Rowe explaining it as well, all was good.

But don't think that I'm saying one should skip or skim Melville's detailed descriptions.  He somehow makes it all worthwhile by tacking on to the end of a chapter something philosophical/metaphorical about life.  It reminds me of a Shakespearean couplet, only it often sounds biblical.  And like Shakespeare, sometimes I know what he's saying, and sometimes I don't. Many times I'm not sure if he's being earnest or sarcastic.  I'm still loving the occasional injections of ticklish humor.  I'll have to make a collection of them when I'm done reading.

But for now I must confess that I haven't finished this section.  I have about 15 more pages.  I've hit some legal stuff, and my mind is blocking it.  I've got no survival mechanism for this.  I don't watch any law shows with hot lawyers.  HELP!!!!


  1. This made me snort: In just 30 illustrated pages (hint, hint, Melville...)

    I mean literally. If someone had been in the room, they would have heard this rather vulgar noise emit from my nostrils.

    You simply most plow through these chapters if only to get past the chapter that's upcoming so I can tell you my Silly Satia Story. Albeit, I can't say that my story is worth reading Melville but we all have silly stories and maybe mine will bring a smile to your face. Hmmm . . . I don't think my attitude towards this novel is going to help you at all. And here you distinctly asked for it. I hope someone else will step up. My mother could.. She says she loved the novel. Needless to say, our taste in novels doesn't necessarily always agree.

  2. It's been so long since I read Moby Dick. I don't recall there being any legal stuff in there. Can you remind me what it's about? The gory details about cutting up whales- yes. Actually seeing it on Dirty Jobs (my kid's favorite show): well, I'd rather I hadn't! Igh.

  3. Happy to hear I gave you a laugh, and that you were alone for the snorting! I can't really decide if I like the book or not yet. We'll see. One more week and I'll get to hear your story!

  4. The legal stuff is just one or two chapters and pretty insignificant. There's a court battle over the rights to a whale, and something about comparing the issue to a divorce case. I crossed my eyes and got through it,and then it was over. I've been picturing so much blood as I read this, and it is pretty gross. I wouldn't want to actually see it.

  5. This post made me smile. I read MD about 20 years ago and don't have it on the reread list, but I would like to read the kids book. If my library doesn't have it, it should.

    Like your mental substitution of Ishmael :)

  6. I can't wait to read your thoughts on the final section!