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Archive for June, 2009

The White Whale

As fellow English majors who never got around to finishing Moby Dick, BC and I finally decided to try it again. My first attempt, my ‘furthest south,’ if you will, brought me to page 247 in my copy. BC actually was supposed to read it in a college class, but never did.  So the quest began, and like barnacles attaching to the bottom of a sea-going vessel, others joined in – Ray, cousin Sandy and bookish friend NN. Soon enough, Ben absconded with my copy, after which I got one from the library. As I recall from my first attempt, the first few chapters are great. You are relieved that the writing is so good – so rollicking, so filled with sly humor, so good-natured and humane.  Getting aboard the ship and setting off to sea is literally a breeze.  Then come the doldrums.  At present, our little group is spread rather far about this wide sea, with Ben still in port, Ray somewhere in between, NN safe at shore and setting off flares for our safe navigation.  My compass as usual has gone somewhat askew so that I ventured off course and am reading two related books – In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick, which recounts in fascinating detail the true story of the sinking of the whaleship “Essex.”  This story, upon which Melville based his tale, is a compelling read, especially when done in tandem with the novel.  In addition, I stumbled upon a little biography of Melville written by a fellow novelist, Elizabeth Hardwick, whose dashing prose at times seems an echo of the other’s.  I’ve heard of Hardwick, but I don’t think I’ve read anything by her.

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