Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Halfway Around the World

Moby Dick update: I'm halfway through, and suspect that I will have to wait till the very end of the book to meet the title character.

I like Melville's changes of pace in the novel - he often leaves the plot for a chapter or two to explain what a "gam" is (a social meeting of two or more whaling ships) or to wax philosophical:

"There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own." [319]

However, the lengthy digressions in which he goes on for entire chapters about, for example, the various types of whales, are, in my opinion, boring, and only pad the story with filler which could be found in any encyclopedia should the reader develop an insatiable desire to discover the most intricate details of whales and the history of whaling in general. In another chapter Ishmael explains that the whiteness of the whale signals mystery and deception. An. Entire. Chapter. Get on with the story, man!

Considering that even readers in his own day (1851 - when there was no YouTube) thought this was a rather boggy text, I don't feel too bad for feeling like it's a bit of a slog to get through parts of this book. Fortunately there are many lines which are pure poetry, and the story is overall an excellent and intriguing adventure. Will Ahab finally find Moby Dick? Will the whale be killed? If so, what will Ahab do once his quest for revenge is over? Will Ishmael want to go wailing ever again? Will the ship even make it back to Nantucket? I guess I'll just have to keep reading to find out.

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