Monday, March 1, 2010

Me v. Moby: Part Nine

11:15 a.m. I complained when subplots or tangents bored me, so I acknowledge that I enjoyed the Jeroboam’s story. In it, a crazy man who fancies himself an archangel hijacks a ship, the Jeroboam, which encounters the Pequod.

The subplot has a lot in common with the Town-Ho’s Story. Both link to the main plot through an encounter with Moby Dick. But the Jeroboam’s story is briefer and focuses more on the Pequod’s reaction than the relative strangers on the Jeroboam.

11:52 a.m. I suspect that Melville only wrote a chapter in which the Pequod’s whalers kill a right whale, so he could write two more in which he contrasts the physiology of sperm and right whale heads.

12:03 p.m. Excuse me, three chapters.

12:10 p.m. Lunch break.

12:30 p.m. Lunch break over.

12:34 p.m. Four chapters. Four chapters devoted to describing the head of a whale.

12:46 p.m. An intermission in which Queequeg saves Tashtego, another harpooner, from drowning; then, more description of the head.

12:51 p.m. “I believe that much of a man’s character will be found betokened in his backbone. I would rather feel your spine than your skull, whoever you are.”

12:54 p.m. It’s always one extreme or the other. First, the Pequod encountered a boat called the Town-Ho. Now, it runs into one called the Virgin.

1:12 p.m. By now, some repetition has crept into my live blog. Anyone reading will have noticed that I like the sequences that focus on the story and characters and hate the exposition that often interrupts. But I can’t stress enough how good the actual story is—I just read an incredible chapter in which the Pequod-ites race a German whaler for the right to kill an ancient sperm whale—and how pointless most of Melville’s academic tangents are.

I don’t care about the shape of a sperm whale’s head. Maybe I should, but I don’t. I’m here for the story and I’ll take as much of it as Melville is willing to give.

2:05 p.m. For there is no folly of the beasts of earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.”

And there you have it, the best line in Moby Dick.

-Jason Lea,

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