11 November 2016

Moby Dick Book Club: Week 2


Finally we're starting to see a little more action! In my opinion, a lot actually happened in this section, but also not very much happened at all? Moby Dick is making me nuts.

I am liking the way they're setting the tone for this voyage around a Nantucket brotherhood. I love a good brotherhood, tale of men, etc. etc. I also really love Nantucket. There's an author named Elin Hildebrand who maybe I will one day do an author feature on who always sets her books on Nantucket Island and I have been obsessed with it ever since. 

I'm noticing more and more that Melville is making Ishmael into this philosophical narrator which I can't tell if I enjoy or not... The bit in chapter eleven about nothing existing independently, and only in contrast to something else, is something I used to think about a lot. 

"Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable; and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable anymore. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm," (54). 

Meg and I both studied linguistics and this is something we learned about sounds. There was a period of time in school where I was obsessed about thinking of various aspects of my life through this 'lens' and it was awful, so how lovely to be confronted with it again. (On the topic, I believe last section I was growing suspicious of some homosexual stuff going on between Ishmael and Queequeg and I feel almost certain now this is the case... is it obvious and I'm slow or am I nuts?)

Who else has cute (awful) drawings like these? I believe this is Ishmael (standing) asking Captain Peleg (sitting) to come on the Pequod although I was really picturing Ishmael to be a lot smaller and wussier looking.

I was humoured and apprehensive to find that Ishmael picked the ship they'd go on based on name and aesthetics alone. I commonly pick sports teams to cheer for based on uniform colours and mascots so this is something I can relate to. It's also not until later in this section that we find out Ishmael has no whaling experience whatsoever. All this talk of being drawn to the sea and needing to return to the sea only to find out he's been on a few merchant sailing trips but never to actually hunt whales. In my head- this is a crazy huge difference, but Ishmael keeps playing it off like it's no biggie. 

My favourite part of this section was at the very end of chapter 20, when Ishmael says, 

"If I had been downright honest with myself, I would have seen very plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committed this way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man who was to be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon the sea," (97). 

Finally he's admitting that maybe it's a bit nuts for him to go out on this crazy long trip without a) having any whaling experience or b) having ever met the captain. Having said that, I empathize with this quote on so many levels. I can't even count the number of times I've already begun something (trips, relationships, meals even...) and thought... "man if I'm being honest with myself maybe I'm not 100% sure about this..." and then just proceeded anyways. We're all guilty of it.


Still so long to go frigg... I find I am usually just reading this for half an hour a few times a week while I'm on break at work and that is not putting enough of a dent into it. I think Meg is right in that I actually hate reading this book. Anyways ...

I think the little bit about the relentless amount of sea food they are offered while staying at the inn was the first time I find the book remotely funny. Especially when he suggests that the milk tasted fishy.

These chapters are also when things finally start to get interesting for me. It is also the first time Melville starts talking about Captain Ahab in detail. I'm about half way through the book right now and as it turns out all my favourite passages are about Ahab's lost leg. Chapter 16 was my favourite of the section because it is the first time Ismael starts to get creeped out by this whale. He is shocked to find out that the captain lost his leg to the whale in which they respond, "It was devoured, chewed up, crunched by the monstrous parmacetty that ever chipped a boat!"

This chapter is also interesting because they start to go into a lot more detail about the nature of Nantucketers, specifically how the majority of them are Quakers. Philbrick goes into a lot of detail about their belief system in In the Heart of the Sea ... specifically how they're non-violent. So I loved when Ishmael said "they are fighting Quakers; they are Quakers with a vengeance." Because what's interesting is this weird paradox where they're supposed to be non-violent, but their entire livelihood is based on the slaughter of sperm whales. Philbrick does a great job describing how bloody and disgusting killing whales is. They would essentially go out on these little boats and just stab the whales repeatedly until they died (by chocking on their own blood). Their blow holes just exploded with blood. What an image eh?

I also liked when Ishmael said "it's better to sail with a moody good captain than a laughing bad one." A section I really liked in In the Heart of the Sea is when Philbrick talks about what makes a good captain / leader. And how on the Essex Captain Pollard lacked qualities that could have saved these men weeks at sea ... specifically his indecision and willingness to yield to his first mate.

I also love their general fear of cannibals ... I wish this book had more of them.

I talked about reading Moby Dick with someone at Stefan's (fellow bookclub members) apartment-warming party last night. She said in the end it is worth it ... it's an American classic. I hope to god that is true because right now I am staring at my shelf full of books I could be reading instead .........

I have no pictures in my book :(


  1. I have no pictures in my book either!! But I’m really enjoying the book. I’m finding it really comedic, and often find myself laughing out loud. Some of the best laughs for me were when Ishmael gets sneaky and steals the second pot of soup. Also when Ishmael just has no patience for Queequegs Ramadan practices. I love the deep connection these two have and can’t wait to see what other shenanigans they get up to on board.

    I was reading on Wednesday night post election, and this section felt really significant in that moment, so I thought I’d share;
    “ Queequeg thought he knew what he was about, I suppose; he seemed to be content; and there let him rest. All our arguing with him would not avail; let him be, I say: and Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”

    One last thing I picked up on that may have no significance at all but I thought it was an interesting trend. When Ishmael speaks of Queequegs homeland, he describes it as such ;
    “ Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.”

    Then when he goes on to describe Nantucket, he writes “ Nantucket! Take out your map and look at it. See what a real corner of the world it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore, more lonely than Eddystone lighthouse.”

    I thought it was interesting this concept of real vs not real, and what the implications of that are. Just food for thought. no real big revelation.

    Looking forward to the next adventure, and to finding out more about Ahab!

    1. I surprisingly find it really funny which I never expected. I think as we get to know Ishmael better it's a lot more funny. I know what you're saying about the map thing and I just feel like that has to be intentional but I don't know what it means either...

      I will keep posting photos for your enjoyment :)

    2. Becca I am also obsessed with Ahab and can't wait for a long chapter just all about him

  2. I'm going to comment as a read since mostly I am reading on the bus to and from campus.

    Thus far, in Chapter 13, I am thinking that the near-homosexual relationship between Ishmael and Queequeg is as innocent as the author would have you believe. Only when people started expressing their non-typical sexual preferences did others start to suspect the affections and adoration between people of the same sex as having ulterior motives. To me, this is an explanation of something that I've always believed to be true: finding a soulmate does not need to be a romantic search. Meg and Meagan should be able find some truth in this.

    To me, Queequeg is the example of what Melville thinks Christians should strive to be and is oximoronically (?) a pagan.

    In response to Meg's evaluation of the illustration, I didn't think Ishmael would look like that either. However, to me Ishmael wouldn't be small or wussy-looking, but more like Billy Bones at the beginning of Treasure Island: fat, old, tired, and disheveled.

    I'll have more to say once I've read more, but I figured I'd weigh in on something while I can.

    1. Okay thank you for pointing out that Meg and I are soulmates- our relationship is alive and well. I'm so pumped you're reading this with us because I you always view things in a more obvious sense than I do- really bring me down to planet earth.

      I will keep posting photos for you a well :)

  3. Meg and I are in love and Moby Dick is making me realize it more than ever before