Sunday, February 28, 2010

Me v. Moby: Part Five

5:01 p.m. My primary vocation is as a crime reporter. Occasionally, I will over-research a story and have more information than I can use. However, that wealth of information allows me to write more evocatively than I could otherwise.

Sometimes, I’m so excited by my material I shoehorn in additional information that doesn’t help the story, but I can’t bear to leave it out.

If chapters like Cetology and The Specksynder are the price to pay for Melville’s enthusiasm and understanding, then they are a necessary evil.

5:16 p.m. “(The steward) Dough-Boy’s whole life was one continual lip-quiver.”

I love it.

5:33 p.m. I want the US hockey team to lose the gold medal for selfish reasons. If they win, people will treat it like a sequel to the Miracle on Ice. Everyone’s going to ask, “Where were you when you watched the game?”

And I’ll have to answer, “I was busy blogging as I read Moby Dick.”

5:39 p.m. If it’s been awhile since I summarized the plot, it’s because there has not been much to summarize for the last 50 pages. We are introduced to Ahab. He is a volatile person, equally capable of doling out verbal abuse and silence. He commands respect without needing to demand it.

Also, the reader is brought up to speed regarding the taxonomy of marine mammals, the niceties of seaborne society and the everyday responsibilities of working on a whaling ship.

5:45 p.m. “Whosoever of ye raises me a white-headed whale with a wrinkled brow and a crooked jaw; whosoever of ye raises that white-headed whale, with three holes punctured in his starboard fluke—look you, whosoever of ye raises me that same white whale, he shall have this gold ounce, my boys!”

Ah, yes, the plot. I knew I left you somewhere.

5:49 p.m. “It was Moby Dick that dismasted me; Moby Dick that brought me to this dead stump I stand on now … and I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up.”

Yes, plot, I missed you too. Let’s never let anything come between us again.

5:53 p.m. “I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.”

These quotes all come from Captain Ahab’s monologue in Chapter 36. I didn’t know this until now, but I’ve been waiting for this monologue all day.

6:21 p.m. Now that the plot has returned, a summation is necessary: Captain Ahab encourages the sailors to kill the titular whale that took his leg. He offers gold and alcohol as incentives. The first mate, Starbuck, doesn’t like the idea of turning a mission of profit into one of revenge.

Ahab’s monologue is punctuated with an unusual narrative device. Instead of sticking with Ishmael, as Melville has done for the last 173 pages, he shifts from Ahab to Starbuck to Stubb and finally to the crew. It’s jarring and a bit of a cheat, but the writing remains strong and it pushes along the story. Any complaints I might have would be academic, not artistic; so, consequently, I have no complaints.

I’m going for a run. I hope to have one more post up tonight.

-Jason Lea,

P.S. I hate Sidney Crosby.

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