Monday, June 27, 2011

Another old library copy

Works of Herman Melville, 1987, Avenel Books, New York

Anton Otto Fischer cover

Only checked out once 11-21-02

Foreward by Philip J. Madans (Brooklyn, New York, 1987)

From front flap: “Among the works scorned by the critics at the time of its publication was Moby Dick. Now clearly recognized as a landmark in American literature, it is one of the most meticulously analyzed and hotly debated novels of all time. At the center of this novel is the one-legged Ahab, captain of a whaling vessel, who obsessively pursues the great white whale that maimed him. In his single-minded quest, Captain Ahab sacrifices the lives of his crewmen, with only one sailor, Ishmael, surviving to recount the tale. In an ironic twist of fate, Ahab is last glimpsed entangled in the harpoon lines once intended to strike down his nemesis, Moby Dick.”

TALK ABOUT GIVING IT ALL AWAY!! If I had read that I never would have gotten tripped up in seventh grade when Ms Conley asked me how Ahab died. (My answer: "He drowned?")

Let's take a look at some of this front-flap BS--"Clearly recognized"? That is what I have to find--I must find the guy(s) who started liking this darn book when even this front flap says it was "scorned" at the time. What makes something go from obscurity to classic?

For instance, I was talking with my wife the other day and the novel Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier came up. That was heralded as this "instant classic." Is it still? I tried teaching it in South Kitsap about 2002 and the kids--and I--hated it. Does it take grudge work to be a classic?

Notice how this front flap even states how Ahab is "at the center of this novel." It was almost secondary to me, the whaling industry being central.

Here's what I really take from this: Imagine you are picking this novel up. You've either heard about it or always meant to read it. You read this flap--okay, sounds intriguing. But then you have to struggle through 100+ pages of hard text before ever getting to any of that!!

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