10 Reasons to Read Moby Dick
Last Saturday (and by that I mean March 2013), I jumped onboard another of Toby Brother’s awe-inspiring Literary Salons – (here in Paris) this time on Moby Dick or The Whale, by Herman Melville (published in 1851). It was 427 pages long. But in teeny-tiny font with itty-bitty footnotes. It required a halogen reading light – I dunno how 19th Century folks read it. I only received the book on Tuesday – four days before the Salon, so I can’t say I read all of it because that would have been insane, but I read 3/4th of it, which was still fairly insane.
1) The cannibal is a really lovely guy. Who knew?
2) Captain Ahab is the possibly the loneliest character in literature. He’s also a jerk. It’s pretty compelling.
3) The Whales ROCK. They are described in detail, including their willies, which takes up Chapter 95, where we see a mincer wearing the skin of the Whale’s six-foot-long, one-foot diameter…you-know-what. Way out there.
4) The language is totally sagacious!
5) Melville plays around with so many narrative forms, and gets so darned allegorical, that you don’t know what’s what anymore but you are on the boat with those guys and you totally understand why they regularly spend three years at a time at sea eating salted meat and ship’s biscuit. And blubber steaks.
6) Starbuck’s, the coffee empire, was named after the First Mate character, Starbuck. So now I can’t see Starbuck’s without thinking of this novel.
7) It’ll make you want to make and eat Clam Chowder. And possibly watered down Rum.
8) If you don’t take the side of Moby against Ahab then you know you are a jerk. The detail of how they strip a dead whale for its oil will make you cry.
9) It’s basically an adventure story. And a bit of a love story between Ishmael and Queequeg.
10) It explains why we are currently in a mess with the ecology, capitalism, the treatment of other cultures in a post-colonial world, and why man is basically a self-centered destroyer of our planet. Yet it was written over 150 years ago.
Thank you Toby and fellow Salonistas for taking on such a leviathan of a book.