Thursday, July 3, 2008

Jane Yolen's Moby Dick

This is the note in which I saw of the Newsweek reference to Jane Yolen and Moby Dick, taken from the Ansible 252 newsletter, July 2008:

JANE YOLEN almost avoids gloating: 'I had a piece in _Newsweek_ this pastweek
about my favorite books, and have heard so far from seven elementaryschool
friends, half a dozen high school buddies, college mates, far-flung cousins, and
one very strange man who insisted that reading _MobyDick_ had ruined his life
forever so I should be careful not to recco itto anyone again. / Also just sold
my 305th book.' (2 June)

Jane Yolen loves Moby Dick enough to revisit it every ten years, so it says in the Newsweek article.

I then emailed Jane Yolen, having to ask "Why in heaven's name?" Here's that transaction:

Ms. Yolen,
I am a high school English teacher. I came across that Newsweek snippet of
your five most important books, and another quote by a guy saying that Moby Dick
ruined his life. I have never managed to make it through Moby Dick but I am
trying now, this summer break. However, I simply must ask: what is in Moby Dick
that you think it is the #1 most important book of all time? I cannot fathom it.
I am 200 pages into it and even with my Masters Degree in English cannot
understand the fascination behind it. Although, it is my Moby Dick and I
will read it this summer.
Thank you for the wonderful writing I have been able to share with my
students throughout the years.
Matt Butcher

Her response:

Moby Dick: It has passionate adventure, strong characters, an amazing
setting well delineated, heroes and anti-heroes, and a brutal testing of its
cast. Plus there's all that whaling stuff which I find utterly fascinating. And
a mystery at the heart of the book--who is Ishmael and why is he alone


Jane Yolen

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