4 November 2016

Moby Dick Book Club: Week 1


Well first off, this book is legit going to take us 15 years to read. I made the mistake of checking out the Table of Contents and it has over 100 chapters so you're nuts for reading this with us. Having said that, I didn't mind these first few chapters, I was expecting it to be in Old English (don't ask me why) so what a wonderful surprise when it wasn't!

I think it's easy to tell right away why it's such a famous novel, it's nice writing and very descriptive (sometimes too much so, four pages on why men are drawn to water might be a bit much). I really like books where a character narrates so I'm relieved that if I'm going to be reading this whole damn thing at least it's a favourable style for me. 

I found the whole bit about sharing the bed with the harpooner (Queequeg) to be funny. The way I read it, he has to find cheap accommodations before he heads out on the boat but all he can afford is a shared bed with a scary harpooner that the landlord is making out to be no big deal. I love the idea that Ishmael is a bit of a pussy and is terrified of this gross man, who is apparently selling embalmed human heads from New Zealand on the streets (I have no idea why this is a thing). It then gets weird come chapter 10 when Ishmael starts having homoerotic fantasies about the guy? Or am I making that up? Anyways, the idea of a grown man screaming for the landlord in the middle of the night because his roommate is scary is pretty comical. Ishmael is further confirmed to be  a wuss when he refers to himself as a 'wife'. I have been watching a lot of Grey's Anatomy and I'm really picturing George O'Malley when I visualize Ishmael- anyone else?. The rest of the characters I'm picturing as Chris Hemsworth types, strictly because of my one viewing of In the Heart of the Sea (2015). 

I literally skipped all of chapter 9 (sorry). It was all about Jonah and biblical stuff that didn't contribute in anyway to the plotline and I was bored. To be honest, all of these chapters were fairly boring and I'm really hoping things pickup soon.


For the record I have not read any of Meg's review up above ... I will read it immediately after I finish writing my own though. So if we have both typed the exact same sentence know that it is because we are the exact same person. 

My edition of Moby Dick has a forward by Nathaniel Philbrick, the author of In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. I have mentioned this book a million times in my other posts but I want to reiterate that this was an incredible read. It is about the real events that inspired Herman Melville to write about a deranged whale. I learned so much about whaling, death by starvation / dehydration, Nantucket, quakers, etc... And to be honest, it is one million times better than what I imagine Moby Dick will be like. Philbrick's foreword is short. He talks about how when growing up his dad, a "Moby Dick scholar", would always tell Philbrick and his brother the story of the whaleship Essex. He also mentions that for the majority of his young adulthood he despised Moby Dick and refused to read it. Obviously now, he is as obsessed as his father and has subsequently published a book titled Why Read Moby Dick. Again, I think this book would be substantially more interesting than Melville's book. 

After reading the first chapter I remember thinking, "only 700 million more goddamn pages to go." I'm going to bring up In the Heart of the Sea every chance I get just to fill these weekly write ups. The main thing I remember about the first 10 chapters is that he spends 80 per cent of them complaining about his potential bedmate ... which I guess is understandable considering the voyage ahead of them. The majority of the men who lived in Nantucket were whalers and would spend years away from their families. Nantucket was essentially run by women. 

He goes on this little rant early on in the book about how everyone is treated equally at sea.. "I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way - either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; so the universe thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other's shoulder-blades, and be content."

This passage is hilarious to be me because this man is in for a rude awakening. I also know this isn't true at all. Philbrick talks about the politics / hierarchy aboard the Essex and most other whaling ships coming out of Nantucket. Nantucketers always took care of one another, and anyone else was considered an outsider. Even if you were from Cape Code ... which to me, seems like the exact same place... 

I'm pretty sure Meg skipped chapter 9 "The Sermon" .... WHICH IS WRONG. And at the end of the day I will tell anyone she did not in fact read Moby Dick .. she just read parts. Please join me on my holy than thou voyage by reading every single word.

I have way more notes in my phone to talk about for the next two weekly discussions! Sorry this one was boring and lame.

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