Monday, March 1, 2010

Me v. Moby Dick: The Epilogue

Well, it’s over.

In the last two days, I’ve spent about 19 hours reading and writing about Moby Dick.

I’m glad I read Moby Dick all at once. It’s a story that starts and stalls a lot. Reading it continuously prevented me from getting stuck in the stalls. If I were trying to read it four of five chapters at a time, I would have quit when I reached the sermon (which is what I’ve done before.)

To use a shallow analogy, Moby Dick is an attractive woman who would be gorgeous if she shed about 20 pounds (or 200 pages.) But I can’t say with certainty that Moby Dick would still be Moby Dick if it didn’t have its whale heads, migratory habits and cetological tangents.

There is too much good in Moby Dick for me to write it off as bloated or self-indulgent. But there are too many issues with pacing and focus for me to blanketly call it one of the greatest novels ever.

I had a writing professor in college who thought Moby Dick was the great American novel. (I argued for To Kill a Mockingbird.) I don’t think there is a great American novel. I don’t think any continent has a single novel that defines it. But Moby Dick addresses several themes that are especially pertinent to our country: faith, obsession, prejudice, friendship and greed.

I’m not sure I’ll ever re-read Moby Dick. I have a pretty long list to finish before I die, and it keeps getting longer. But, if I ever do revisit Moby Dick, I’ll try to read it on its own terms, instead of my own.

In case you’re just finding this blog now, feel free to follow the live blogging of Moby Dick from the beginning:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight
Part Nine
Part Ten
Part Eleven

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get my certification from

-Jason Lea,

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