Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Best Stick a Harpoon in Me, I'm Done

So I'd been reading Moby Dick and Sunday night I finished Moby Dick and now I can't stop thinking about Moby Dick.  First, the book has the strangest narrative shift from the first section of the book, which is all about Melville and Queequeg in Nantucket and is really funny and quite entertaining, to the second, where Melville and Queequeg nearly disappear from the story altogether (nearly) except for a handful of key scenes.  I thought of it at first as a very literal literary representation of their assimilation into the machinations of sea life and their duties aboard the Pequod . . . but now I've been thinking about the contrast in the book between land and sea, land as a knowable, finite, bounded space and sea as mysterious, unknowable, and infinite—what better way to impress the unknowable nature of the sea upon the reader than to snatch away his two key points of reference?  

And also, what to make of Melville's encyclopedic descriptions of sperm whales, the detailing and describing of nearly every part of their bodies?  Especially after Melville has established that the faceless sperm whale is as inexplicable and unknowable as the sea?  Well, what do we work to explain more than that which we can't explain?  What do we try to know better than that which we can't know?  You know? 

Man, Melville.  You did a number on me!

And also, how exciting is the final chase of Moby Dick?  After so much build up it's almost a horror story and finally Dracula arrives.  When Melville is describing Moby swimming up from under the water towards the little boat, growing bigger and bigger, mouth open?  So much inescapable power!  So little the little humans can do about their fate coming straight at them!

Sheesh, I wish I knew how much I liked this book while I was reading it.

For a more artful assessment of the novel, consider Jeff's thoughts.

1 comment:

Tannerama said...

You should celebrate by listening to "Leviathan" by Mastodon. It's a progressive-metal concept album based on Moby Dick. and it is radical.