Friday, September 28, 2007

As the story advances...

Okay, I still don't think Melville knew what a narrative structure was.

I'm up to chapter 43 or so, still listening on audio provided by Librovox. The story is all over the place. There is an entire chapter dedicated to "cetology," the study of whales, where the narrator classifies and lists everything he knows about whales. That simply has to be the most boring chapter in the whole book, completely escaping the narrative. The only thing it might be able to provide is a kind of realness to the whaling background.

The problem is that I could never get this far just reading it myself.

And then it finally gets a bit interesting.

Captain Ahab finally comes out of the cabin. This has to be a great star part, much like Orson Welles in The Third Man.

more later...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Chapters 4-16

Chapters 4-12 went super quick today, as they are pretty short chapters. However, do they really advance the plot at all? Do they really advance any of the themes and images? One whole chapter is dedicated to Melville's ramblings about Nantucket. Is it necessary?

I just looked at my paperback copy and chapter 16, "The Ship," ends on page 109. Say what? 109 pages so far of Ishmael wandering around and being Queequeg the "savage"'s buddy? (I say "savage" because of the context of the novel, but Melville, while admitting that the populace saw Queequeg as a savage, deftly shows the contradiction that Queequeg may be more civilized than the people of Nantucket.) When will the novel move on? THIS is exactly why I have never gotten this far reading it to myself. It doesn't go anywhere. Not 109 pages worth, at any rate. There is some character and setting development but was that much necessary? Actually, there was a time yesterday, driving down Interstate 39/51 in the middle of one of these chapters, that I screamed, "Jesus Christ, get on with it, Melville!" His circumambulatory sentences are like walking on a treadmill--it'll give ya a workout, but you don't go any place!

Chapter 16--finally we hear the name of the famous ship, the Pequod, and the name of its famous captain, Captain Ahab. Finally! The meat of the matter. I don't know why the lesser captains, Bildad and Peleg argued so much yet, but I am sure it will come to a head later.

I am amazed so far. I don't understand how this novel has been applauded for so long. Unless it gets really good really fast, I won't ever find the answer to that question.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The first three chapters

I had the pleasure of listening to the first three chapters of Moby Dick on my commute this morning.

Maybe it was the adaptation I downloaded from Librivox, but I don't think so. I could sense that it was written out, like a drawn out essay. My first impression makes me realize how hard this must have been for a seventh grader to try to read this. How the hell did I know about Narcissus and some of the other obscure references back in junior high? Now it seems a bit more rich and full of allusion. However, I don't think this reads well for casual consumption.

The first two chapters just seem a long way of telling us that Ishmael wants to go to sea as a sailor. Yes, there are reasons but are they truly necessary? Would a modern author even include these reasons in more than half a paragraph? Was this a product of its time.

The third chapter, the scene where Ishmael meets the harpooner that must share his rented bed, the strange Queequeg, is actually quite humorous. You have to put yourself into the 1850s mentality of the "strangeness" of a person from the South Seas being in New England.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

It's Been A While...

This monster is escaping me longer than it originally did Captain Ahab! I can't even dedicate one chapter a week!

Since I have been driving farther to work lately, I have gotten into audio books. Maybe I will listen to it instead, unabridged. Is it the same thing?

700 MB download of the entire audio book by these gracious hosts:

Hopefully, status will be updated on this new progress.