Monday, June 30, 2008

The #1 Most Important Book?

I'm a couple of chapters behind. That damn chapter on the whale science, "Cetology," is one of the worst god-awful things ever written. How this plays into the narrative is a mystery. The only discernible reason is that Melville is including absolutely everything on whales that gets into his head. He even admits that half the stuff he is completely making up, saying that he doesn't know or that he comes up with names for this stuff. He instills in himself some kind of authority.

Another post coming up soon about the only chapter really worth mentioning so far, the one where we finaly see Ahab and his lust for vengeance.

Today, I came across a weird reference to Moby Dick . It appears in Newsweek that author Jane Yolen likes this book.

Books: Jane Yolen
Updated: 11:23 AM ET May 24,
The author of more than 280 books, Yolen, a writer of folklore fantasy
and children's literature, is best known for her Holocaust novella "The Devil's
Arithmetic." Her latest work, "Naming Liberty," tells the story of a Russian
girl and the designer of the Statue of Liberty.
My Five Most Important Books
1. "Moby-Dick" by Herman Melville. It's a book I reread every 10 years,
which is coming up again. I even love the whale parts.

To be honest, that isn't much of a reason to me.

This book keeps surfacing in the oddest places. A prominent author has this listed as her most important book of all time? I must dive into this mystery.

[On another note, I find it funny that Newsweek is using quotation marks for book titles. WTF?]

Saturday, June 14, 2008


"Butchers we are, that is true. But butchers, also, and butchers of the
bloodiest badge have been all Martial Commanders whom the world invariably
delights to honor."
--Moby Dick

Just 'cause it's cool with my last name being Butcher and all.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm doing it

I haven't been posting, but I am right on track. According to my calendar, reading one chapter a day would put me at Chapter 22. I have finished Chapter 24. I've gotten lucky with some of these super-short chapters but that still works in my favor. I will move up my timetable.

The weird thing is that I am on page 140 and really nothing has happened. Ishmael and Queequeg have finally shipped off on the Pequod. We still have not seen Captain Ahab, although his shadow looms. This would be an awesome star-part, a la Orson Welles in The Third Man.

Melville was trying for the ultimate treatise on whaling. He even says so in one chapter when he argues "The whale no famous author, and whaling no famous chronicler?" from Chapter 24, "The Advocate." Melville obviously is taking that burden on his pen. This dichotomy is especially interesting to me right now from my background: up in Alaska, whaling is revered; down in the Lower 48, whaling is sneered upon. Barrow's high school team was the "Whalers" where they still do it today--I went to a museum up there and everything. Melville is explaining how important whaling was to 1800s America, and honestly, I don't think early America would have survived without it. Alaska, especially rural Alaska, still needs whaling. For culture and for food and supplies. They use every part of that beast.

So it interests me right now that this book should survive for the understanding of whaling alone.

The picture above is courtesy of The Inupiat Heritage Center, which I have been to, up in Barrow, Alaska.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Up through chapter 14

I was a little behind so I just read a bunch of chapters together. I am going to have to make my vow of one chapter a day into 2-3 chapters a day. There's 135 chapters and I promised myself to finish before school starts again in the fall.

Chapter nine--The Sermon. All about the preacher telling the story about Jonah in the whale. Quite interesting actually, the definition of repentance he gives. Jonah understood and accepted that he was to be punished for his sins, and that is what let him gain salvation.

Chapter ten--A Bosom Friend. All about how Ishmael befriends Queequeg. I truly liked how Melville explains that you can still be a christian if you let others worship in their own way. That is being a true christian.

Chapter eleven--Nightgown. They get so close that they spend the night chatting in bed, compared to the secrets and deep thoughts of married couples.

Chapter twelve--Biographical. So Queequeg is a king's son, to be a king himself someday, but he chose to sail the world first. Interesting. Although I came up with one interesting dilemma: if Queequeg jumped a ship and stowed away at the last moment, capsizing his own canoe in the process, how did he come by those heads he was selling at the beginning of the book?

Chapter thirteen--Wheelbarrow. Ishmael and Queequeg set off to find a whaling ship together. They share a wheelbarrow. Queequeg rescues someone on the commute and earns respect and Ishmael is none happier to have befriended such a great man, cannibal or not.

Chapter fourteen--Nantucket. Just a quick glance at the wondrous importance of Nantucket in the world scheme of things.