Monday, March 1, 2010

Me v. Moby: Part Eight

9:34 a.m. Melville spends a trio of chapters explaining why most scientific pictures of whales are incorrect. That’s like Michael Crichton interrupting Jurassic Park to complain about Godzilla. (No, I’m not saying that Crichton is a better author than Melville.)

9:36 a.m. Melville’s description of Right Whales eating brit:

“As morning mowers, who side by side slowly and seethingly advance their scythes through the long wet grass of marshy meads; even so these monsters swam, making a strange, grassy, cutting sound; and leaving behind them endless swaths of blue upon the yellow sea.”

Melville, I forgive you for the Town-Ho thing.

9:42 p.m. Melville revisits the analogy of land as the half-lived life; but, this time, he encourages people to stay aground.

“Consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!”

9:55 p.m. “All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle ever-present perils of life. And, if you be a philosopher, though seated in the whale-boat, you would not at heart feel one whit more of terror, than though seated before your evening fire with a poker, and not a harpoon, by your side.”

And that’s how Melville turned a chapter about knot tying into a must read.

10:08 a.m. Would I love the whaling sequences as much if they did not have bouts of tedium in between?

10:22 a.m. There is a scene in which the Pequod’s cook, on Stubb’s order, asks the sharks to curb their voraciousness. It’s solid gold.

10:31 a.m. “Go to the meatmarket of a Saturday night and see the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of dead quadrupeds. Does not that sight take a tooth out of the cannibal’s jaw? Cannibals? Who is not a cannibal?”

Hunters make the most sensible environmentalists.

10: 52 a.m. Let’s summarize: The Pequod goes on a pair of whale hunts. The first ends in soggy defeat. The second ends with a dead sperm whale. The sailors are then tasked with butchering the whale before the sharks eat it all.

The dead sperm whale brings out the joker in Stubb and the philosopher in Ahab.

Also, there was some stuff about whale drawings and knot tying.

-Jason Lea,

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