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Moby Dick
by Herman Melville

Moby-Dick is generally regarded as its author's masterpiece and one of the greatest American novels. The basic plot of Moby-Dick is simple. The narrator (who asks to be called "Ishmael") tells of the last voyage of the ship Pequod out of New Bedford, Mass. Captain Ahab is obsessed with the pursuit of the white whale Moby-Dick, which finally kills him. On that level, the work is an intense, superbly authentic narrative. Its theme and central figure, however, are reminiscent of Job in his search for justice and of Oedipus in his search for truth. The novel's richly symbolic language and tragic hero are indicative of Melville's deeper concerns: the equivocal defeats and triumphs of the human spirit and its fusion of creative and murderous urges.


Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (1 of 39), Read 58 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Monday, April 01, 2002 12:29 PM It's time for the official discussion of Moby Dick. Let the games begin. Ann
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (2 of 39), Read 51 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Monday, April 01, 2002 01:14 PM I'm just about half way through this book. I should be through it in about 3 days or so. I am one of the people who nominated this book because a teacher I had a few years ago said this was one of the funniest books she had read. Halfway through, I definitely can't see her point. I thought I had read this book before, but now that I'm this far into it, I suspect I never made it past the first chapter. If I wasn't reading it with everyone here, I probably wouldn't have made it as far as I have. I keep losing the narrative thread, and being surprised when suddenly we are reading about the Pequod. It seems like more of a natural history of the whales and whaling. If I hadn't already read two books about that in preparation for reading this book, I think I would be a little lost even in those sections. But I'm still slogging through it and I will finish it (I have to keep telling myself that I WILL finish this book)! Karen
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (3 of 39), Read 55 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 01, 2002 01:28 PM Wow, I am intrigued by your teachers comment about this being a funny book. I am not sure I remember ever hearing anyone saying this...I like the idea. I am not very far into this. I read it,oooh a long time ago. fifteen years ago maybe...and I am very surprised how 'easy' I am finding this re-read. I mean relatively, my feelings of my previous read was I loved it, but found it very hard work. I think maybe this time is 'easier' because I am a more patience older reader, but I don't know. I guess I should wait until I get a little farther along, ha ha. I am really loving it though. (I am trying to think of novels that have the kind of examination of good and evil and power and madness and nature among females...I would say Wings of the Dove except that is set in a social world as opposed to natural world...)
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (4 of 39), Read 55 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Monday, April 01, 2002 02:16 PM I'm still plowing ahead as well. Like Candy, I'm finding this attempt a lot less daunting than earlier (and in my case, all unsuccessful) reads. Maybe it's because I'm trying to go on pure faith and not worry about connections yet, as CRs taught me to do where Faulkner is concerned. Karen: I thought the first night at the Inn, where Ishmael meets Queequeg, was a delight and a major hoot. I sure can't say that I see humor as an ongoing thread, though. Makes me wonder what kinds of things your teacher thought were funny in the real world.{G} >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (6 of 39), Read 50 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Monday, April 01, 2002 03:22 PM I definitely agree with the meeting in the Inn being majorly funny. English was her second language (I believe Polish was her first), so perhaps she saw things in the language that we just don't see. I haven't gotten to some of the things she thought were so funny, many of which had to do with a subject Steve emphatically does not want to discuss in relationship to this book :-) Karen
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (5 of 39), Read 53 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Monday, April 01, 2002 02:20 PM Here are a few scenes which I think are funny: - Ishmael first meets Queequeg; - Ishmael is back on board the Pequod after his whale boat is swamped; - Queequeg is offered ginger tea, complements of Aunt Charity, instead rhum; - the discussion about what the captain of the Jungfrau has in his hand. I find it interesting that Ishamel calls "valiant" other whaling ship captains who set out to hunt specific whales yet he calls Ahab "monomaniacal." The only distinction I can see between the two cases is that the other captains hadn't jeopadized Ishmael's life in their pursuit whereas Ahab had. I have always been curious about the name Moby Dick and this site tells a bit about its origin: http://www.melville.org/mobyname.htm Besides Moby Dick, there are several other white things mentioned in the novel, the blankness of Ahab's soul, the white squid, the dead flayed whale. Perhaps not relevant, but it occurred to me that the white page can be a frightening thing for a writer. On a technical note, Ishmael tells us that that the bottom of the whale-boat is 0.5" thick and will not bear much of a concentrated weight so it was rather imprudent of Ahab to get into one with his peg leg. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (7 of 39), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 01, 2002 05:03 PM The night sleep in the Inn was so funny. Um just a little note, I like how Ishmael says that there is a difference between being paid to go on a voyage than paying to go ona voyage. Ishmael believes the way to go ona voyage is to be paid, and he looks down on tourists/professional travellers.Then Father Mapple taks about how Jonah paid to go his voyage to get away from god and he was a god-fugitive.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (8 of 39), Read 51 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Monday, April 01, 2002 10:14 PM Am I right that, since we have two months with Moby Dick, we'll be talking about it in May too? I'm only on page 400 and was hoping we had until May 1st (-: However, sometimes it's nice to talk about it while you're reading too. Ann and I did that one whole summer with War and Peace. Barb
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (9 of 39), Read 54 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 12:11 AM "It seems like more of a natural history of the whales and whaling." Perhaps it's no more about whales and whaling than Huck Finn is about taking a raft trip down the Mississippi.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (10 of 39), Read 47 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 10:32 AM In the chapter "The Mast-Head" there are poetic passages that remind me of Edmund's tales of the sea in Eugene O'Neill's LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. I quoted this O'Neill passage before on CR but here is a portion of it again along with several excerpts from MOBY DICK. From MOBY DICK: "In the serene weather of the tropics it is exceedingly pleasant the mast-head; nay, to a dreamy meditative man it is delightful. There you stand, a hundred feet above the silent decks, striding along the deep, as if the masts were gigantic stilts, while beneath you and between your legs, as it were, swim the hugest monsters of the sea, even as ships once sailed between the boots of the famous Colossus at old Rhodes. There you stand, lost in the infinite series of the sea, with nothing ruffled but the waves. The tranced ship indolently rolls; the drowsy trade winds blow; everything resolves you into languor." "For nowadays, the whale-fishery furnishes an asylum for many romantic, melancholy, and absent-minded young men, disgusted with the carking cares of earth, and seeking sentiment in tar and blubber." "'Why, thou monkey,' said a harpooneer to one of these lads, 'we've been cruising now hard upon three years, and thou hast not raised a whale yet. Whales are scarce as hen's teeth whenever thou art up here.' Perhaps they were; or perhaps there might have been shoals of them in the far horizon; but lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie is this absent-minded youth by the blending cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last he loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and nature; and every strange, half-seen, gliding, beautiful thing that eludes him; every dimly-discovered, uprising fin of some undiscernable form, seems to him the embodiment of those elusive thoughts that only people the soul by continually flitting though it." From LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT; Edmund: "When I was on the Squarehead square rigger, bound for Buenos Aires. Full moon in the Trades. The old hooker driving fourteen knots. I lay on the bowsprit, facing astern, with the water foaming into spume under me, the masts with every sail white in the moonlight, towering high above me. I became drunk with the beauty and singing rhythm of it, and for a moment I lost myself-actually lost my life. I was set free! I dissolved into the sea, became beauty and rhythm, became moonlight and the ship and the high dim-starred sky! I belonged, without past or future, within peace and unity and a wild joy, within something greater than my own life, or the life of Man, to Life itself! To God, if you want to put it that way. Then another time, on the American Line, when I was lookout on the crow's nest in the dawn watch. A calm sea, that time. Only a lazy ground swell and a slow drowsy roll of the ship. The passengers asleep and none of the crew in sight. No sound of man. Black smoke pouring from the funnels behind and beneath me. Dreaming, not keeping lookout, feeling alone, and above, and apart, watching the dawn creep like a painted dream over the sky and sea which slept together. Then the moment of ecstatic freedom came. The peace, the end of quest, the last harbor, the joy of belonging to a fulfillment beyond men's lousy, pitiful, greedy fears and hopes and dreams!" Robt
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (11 of 39), Read 47 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 10:39 AM Robt: Gosh, but that's some beautiful writing. Makes even a land-bound soul like myself want to go to sea. If only I (a) could swim, and (b) didn't have the worst imaginable vulnerability to motion sickness. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (12 of 39), Read 45 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 11:28 AM I'm telling you, I have already bought some boat magazines and am mapping my trip along the east coast. I want whales and seals and shrimp under my pillow. I'm trying to figure out what I can do to get paid to be ona boat. i've already confessed I'm not that great of a cook, so that's out. But I can do a mean swab of the decks. My mum trained me well. I just don't want to break a nail. There is so much about whales, I can see this as a whale history lesson for sure Martin, but you are also right that it has so much more to do with men and their ideas and attitudes to whales and the ocean...and er ah each other... Robert, you monkey, great quotes, avast avast keep em coming!
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (13 of 39), Read 44 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Anne Wilfong anne.wilfong@gte.net Date: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 12:56 PM Hey, all, I'm not reading the book but I'm listening in on parts of the discussion here. Has anyone mentioned that Discovery channel will be airing a special on Moby Dick? It's on Sunday night, 9 p.m. Eastern. Looks good, from the commercial. Anne
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (14 of 39), Read 44 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 01:06 PM Did you know the recording artist Moby is the great-great nephew of Herman Melville?
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (17 of 39), Read 47 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dick Haggart Date: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 01:29 PM The quoted material by Robert definitely expresses the feelings that can sweep over you while at sea. On the other hand an overly developed aesthetic sense is not the best friend a seaman can have and if one should surface, a friendly bos'n will usually be available to bring you back to earth (this example is only loosely translated from the original Bos'n Speak): "Get yer head outta yer ass, Haggart, fer crissakes 'fore I have to pick that block out from 'tween your goddamn eyes. Jesus 'n Mary, lad, pay some fookin' attention when yer on my deck, 'cause this ain't the friggin' mother-coddlin' navy, got it?" Dick
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (15 of 39), Read 48 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 01:20 PM That is a beautiful passage you transcribed, Robt. It struck me, too. And what a strangely parallel passage from the play. Ishmael contemplating the painting in The Spouter-Inn (Chapter 3): Yet was there a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it that fairly froze you to it, till you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what that marvellous painting meant. I would have to say that his description of his reaction to this painting pretty well describes my reaction to this book. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (16 of 39), Read 48 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 01:23 PM heh heh.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (18 of 39), Read 49 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 01:50 PM Steve -- LOL!! I do think that is a pretty good description of this book. In order to make more headway, I have started reading it online. I can have it on my screen, look like I'm working, but actually be reading. I've managed to read about 150 pages so far in the last 2 days between doing that and reading my hard copy on the way to and from work. Interestingly, I actually find myself able to focus better on the book and absorb more of it when I read it off the screen rather than off the printed page. This is not my usual reaction to reading books in an electronic format. Karen
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (19 of 39), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 02:14 PM I need a little assistance from one of our resident Latin scholars: Ego non baptizo te in nomine patris, sed in nomine diaboli! I believe a rough translation would be, "I do not baptize thee in the name of the father but rather in the name of the devil." Am I close? Martin, I think you are suggesting that this is more than just a fishing story. (I loved that, Dick.) I'm sure that we will get to the much cussed and discussed allegorical factor here over the next couple of months. If allegory it is, I find it an extremely nihilistic one. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (20 of 39), Read 50 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 03:21 PM Steve, your translation is exactly the one I came up with based on my many-years-old memory of 9th grade Latin class. It's amazing how much of that stuff can stick with you though! Lynn
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (21 of 39), Read 43 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 05:37 PM Thanks, Lynn. As I said, I think we're pretty close. It was of interest to me because that scene wherein Ahab tempers his new harpoon's barbs (made from razor steel) in the blood of the harpooneers is one of my favorites. I want it of the true death-temper. Pretty primal stuff. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (22 of 39), Read 28 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 10:01 PM Steve, I think you're right on regarding the significance of the painting at the outset, a foreshadowing of things to come, always. And I'm not so sure I'd call the allegorical nature of the book nihilistic, although I can see how one would arrive at that assessment. Did everyone skip over all that cataloguing of all that whale knowledge at the outset?
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (23 of 39), Read 28 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 09:04 AM I've read every word so far, Martin, and I actually found the chapters on the different whales to be fairly interesting. Is his information still true or is it now out of date? The only chapters that I've found a bit difficult are the ones criticizing various artists' depictions of whales. Is there a reason for that, apart from the foreshadowing of the one quoted in this thread? Barb
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (24 of 39), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 10:09 AM In the chapter "Affidavit" Melville mentions the ill-fated 1820 whaling voyage of the Essex which was destroyed by a purposeful attack from a sperm whale. Once again I'd like to recommend IN THE HEART OF THE SEA: THE TRAGEDY OF THE WHALESHIP ESSEX by Nathaniel Philbrick which is an updated account of this horrific voyage and the against-all-odds survival of several crew members, utilizing a recently discovered first-hand account written by the cabin boy along with the account of the first-mate from which Melville quotes in MOBY DICK. Besides being a good story, Philbrook's explanation of the whaling industry is very helpful. Also, Sebastian Junger's A PERFECT STORM is the great grandson of these tales and shows that the economic structure of today's fishing voyages has been handed down from the whaling days. Also a rip roaring good read. Robt, getting butcher by the day
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (25 of 39), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 10:24 AM Robt: Let me add a big two thumbs up for Junger's THE PERFECT STORM. I listened to it on audio, and found it to be gripping, heart-pounding, all those good words, plus beautifully constructed as a narrative. Also, as you say, a real education about the fishing industry and the unconventional people who inhabit it. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (27 of 39), Read 28 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Felix Miller felix3rd@bellsouth.net Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 10:44 AM Barbara said: >>I actually found the chapters on the different whales to be fairly interesting.<< So do I, Barbara. I am always reminded of a passage in Hemingway's The Green Hills of Africa when this point comes up. It was the process of whaling and Melville's descriptive passages which the narrator in the book praises in the following passage: >>We have had writers of rhetoric who had the good fortune to find a little....of how things, actual things, can be, whales for instance, and this knowledge is wrapped in the rhetoric like plums in a pudding. Occasionally is there, alone, unwrapped in pudding, and it is good. This is Melville. But the people who praise it, praise it for the rhetoric, which is not important.<< As usual, you must decide how much of this is Hemingway, and how much the character he created. But thinking of Hemingway's style, I think this is a fair summation of the point of view that description of the real, stripped of decoration, is the best prose. So by that scale, skipping the whale and whaling descriptions is to miss the best of the book. I don't buy that completely, but it is an argument for reading all of these passages, because they are really part of what Melville is doing. I am going to make a valiant effort to participate in this discussion. So much to read, so little time. The anthem of CR. Felix Miller
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (28 of 39), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 12:18 PM Really thought-provoking excerpt, Felix. We tend to wait for the dialogue and action in reading. This change of perspective gives me pause. And, Robt, your closing made me smile. Barb
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (26 of 39), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 10:24 AM Melville sprung out of a time that stood as the glory of allegorical writing in American Lit. But he deepened it, shadowed it, and redefined it. I find it extremely tiring to read all of Moby Dick as if everything is encoded... and I wonder if Melville tired, for once, of the procedure also? The whale is, literally, a blank slate upon which anything or nothing can be imposed. Can Ahab's quest be seen, in a way, as an insane (albeit heroic) attempt to stamp meaning upon a blank? Somehow I see the White Whale as the death of hidden meaning, raging out of its pages to batter books like Pilgrim's Progress and Everyman and The Song of Roland to bits. The slews of information on whales, whaling, etc., provide contrasting tension against the vortex at the book's heart and seem to me to be the writer's version of harpoons going into the side of Mystery itself, trying by sheer proliferation to kill what can't be killed but only gloriously wounded. One benchmark for 'greatness' in literature that I think is desperately underrated is the feeling books give that the author has 'lived' them in the course of writing them... I can't think of a single novel I can truly account great that doesn't seem to me as if the author had truly experienced, at least emotionally, what transpired in it. On that count alone, Moby Dick stands as one of the very greatest of novels because Melville really conveys the sense of everything in his mind being at stake...
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (29 of 39), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 12:33 PM I find it extremely tiring to read all of Moby Dick as if everything is encoded... Amen, George. But the trinity of mates and harpooneers, the broad ethnicity of the crew, the whiteness of the whale, and such seem to beg for it, don't they? Can Ahab's quest be seen, in a way, as an insane (albeit heroic) attempt to stamp meaning upon a blank? Setting aside the question of whether Ahab was really insane, in my opinion the answer is yes. (I know just enough about the subject matter that follows to get in trouble.) If existentialism posits individual responsibility amid an absurd and irrational universe and holds that the individual defines himself in these circumstances by his own actions and struggle, then this has to be the great existential novel. In that sense, I suppose it is not nihilistic. Clearly, "The Whiteness of the Whale" is the key chapter in the book in that regard, but there are other references to all this in addition to Ahab's rants. For example and with regard to the poor Alabama boy Pip's madness: He saw God's foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man's insanity is heaven's sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God. And God's indifference is white. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (30 of 39), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 12:39 PM from Cetology chapter "by the terms of my definition of what a whale is-ie a spouting fish, with a horizontal tail" and "Finally:It was stated at the outset, that this system would not be here, and at once, perfected." and of his accounting of whales:" grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. god keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught-nay, but the draught of a draught. OH, Time, Strength, Cash and Patience!" I find this chapter very very interesting and very funny. It really shows how whales at least begin in this book...his recollections are from the odd books he has read on whales and the odd sightings. They are very concerned with what kind of oil and payment people get from whales...and the idea that he keeps calling them fish always cracks me up. Remember, at this point he has never been ona whaling expedition before. It's not that these accounts are "wrong" his descriptions are fine, humps, colors, horizontal tails, and oil supply. Very practical. And I don't feel our understanding of whales today is "correct" but it is very different than even an understanding of whales a couple of years after this book was written(Origin of the Species for example). We are being set up here to think we can know a whale, yet he is smart this Ishmael by saying he knows his version is just the beginning and only an ongoing research. Right after his chapter on Cetology he goes into the "domestic peculiarity" and the class of men onboard a whaling ship, and their hierarchy... this is quite brilliant to me. He seems to describe Ahab in the last paragraph much how I might be inclined to consider describing my experiences with a ..well, a whale! "But Ahab, my Captain, still moves before me in all his Nantucket grimness and shagginess; and in this episode touching Emperors and Kings, I must not conceal that I have only to do with a poor old whale-hunter like him; and, therefore, all outward majestical trappings and housings are denied me. Oh, Ahab! what shall be grand in thee, it must needs be plucked at from the skies, and dived for in the deep, and featured in the unbodied air!" It cracks me up that he is right beside Ahab, yet feels he is a mystery, and with all his research on the whale in previous chapters reliant on a few physical attributes he is confident in (at least beginning to)cataloging whales...and really we are right away seeing that Ahab too is a force of nature like a whale. And it cracks me up that he describes the social classes and functions of those on the ship...yet has no idea about the ABSOLUTE social dimension of whales. (I have spent many hours in a small craft while one whale or another has stared at me, or swam around the boat or flipped his tail,breached... or watched super pods off the sides of ferries). I think the cetology chapter kind of wittingly or unwittingly shows that when we approach a topic with one goal we often limit our view of that topic. The whalers naturally approach whales financially, I've got no problem with that,but his focus at least at that point in the book is actually dangerously narrow. Of course, just before he talks about the mystery of Ahab, he says " Nor will the tragic dramatist who would depict mortal indomitableness in its fullest sweep and direct swing, ever forget a hint, incidentally so important in his art, as the one now alluded to."
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (31 of 39), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 01:06 PM I think that is a good insight George about Melville kind of riffing on the wholesomeness of Pilgrims Progress. writing a quest book that is much more challenging than idea of some kind of spiritual "payment". I think we see some of this set up with the money for whales...(there is a lot to do with money and motives in this book). that we quest expecting some moral payoff or reward or something... I also think this book is so rich it hardly seems needed to search for hidden meanings, my god, every page is jamb packed with ideas and parallels and juxtopositions...yikes hidden?! PUHlease! (Of note: "meridians" "thought he, its a wicked world in all meridians; I'll die a pagan" "seemed to be saying to himself -"its a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. We cannibals must help these Christians.")
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (32 of 39), Read 25 times, 1 File Attachment Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 01:16 PM Steve: Wow! I never realized that there was an Alabama boy aboard the Pequod. Neat. I guess it's no coincidence, then, that it's an Alabama girl (Sena Jeter Naslund; see photo) who recently wrote AHAB'S WIFE, the NY Times bestseller based on the one-paragraph description of Ahab's wife in MOBY DICK. Small world...I just had a chance to interview her about AHAB'S WIFE for Alabama Public Radio. It hasn't been broadcast yet, but in the meantime I've archived it on my Web site if anybody's interested in giving it a listen. It's 15 minutes. Link is: http://www.writerstoolkit.com/sena15.rm >>Dale in Ala. SENA.JPG (16KB) Sena J. Naslund
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (34 of 39), Read 19 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 01:29 PM Dale -- Wow!! That is most excellent. I started reading Ahab's Wife this morning. I figured there is no better time to read than with Moby Dick fresh in my mind as a reference. Interesting that she formatted the book after Moby Dick (a multitude of short chapters with one or two word titles, the quotes at the beginning, even the LENGTH of the book). I don't have a sound card on this computer here at work, but e-mailed myself the link at home so I won't forget to go listen to it. Karen
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (33 of 39), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 01:22 PM So far we have mentioned Eugene O'Neill, Hemingway and John Bunyan in relationship to this book. I kept thinking of Shakespeare. From Cetology: But I omit them as altogether obsolete; and can hardly help suspecting them for mere sounds, full of Leviathanism, but signifying nothing. Which, of course, brings to mind the only passage of Shakespeare I actually know by memory, having been required by a high school teacher to learn it. From Macbeth, but I don't know which Act or even which character: Life's but a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Also, I thought one of the funniest parts of the book was the section set up as a play. I pictured it like a musical, everyone kind of prancing around the boat and singing... Karen
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (35 of 39), Read 16 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 01:52 PM I'm glad you mentioned Shakespeare, Karen. It reminded me that I've been thinking of him when I read Ahab's soliloquies. In fact, I keep wanting to read them out loud. Barb
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (36 of 39), Read 15 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 01:55 PM Oh, absolutely. I caught myself muttering under my breath a few times as I was reading those, which probably isn't a good plan while sitting on a public bus or subway :-) Karen
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (37 of 39), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 03:18 PM In most American whalemen the mast-heads are manned almost simultaneously with the vessel's leaving her port; even though she may have fifteen thousand miles, and more, to sail ere reaching her proper cruising ground. Dick, a thing of tangential relevance. It is interesting to note that Ishmael retains the traditional feminine pronoun even when referring to a "whaleman." I note that Lloyd's List has now determined, after over two and a half centuries of using the feminine pronoun, to go with "it" when referring to a ship. Apparently, they tried this transition about four years ago but temporarily yielded to the protests of traditionalists: Macho mariners responded with the insistence that ships always had been and ever would be female (bloody-minded, expensive, continually needing a lick of paint). . . . ["Pronoun Overboard" by Julian Barnes, The New Yorker, 4/8/02.] Later I shall take up the equally interesting usage of "There she blows!" in reference to a sperm whale. Steve Ishmael says, "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 the Eddystone lighthouse", which I most certainly did. What would be much to Ishmael's amazement is our ability to keep an eye on the weather in Nantucket Harbor via webcam here. Fantastic streaming video! Be sure and check out the sidewalk cam, to which there is a link.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (38 of 39), Read 9 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 04:54 PM Perhaps Dick has enough sailing experience to fill us in on what Ahab said: "But what it was that inscrutable Ahab said to that tiger-yellow crew of his-- these were words best omitted here; for you live under the blessed light of the evangelical land. Only the infidel shark in the audacious seas may give ear to such words, when, with tornado brow, and eyes of red murder, and foam-glued lips, Ahab leaped after his prey." Robt
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (39 of 39), Read 3 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dick Haggart Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 05:52 PM Suffice it to say, Robert, that it wasn't, "Good gracious, men, you call this deck clean?" Dick
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (40 of 66), Read 84 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, April 04, 2002 10:04 AM While the tempering of the barbs in blood is a really great scene, there are an extraordinary number of scenes filled with as vivid an imagery as one will find anywhere. Another is the bizarre one wherein Tashtego falls into the head of the whale while it is suspended next to the ship after they have dipped nearly all of the spermaceti from it. (Chapter 78.) A macabre incident. Ishmael uses obstetrical metaphors to describe Queequeg's rescue. There was danger of a breach birth, but Queequeg managed to turn Tashtego and bring him out "in the good old way--head foremost." The whale's head, very nearly a coffin, became a womb. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (41 of 66), Read 85 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dick Haggart Date: Thursday, April 04, 2002 11:51 AM Increasingly I am aware that Moby Dick should probably not be taught to co-ed classes and certainly not below the college level. Dick
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (42 of 66), Read 83 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Thursday, April 04, 2002 12:31 PM Aye, Steve. And let's not forget the coffin/life preserver at the end, after Moby Dick has used that fearsome head to wreck that fine technology of the whaling ship.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (43 of 66), Read 82 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, April 04, 2002 12:51 PM For sure, Martin. Nice turnabout that, also. And the whole thing starts with a coffin--Peter Coffin, the inn-keeper. I am interested in your (or anyone else's, for that matter) take on the interplay between Ahab and Starbuck. Permit me another quote: Here, then, was this grey-headed, ungodly old man, chasing with curses Job's whale round the world, at the head of a crew, too, chiefly made up of mongrel renegades, and castaways, and cannibals--morally enfeebled also, by the incompetence of mere unaided virtue or right-mindedness in Starbuck, the invulnerable jollity of indifference and recklessness in Stubb, and the pervading mediocrity in Flask. Such a crew, so officered, seemed specially picked and packed by some infernal fatality to help him to his monomaniac revenge. I don't think that Ishmael is using the word "incompetent" here in the sense that we normally use it today. I think the sense here is that of "powerless." So Starbuck's virtue or right-mindedness is unaided by what? Is it simply a situation where Starbuck lacks a sufficiently strong will to match Ahab's? Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (44 of 66), Read 81 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dick Haggart Date: Thursday, April 04, 2002 01:30 PM I'm fairly certain the concept here is that virtue alone, unaided by action, is impotent (incompetent) to obtain its ends. Dick
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (45 of 66), Read 86 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, April 04, 2002 01:35 PM Spoken like the good Nietzschean you are. Perhaps Ahab is the true Übermensch. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (46 of 66), Read 78 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, April 04, 2002 03:27 PM Yeha, i think he is an attempt at depicting an Obermuench. Just like Kurtz and the Judge are too. (oh sorry, you just knew I was going to have a hard time not thinking of Blood Meridian in this reading, right?) (If Kurtz, the Judge and Ahab were ina fight...who would win?)
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (47 of 66), Read 80 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Thursday, April 04, 2002 04:01 PM The judge.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (48 of 66), Read 77 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Thursday, April 04, 2002 05:09 PM We know that, because the judge is beyond time and mortality, just as Ahab is the essence of mortality. But, for all of that, they both have sprung from the mind, creatures of the ego, don't you think. Steve -- getting off deadline here, so I can devote some time to your thoughtful question about Ahab and Starbuck. It's here where in an earlier discussion John Matthews pulled a passage describing Ahab and his virtues. It was a startling revelation. And the warning was fairly taken about rushing to judgment. Now that I have time I'll see if I can find that passage.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (49 of 66), Read 76 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Lee Clark leilia_c@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, April 04, 2002 10:14 PM I reread Moby Dick about 3 years ago, and so do not feel up to the journey at this time. My conception of Moby Dick contains the idea that man has a need to personalize the world around him. He cannot contend with the reality of a world with no meaning. Overall, the contemplation that we do not matter is too daunting. I think for Melville the world, here and in the “cosmos” were natural entities, not some supernatural force. Melville was in favor of the natural man and had an appreciation of the native lifestyle, in tuned with nature. We have evolved to deal with our inner and outer surroundings in a manner that is individual to our particular species, i.e. the whale, i.e. the man. But even native man has his myths; again an attempt to personalize the world, to try to understand and find meaning for what is…Ahab’s attempt to deal with the loss of his leg, was a stab at control of the world around him by personalizing that loss. He imagined his situation would be improved, if he could “get even” with this “evil force” that robbed him of his leg. Moby Dick, the whale, was natural life as it is, oblivious to us, without malice, always moving on, despite our rages, our joys, our mourning and despite our attempts at control.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (50 of 66), Read 67 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, April 04, 2002 11:14 PM It's been at least 40 years since I read this book, but from what I remember, and from my own take on things, I like your explanation, Lee. Ruth He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. Rafael Sabatini, Scaramouche
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (51 of 66), Read 70 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, April 05, 2002 12:02 PM Regarding the Übermensch, some might take the position that Ahab is a Nineteenth Century Hitler. I wouldn't agree. See if you can find your passage, Martin. I'm interested. As for Starbuck, I found this passage concerning him to be the most revealing: And brave as he might be, it was that sort of bravery chiefly, visible in some intrepid men, which, while generally abiding firm in the conflict with seas, or winds, or whales, or any of the ordinary irrational horrors of the world, yet cannot withstand those more terrific, because more spiritual terrors, which sometimes menace you from the concentrating brow of an enraged and mighty man. The courageous Starbuck is simply overmatched by Ahab's will. I am thinking about what you have said, Lee. I think one has to sort out the viewpoints of Ishmael (Melville) and Ahab. They are different, and you have made a start on that. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (52 of 66), Read 62 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dick Haggart Date: Friday, April 05, 2002 01:49 PM Meanwhile, yet another reason why we must pay very careful attention to every jit and every jot in this book: it foretells the future! http://cs.anu.edu.au/~bdm/dilugim/moby.html Dick
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (53 of 66), Read 57 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, April 05, 2002 03:10 PM Yikes. Those code breakers need to see A Beautiful Mind.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (54 of 66), Read 57 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, April 05, 2002 03:11 PM But that is a good example of applying meaning to the world.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (55 of 66), Read 57 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, April 05, 2002 03:13 PM Martin, can you explain to me how the judge is beyond time and mortality and Ahab is the essence of mortality? Is Ahab the essence because he decides about what lives or not?
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (56 of 66), Read 54 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Friday, April 05, 2002 03:27 PM Here's what I had in mind, Candy: The judge is without birth, without death, which makes him beyond time. He appears as an apparition initially and defies death (even as he leads ALL the others to it). Now Ahab is bound to die. We know that from the first moment we meet him. He's already half dead (or castrated) when we meet him and he's coming back for seconds with a fire in his eye. He refuses to recognize the fact -- and in the book it is a fact (the hardware to prove it is in Moby Dick's back and there are supporting eyewitness accounts) -- that the white whale is beyond death. Every other in the book who's had the pleasure of an up close and personal meeting with MD recognizes it and fears him for it. Not Ahab. He rages, not at the dying of the light, but at the light period. More directly than a water bug on a warm summer night, he's throwing himself into it. Hence, his mortality. It's neat what McCarthy has done with his Ahab, no? They are both creatures of the ego, in essence the yin and yang of ego.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (57 of 66), Read 56 times Conf: Classics Corner From: john matthews jw3@pobox.alaska.net Date: Friday, April 05, 2002 03:28 PM Two passages that inform the relationship between Ahab and Starbuck that always come to mind in an important way for me are: 134 The Chase---Second Day, p 804 in the Modern Library edition which begins: "Starbuck, of late I've felt strangely moved to thee; ever since that hour we both saw---thou know'st what, in one another's eyes. But in this matter of the whale, be the front of thy face to me as the palm of this hand---a lipless, unfeatured blank......." ...and on to the brief "Fates' Lieutenant" soliliquy. The second is the entire 132 "The Symphony" which Ahab is referring to in part or whole above, and which also contains wonderful grist and reference for Judge Holden and Cormac McCarthy's vision of this matter and its nature as well. Thank's again for the invitation and the warm welcome.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (58 of 66), Read 59 times Conf: Classics Corner From: john matthews jw3@pobox.alaska.net Date: Friday, April 05, 2002 03:29 PM Oh, pardon me. I forgot to mention; I'd be real interested in the passage you are thinking of as well Martin.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (59 of 66), Read 46 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, April 05, 2002 03:56 PM Uh, Okay. I see because Ahab goes straight for it. I think I understand more what you mean about the two, judge and Ahab as being polars in the ego. that seems accesible to me. It's the idea that the judge is beyond time and death that is hard for me to understand. I think this is a part of a naive side of me Martin. I see th judge a sdefying death, for sure. Beyond death, no I don't see that, but I DO see that he himslef feels that he is beyond death. that kind of personal belief of the judges is part of his strength and why he defies death. I do not see the judge as an immortal, but I see him believing that about himself. And that does make for a powerful personality. I tend to take the judge and the whales fairly literally. I also tend to see the desert and the nature in Blood Meridian as a parallel to the whales in Moby Dick-rather than the judge and the whale. I am really enjoying thinking about this stuff. To me about the blanks(the whitenesses) in Moby Dick, I see McCarthy using the phrase "I ain't nothin" or "you ain't nothing" (reoccurs in almost all his novels) as a worthy concept to compare. I see the judges self perceptions as immorrtal a form of adding meaning to life. And that doing so can give one a kind of power... more must chew on these last couple fo posts for a while... Believe it or not I have a customer at the bar I work at and while slinging beer and martini's we get into some fun talks about these two books the last couple of weeks. This has becoem a kind of hilarious road show to the other customers as we get pretty worked up about "meaning" and metaphors...and have had quite a rowdy discussion about whether there is any humor in Blood Meridian, and whether it works as a parody... cheers!
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (60 of 66), Read 45 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, April 05, 2002 03:58 PM John Mathews, nice to know you...welcome to Constant Reader-warning-it's addictive! ...and I am going to look carefully at the section you mention with Starbuck and Chapter the Symphony as I ride the subway to work...thanks for the heads up!
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (61 of 66), Read 47 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, April 05, 2002 04:03 PM By the way John Matthews, the version I am reading is from a second hand store, a delightful copy for students I guess by Rhinehart Editions, 1957. a strange antique rose or salmon color. Ish. Plain. With an introduction by Newton Arvin. For the life of me I can't find this section called The Symphony, should keep me busy hunting it...
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (62 of 66), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dick Haggart Date: Friday, April 05, 2002 05:04 PM The difference between Ahab and the judge, in my mind, is that Ahab is a human possessed by his demons whereas the judge is a demon possessed of his humans. While the two characters may well be oriented toward the same pole star (although I'm still thinking on that), their actions and characters spring from two fundamentally different sources. Dick
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (63 of 66), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dick Haggart Date: Friday, April 05, 2002 05:05 PM And now I'm wondering: Can one ever be oriented towards a pole star? Dick
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (64 of 66), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: john matthews jw3@pobox.alaska.net Date: Friday, April 05, 2002 05:56 PM "The Symphony" is Chapter 132, Candy and immediately precedes "The Chase--First Day" near the end. Its a wonderful chapter in which Starbuck and Ahab meet on deck and Ahab soliliquizes again and Starbuck has a sort of epiphany. It ends with: "But blanched to a corpse's hue with despair, the mate had stolen away. Ahab crossed the deck to gaze over on the other side; but started at two reflected, fixed eyes in the water there. Fedallah was motionlessly leaning over the same rail." I think Martin believes Judge Holden is not circumscribed by 'birth, life, death' in the way that Ahab even acting as the 'fates' lieutenant' is. And it is certainly so that the Judge is seeming always one step ahead of the circumstances in "Blood" and more knowledgeable in a rationalistic sense (if not a gnostic one)......and of course the dance of fire in the epilogue to Blood is a much different dance than the one that Ahab does on the back of the whale.............. Fedallah, Ahab, Sutpen, Kurtz, Judge Holden.....even Gatsby (if one thinks of Owl-eyes) like so many characters stare into the abyss and see eyes of some sort looking back. I really don't know what I think about that or what is actually looking back, but I concede that metaphorically at least, Judge Holden is still dancing in the epilogue.....and even Ishmael is not doing that.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (65 of 66), Read 28 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Edward Houghton eddh@pacbell.net Date: Friday, April 05, 2002 06:08 PM On the relationship of Starbuck and Ahab. No matter what Starbuck may think, Ahab is the Captain. And Captain's were within their rights to hang mutineers, weren't they? EDD
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (66 of 66), Read 15 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ernie Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Saturday, April 06, 2002 12:27 AM As usual I am only 2/3 through the book and gave it a good deal of thought. What initially struck me was Melville's command of the English language. He is a fantastic and powerful writer and has been compared to Shakespeare. Today's readers will consider him wordy but we need to take into account that he wrote during more leisurely times than we have today. The other thing that struck me was his breadth of knowledge. Then we could call his writing powerful and unusual. Just the same I feel he gets carried away on a tangent of times. His writing leaves a powerful impact on the reader and that is his strength. Melville seems to be possessed by the whale almost as much as Captain Ahab. Also he describes the whale in mystical terms. He unexpectedly appears out of nowhere and wants to take revenge on the whalers who have tormented him. He appears in Captains logs in different oceans and at identical dates. Is Ahab insane? Well he suffers from a deadly idea fixe if this is the right term. Moby Dick is his only interest and whaling in general comes only accidentally. Also he needs converts and has little use for people who question his fanaticism. Well one could name it a whale inspired paranoia, all consuming and all powerful His inability to see things in proportion and his obsession with Moby Dick makes this paranoia all consuming. His willingness to sacrifice himself as well as his ship mates is a dangerous obsession indeed. To say that this book is funny says something about the reader but not the author. This is a very serious book and the ending supports this statement. I wish I had the answer to one question. Was whaling truly an almost deadly occupation? Was there a large number of whalers who did not make it back? I understand that commercial fishermen in Alaska engage in the most dangerous occupation in the US Ernie
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (67 of 112), Read 120 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, April 06, 2002 04:03 PM Edd, that is very true about Captains authority. Probably a handy thing to remember in this book. Ernie, I really appreciated what you said about this book being written when times were more leisurely for book reading and writing. That is an excellent observation. I am enjoying reading this with every bit of leisurely attitude I can. I find I delight in how much detail Melville gives us. George mader a good point also that there is a sense that Melville was having a good time telling this story. Shakespeare and dickens give me the same feeling reading them as this book, The Confidence Man(WOW!) and Billy Budd for example. I feel like I could sit by a fire and listen to those three talk my ears off. (John, I have never had the sensation of the judge being in the epilogue of Blood Meridian. I always thought that the point of the epilogue was showing us something, a force, OTHER than the judges existence...that in fact the judge does not have such a long term role in life as he may have in a concetrated period of the world of Blood Merdian. Another way I would put this is...the judgre says "It makes no difference what men think of war. War endures. I feel the epilogue says:"It makes no difference what the judge thinks of men. Men endure." But I seem to be very much alone in seeing the epilogue as void of the judge...so I am open to being completely wrong about my reading of the epilogue, ha ha. there are a long list of readers who believe the judge is an immortal[supernatural ?]being. Not me.)
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (68 of 112), Read 121 times Conf: Classics Corner From: john matthews jw3@pobox.alaska.net Date: Saturday, April 06, 2002 11:32 PM I do not think the Judge occupies the epilogue either. A simple and as is customary limited analogy about my observation of that subject would be to view the epilogue of "Blood Meridian" against the epilogue of "Moby Dick." A comparison and contrast as it were. The judge does not occupy the former as Ahab does not occupy the latter, but in both instances we have just finished reading a text in which each dominates. The dance in Blood is primordial and Promethean; Ishmael is afloat in the mother ocean, suspended by Queegueg's coffin and rescued by Rachel. Fire and Water..... There's a lot in that and I think McCarthy was much aware of Melville's epilogue when he wrote his own. I'll read the "Blood" epilogue again if you or anyone wants to compare them in detail. As I see it, the 'comic' aspects of the book dwindle rapidly when Ishmael and the Pequod go to sea.....though much of the first section is delightfully funny. When you get to the "Knights and Squires" chapter you might still imagine yourself in for a seagoing "Don Quixote" if you did not already know better. It doesn't take long to dissuade one after that though I suspect. What do y'all think of Bulkington? One of the enigma's at the heart of the book.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (69 of 112), Read 119 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Saturday, April 06, 2002 11:46 PM John -- Last night I was re-reading the Symphony chapter and think like you that it helps considerably in understanding the relationship between Starbuck and Ahab. The Quarterdeck, of course, also helps; as does Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin. These two chapters seem to act as bookends in defining a good part of the relationship between the two. In Quarterdeck, Ahab galvanizes the crew to his purpose: hunt and kill Moby Dick, who described in mythical terms. And Starbuck (how prescient) brings the issue back to the business at hand, that is filling the hold with whale oil. In the second chapter, Starbuck discovers leakage in the hold and hence the need to delay the mission as the Pequod approaches the end of its quest, as the Burtons are raised. Even as Ahab enlists a musket to give his rhetoric even more fire power, Starbuck stands his ground and the economically wise thing is done. And in the scenes that John is citing, the division between the two is lowered and man-to-man they reveal themselves before pursuing their end(s). I think they are a set of opposites that define one another. Starbuck is perhaps as necessary to Ahab as the whale. And perhaps Ahab is necessary for Starbuck to fully exist. They each bring out qualities in the other that might not otherwise be exposed. They water seeds in each other that grow. The relationship between Startbuck and Ahab is one of many similar relationships between seeming opposites that define one another on this voyage. One sailor's thoughts.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (70 of 112), Read 110 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, April 07, 2002 10:35 AM I've hesitated to say this because I'm sure it is trite to even bring it up. I spend a lot of time feeling sorry for these whales. I have to keep reminding myself that these whaling ships are not exactly technological wonders and the playing field is relatively even. However, this morning, while reading Chapter 131, "The Pequod Meets the Virgin", I decided that Melville may have some of the same ambivalence. It doesn't even seem to be only of the respect of the hunter for the hunted type (an attitude I've never quite understood, not being a hunter). But pity there was none. For all his old age, and his one arm, and his blind eyes, he must die the death and be murdered, in order to light the gay bridals and other merrymakings of men, and also to illuminate the solemn churches that preach unconditional inoffensiveness by all to all. Ah, the irony dripping from that last line. Also, I love the parting bit of philosophy in this chapter: Oh! many are the Fin-Backs, and many are the Dericks, my friend. Barb
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (71 of 112), Read 113 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Sunday, April 07, 2002 11:55 AM I am delighted that you brought up Chapter 36, "The Quarter-Deck," Martin. That includes Ahab's most extraordinary speech, which is addressed to Starbuck. It begins: All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event--in the living act, the undoubted deed--there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike though the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. . . . There's reams of philosophy in that commencing with Plato. (Forgive me quoting so much in my notes. I can't help it with this book.) And then at the end of that speech, Ahab speaks of Starbuck in an aside: Something shot from my dilated nostrils, he has inhaled it in his lungs. Starbuck now is mine; cannot oppose me now, without rebellion. That brings me to the subject of mutiny, which is expressly addressed in the book. It is not a simple issue resolved with reference to a captain's unquestioned authority. A mutiny lead by Starbuck was a very real possibility here, and Ahab recognized it. But more on that later. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (72 of 112), Read 116 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, April 07, 2002 01:48 PM Barb, your post made me giggle because I was secretly feeling sorry for the whales, too. Beej
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (73 of 112), Read 121 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, April 07, 2002 05:37 PM I am far from finished with the book, but I keep returning to a sense of good and evil within this man named Ahab, and it puzzles me. One one hand, he is the God fearing, proud captain, and on the other, a diabolical force with a singular goal in his life..to destroy the entity he see as the incarnate of all evil. (Good turning to evil as a means of destroying evil?) This goes way beyond revenge, and I, tho admittedly struggling to understand this man, see Ahab as a double headed false idol, on one side an idol of godliness and the other, almost satanical in his obsession. But, when you think about it, I suppose this is an exaggerated account of the nature of all humankind. Ahab thought the demon was born of the sea, but it wasn't..it was born of Ahab. He created his own demon. I'm struggling hard to understand this book and this man, Ahab, but figure all I can do is give it my best shot and learn what I can from the rest of you. Beej
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (74 of 112), Read 96 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Sunday, April 07, 2002 07:57 PM Whoa. The whale’s plight trite? I don’t think so. One of the more salient strokes of the brain oar that we’ve had here. Stroke away sister. It takes a subtle mind to recognize that Ishmael does indeed feel that way. Speaking of subtle minds. Aye, Steve. I was holding that quote about punching through the mask of the illusory physical world for this rejoinder. We’re pulling the same oar, lad. So what about this transcendence? Do you think it might be possible that’s what this whole book is about? You and others have noted that there seems to be little transcending here, more of the bottomless pit of nihilism. And do you think that it’s Ahab who does the transcending? I think there is a break through the illusion of the physical world here, but not Ahab. It’s the whole point of the thorough examination of the journey, including the much slandered whale parts mentioned at the outset here. For if you skipped over the examination of the illusion, that is the physical, especially anatomical, then you missed this: “Is it not curious, that so vast a being as the whale should see the world through so small an eye, and hear the thunder through an ear which is smaller than a hare’s? But if his eyes were broad as the lens of Herschel’s great telescope; and his ears capacious as the porches of cathedrals; would that make him any longer of sight, or sharper of hearing? Not at all. –Why then do you try to ‘enlarge’ your mind? Subtilize it.” From The Sperm Whale’s Head Subtilize your mind. Is that not what Ishmael’s journey is about? Something not everyone may be aware of. There are profound and ancient philosophies (this text refers to them) that hold we are nothing more than the accumulation of our perceptions and their processes, which are infinite in their nature. The key to punching through that very same mask to which Ahab alludes is to slow down the process of perceiving. Let it happen in a bigger space. And if one does, one can punch through. The key isn’t keener senses. On the contrary, the senses as the gateway to our perceptions block more out than they let in. Otherwise, the mind runs the real possibility of shorting. (See The Castaway when Pip falls overboard into the infinite sea – talk about a big space.) It happens to Pip when he falls overboard: “The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up, but drowned the infinite of his soul. Not drowned entirely, though. Rather carried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes; and the misermerman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded heaps; and among the joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile eternities, Pip saw the multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs. He saw God’s foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man’s insanity is heaven’s sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God.” Pip’s sanity – used to the more modest views of things allowed in by his senses – is overwhelmed by the experience. His sudden exposure to this big space overwhelms his sanity. What does Pip offer us afterwards with this Wisdom gained? He becomes a Shakespearian fool hence forth. He is wise, but in a crazy way. He has a fool’s crazy wisdom. No. Pip has seen the conditions in which Moby Dick lives. But his mind was not subtilized – a gradual process – and so it was not prepared to see beyond the mask. And predictably, he is overwhelmed. The doorway to punching through the mask seems to be death. And Pip does, I guess, punch through in this near death experience. But it’s not the subtilizing of the mind that Ismael urges in the chapter on the whale’s head. That breakthrough is left for another.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (75 of 112), Read 99 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Sunday, April 07, 2002 08:03 PM Beej -- You're absolutely right that the monster is created in Ahab's mind. We see that at the end of The Chart: "God help thee, old man, thy thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he whose intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds upon that heart for ever; that vulture the very creature he creates." Ahab's mind is lacking in that subtilization don't you think? It's also very neat that only Ahab raises Moby Dick. No one else does.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (76 of 112), Read 107 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, April 07, 2002 08:30 PM My husband refers to Ahab's vengeance against Moby Dick as 'Jihad.' Beej
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (77 of 112), Read 105 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Sunday, April 07, 2002 08:54 PM Beej: Or perhaps, in Ahab's honor, "jihab." {G} >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (78 of 112), Read 87 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, April 08, 2002 03:26 PM I like what you have to say about your mixed reaction to Ahab, Beej. I think our reactions are supposed to be mixed. I do take small issue with your assessment that he is God-fearing--in the sense of piousness anyway. Captain Peleg sheds light on this as he is describing Ahab to Ishmael: He's a queer man, Captain Ahab--so some think--but a good one. Oh, thou'lt like him well enough; no fear, no fear. He's a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab; doesn't speak much; but, when he does speak, then you may well listen. . . I know Captain Ahab well; I've sailed with him as mate years ago; know what he is--a good man--not a pious, good man, like Bildad, but a swearing good man--something like me--only there's a good deal more of him. . . . It seems to me that an important aspect of Ahab's character is that he is utterly without fear of God. Peleg also makes the point with his stories of their travails together at sea that Ahab is a great captain nonetheless. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (79 of 112), Read 88 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, April 08, 2002 03:48 PM Yep, I see you're right..Not God fearing as much as he is god, at least on his ship and in his mind. Is this why he has such a vengeance against Moby Dick, do you think? because the whale challenged his deity? (I might be really stretching it here, but only because I really want to understand this book, and particularly, this man.) This is slow going for me, but I'm determined to finish it. I'm tending to take Ahab as a symbol for the basic nature of mankind. Am I okay with doing this or am I trying to delve into something that really isn't there? It just seems to me that Ahab is an exaggerated portrayal of how we humans all are, at least sometimes. Beej
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (80 of 112), Read 93 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, April 08, 2002 04:12 PM A symbol for the basic nature of mankind? Very well could be, Beej. But let me be honest and say that I myself have far more questions about the book than I do answers. For that reason I have tried to read it very closely this time. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (81 of 112), Read 86 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, April 08, 2002 09:11 PM Ahab, in chapter 36, refers to Moby as the the supreme inscrutable evil, and Melville does seem to empower the whale with hints of supernatural abilities, a monster who can simultaneously be in several places by swimming through the under bowels of the sea. Starbuck tries to reason with Ahab and says "Vengeance on a dumb brute!...that simply smote thee from blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blaphemous." Ahab responds, "..some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the moldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask...how can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall.." Ahab spent his life in competition with whales. How could he let it lie, to lose the competition through the horrendous loss of a leg, to lose the competition to something as simple as the blind instinct of a dumb animal? He doesn't..he sees instead, a REASONING thing, a SUPREME evil, who has imprisoned him, and he has gone mad with the inability to be released from this prison wall (he sees as the whale), until he can thrust through it. Beej
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (82 of 112), Read 80 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 08, 2002 09:40 PM There was a program on the Discovery Channel last night called Moby Dick: The True Story. It was about the 1820 disaster of the whale ship out of Nantucket, the Essex, from which Melville got his inspiration. When Melville did his own whaling 20 years later, he carried a copy of the memoirs of Chase, the First Mate of the Essex. Much of the gruesome story of the Essex takes place after it is sunk by the great white whale. The crew set out in 3 boats, and were lost at sea for several months. Cannibalism was involved. The whole incident must have had quite an impact on Nantucket. Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (83 of 112), Read 83 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, April 08, 2002 09:44 PM MAP, I saw the last half of that. How horrible to have to choose straws to see who will be killed in order to feed the rest of the crew. Beej
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (84 of 112), Read 77 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, April 08, 2002 11:50 PM This particular book intimidates the heck out of me, it always has, and if I ask a lot of questions, it's only because I feel too insecure about my own judgements on it. I don't know if it's just me, or if it has to do with the fact that for soo long I've heard it's a 'man's book,' or what the reason is. Beej
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (85 of 112), Read 71 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 11:22 AM What do you mean when you say the book "intimidates" you, Beej? I also quoted Ahab's response to Starbuck that you cite in your number 81 above. It is one of the more extraordinary speeches in the book in my view. Are you sure Ahab is mad? I know that Ishmael insists repeatedly that he is, but do you believe that? Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (86 of 112), Read 87 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 01:04 PM The book intimidates me because I went into it with the belief that I would never be able to truly understand much of what it says, and I bet I'm not the only one who feels this way. It's just so much a part of a man's psyche that I would not be able to cognitively grasp the primal emotions of a hunter in a thousand years. I don't think women are genetically conditioned, the way men are, to understand those feelings about the hunt. Simply put, I cannot relate to it. I certainly do not mean to begin a debate on male/female books, I am only saying how I, personally, feel about it. I was telling John that I felt that way. He told me that's precisely why a woman has a difficult time picking the book back up, and a man has a difficult time putting the book back down. I knew Ahab's response was already posted in here somewhere but I couldn't find it. And I think he reveals so much about himself in it, it bears repeating anyway. Do I think he's mad? I'm not sure, but deep in my heart, no, I don't. I think hes obsessed. I think he's irrational. I think the white whale is unrealistically built up in his mind. I think he's so completely focused on his revenge that the line between that and madness is gossamer thin. But, no. I don't think he's mad. He might be crazy, but he's probably not insane. Beej
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (87 of 112), Read 83 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 04:17 PM He might be crazy, but he's probably not insane. Eloquently put, Beej. I really don't know whether he qualifies as insane or not. That's why I asked. And yes, that speech is well worth quoting two, three, four times. I was not trying to incite one of those guy book/chick book discussions either. Your use of the word "intimidate" interested me. That's all. I've been intimidated by big black guys in a bar. I've been intimidated by female lawyers. . .and by other stuff I won't go into, but not by a novel. I think you meant that you feel defensive here because the book doesn't do anything for you. You shouldn't feel that way. You've made a valiant effort. Forget about it, and read something that does it for you--would be my idea on the whole thing. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (88 of 112), Read 84 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 05:06 PM Beej, this book intimidates me too. There are a few books out there that do this to me, and it is partly why I engage them every couple of years. Blood Meridian. Gravity's Rainbow, don Quioxte. It's not exactly that I feel intimidated like I am "stupid" to be able to understand them...it is that they seem to grapple with what it is to be human and to be alive. I believe women and men have been taught and biology has also given them different motives and methods to explore life and its meanings. I asked earlier if anyone could think of female characters ina book "Like" Moby Dick....or rather female characters in nature with a group of women. For whatever reason, that we no longer hunt with each other(archaeological evidence suggests both women and children DID hunt in the past)...we no longer do... I can imagine a novel in a corporate setting with women battling out with the meaning of life and money and power... But culturally...I don't think we consider that women think about philosophy and the meaning of life. I believe that death, bloodshed and physical struggle have long been culturally associated with men. One of the reasons that women do not seem to have to "seek" bloodshed is that bloodshed comes to us. We come of age with the knowledge of death and bloodshed. Men do not by sheer will of their bodies, they do seem to have to seek it out to achieve deliverance(Ie knowledge and first hand experience with it. This often happens when a man goes to war. Or to the hunt. Women by the sheer design of our "purpose" we are clearly linked to the meaning of life...which is simply "Life". Boys don't get that. Its all a mysterious quest for them. The quest comes to girls. I believ though, having said what I have here...that women would be more understanding of the male and their cultural programing and their restlessness with domestic life if they spent a little time reading military books and strategy,(James Jones is a favorite of mine-I have his shorts including The Thin Red Line always nearby) or Moby Dick, or Blood Meridian...as some examples. Just like it would be wise for men to understand the cultural sacrifices imposed on women since we gave up (through social and cultural pressures) our 'heat' cycles to be able to breed at any point in our cycles. A book I would recommend men reading would be by Mary Sherfy on the prehistory of female sexuality. (I'll try to find the exact title, it's in the basement somewhere ha ha.) I mean do we really know of many situations where life or death is involved and a group of women is in the weeds of it? Not too many...I mean to an outsider a quilting bee doesn't conjure up philosophy-but of course it does occur...heh heh... Men do not tend to perceive the domestic arena as a place to challenge life or death, of course women tend to keep the domestic arena "clean and tidy"...so men tend to see it as a place of repression rather than mystical or physically challenging or philosophically challenging...which anyone who has spent time with a four year old knows just how philosophically challenging it can be around the house, or for that matter a fourteen year old. Perhaps women could embrace a little wildness and mystery in the household instead of making it run like a tight ship all the time. A ship should be run like a tight ship, a home perhaps more like a think tank...ha ha...
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (89 of 112), Read 96 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 05:52 PM I'll finish it, alright..I'm too stubborn and too close to being done, not to finish it. Candy, your post is really thought provoking. Very interesting. (It amuses me you added Don Quixote to that list, because I've read it several times and consider it one of my all time favorite books. I guess there's hope for me yet.) Beej
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (90 of 112), Read 67 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 08:50 PM Since watching that program on the Essex, I've been giving some thought to the theme of cannibalism, which definitely runs through MD. The show said that cannibalism was known to be a part of nautical life. In MD, of course, there's Queequeg. But a more graphic description of flesh eating can't be found than in Chapter LXIV, Stubb's Supper. Stubb orders a whale steak for his dinner: About midnight that steak was cut and cooked; and lighted by two lanterns of sperm oil, Stubb stoutly stood up to his spermaceti supper at the capstan-head, as if that capstan were a sideboard. Nor was Stubb the only banqueter on whale's flesh that night. Mingling their mumblings with his own mastications, thousands on thousands of sharks, swarming round the dead leviathan, smackingly feasted on its fatness....Though amid all the smoking horror and diabolism of a sea-fight, sharks will be seen longingly gazing up to the ship's decks, like hungry dogs round a table where red meat is being carved, ready to bolt down every killed man that is tossed to them; and though, while the valiant butchers over the deck-table are thus cannibally carving each others' live meat with carving-knives all gilded and tasselled, the sharks, also, with their jewel-hilted mouths are quarrelsomely carving away under the table at the dead meat... Well, you get the picture. All this talk about flesh eating, I definitely find daunting. I think I'll go have some lentils and rice. Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (91 of 112), Read 64 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Lee Clark leilia_c@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 09:08 PM There are many ways to grapple with what it is to be human and to be alive. Not a literary work of art, but the book, House of God comes to mind. I thought it a good point that for many men, the domestic arena may not be seen as the place to challenge life and death. As if that is the only way to really experience life and find meaning. But life can and is challenging, even if we are not putting ourselves in positions of life and death. That conviction is a fairly narrow perspective. “Life is”, however we choose to live it. The wind, the water, the beasts all add another layer to that life…and of course, homo sapiens are just one of many beasts here. We are all part of “nature” and we all deal with life and meaning, either spoon fed to us by religion or we make our own way (okay, a nasty dig). A book with women dealing with nature might be, My Antonia, by Willa Catha. Culturally, except for a few, I don’t think men or women in general, think about philosophy and the meaning of life. I really liked the comment, "women do not seem to have to "seek" bloodshed is that bloodshed comes to us." And along the lines of male/female. Chapter 90, Heads or Tails. From the Laws of England, “whales captured on the coast of that land, the King, a Honorary Grand Harpooneer, must have the head, and the Queen be respectfully presented with the tail. Is this to say men are cerebral? And women just a piece of….? Okay, maybe stretching it… lee
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (92 of 112), Read 65 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 09:46 PM I don't think you're stretching it Leilia. This novel itself accepts the reality that women are closer to violence, life and death and the sacrifice of bloodshed. Via nature...whereas men are cut off from this and we have rituals built up to progress them towards an understanding. Maybe if eales hung out with women more often they could come closer to seeing how life and death is right here beside us. From Moby Dick chapter...anyone notice how the "Moby Dick" chapter actually just talks about Ahab. (before I forget, I don't see Ahab as insane, I see him as a money grabbing, war mongerer. He totally sucks in my book. I can't stand him. Hes a complete idiot who has no clue how nature is or works. No water loving animal experienced person would be pissed at a whale for biting off its leg. I am GLAd that whale bit off his bitter stupid leg) Melville understand the knowledge intrinsic in being a female: "Alone, in such remotest waters, that though you sailed a thousand miles, and passed a thousand shores, you would not come to any chiselled hearthstone, or aught hospitable beneath that part of the sun; in such latitudes and longitudes, pursuing too such a calling as he does, the whaleman is wrapped by influences all tending to make his fancy pregnant with many a mighty birth." (Ahab is out of it. He has no idea of nature and its workings, he is a shame to be a whaleman. He puts sailors to shame.)
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (93 of 112), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Lee Clark leilia_c@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 10:36 PM On a side note, I am not ashamed to admit, my household is not run like a tight ship, possibly, I need an Ahab to be the “holder of the keys". Leilia
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (94 of 112), Read 48 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 07:05 AM Candy, what interesting ideas. I think you're onto something. I've often heard MD described as a book about good versus evil. I always wondered about that, because it was implicit that MD represents evil. But where's the good? I think it's Ahab who's evil, as Candy said. Nature is neither good nor evil, it just is. Ahab's great tragedy is that he personified nature, and took a lot of good men down with him. Sherry
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (95 of 112), Read 53 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 08:43 AM I agree Sherry. Especially his tragedy(or folly) was to personify nature. Some pages I actually laugh out loud because it seems so ridiculous that a person wouldn't know better.I also see this novel as criticizing retribution-as in some motives for action...not all action but when motivated by revenge. What all do we personify in life and nature? God? War? Our enemies? Animals?
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (96 of 112), Read 49 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 12:24 PM But how do you really feel about Ahab, Candy? No need to hold back. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (97 of 112), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 12:27 PM But , the personification of nature is exactly what is sought in Romanticism. Consider this 1807 poem by William Wordsworth The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon, The winds that will be howling at all hours, And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers, For this, for everything, we are out of tune; It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn. We want a personal relationship with nature but on our terms. Nature isn't passive or inert, though. It has its own rules. A person sees a cute animal and reaches to pet it but when that animal turns and bites the person, e wants to kill it. What is evil in nature is any creature which goes against our purpose; which does not willingly give itself to our needs. And so it has been since humanity opened its eyes, as Ahab tells Starbuck, Ch. 134, p. 804 MLC, "This whole act's immutably decreed. 'Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before this ocean rolled. Fool! I am the Fates' lieutenant; I act under orders." Ahab was forty years hunting whales and this made him proud. His hubris was such that it drove him to attack the whale with a six inch knife (Ch. 41, p.266 MLC) and it was then that he lost his leg. Thus, injured in pride and body he is compelled to attack again. Is this not the pattern of all human conflict? Ahab felt superior to any whale. Indeed he felt constrained by his own body and the limitations of science. Like Faust he wants it all but unlike Faust he has no one with whom to bargain. As isolated as Ahab saw himself, he was not isolated in his purpose. Given the choice between Starbuck's view and Ahab's, the crew chose the latter and Ahab is not too surprised, Ch. 37, p.242 MLC, " 'Twas not so hard a task. I thought to find one stubborn, at the least; but my one cogged circle fits into all their various wheels, and they revolve." The part in each which accepts Ahab's cogged circle is the need for survival which can acknowledge no limits, which can tolerate no obstacle. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (98 of 112), Read 49 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 01:06 PM Yes, Dean, and it seems to me that with his cogs turning the crew's wheels, Ahab is the epitome of the charasmatic leader. "Insane" is such a weak and useless word. It conveys nothing. I have decided to defer to our resident psychiatrist, Ernest Belden, who instructs that Ahab suffers from an idée fixe, an obsession, with an overlay of whale-inspired paranoia. I'm sure that comports precisely with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV), and it's good enough for me. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (99 of 112), Read 43 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 01:59 PM I've been thinking about your note, Candy. . . .female characters in nature with a group of women. The only one I can think of that comes close is Jean M. Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear, which is of course pretty weak anthropology because, as you point out, the dichotomy between male hunters and female gatherers was not all that clean. All that aside, I can only tell you that I have a very visceral reaction to this book every time. For me, the pacing of it--the slow build-up--is perfect, and by the time I get to those three chase chapters at the end, my blood is up. I have to admit that. (At the point that I'm closing in on the end, I'm in total agreement that we don't have time to fool around helping the Rachel look for her lost children.) I enjoy discussing the various in and outs of the thing--Ahab and Starbuck, for example--but in the end the true impact of the book on me is not a cerebral one at all. Therefore, I think the point of the thing is not a rational contemplation of the meaning of life. Rather, the point is that life is given meaning through action--for the guys who don't get it, anyway. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (100 of 112), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 02:39 PM Steve, yes, Ahab is charismatic. It makes me wonder why there are no business leadership seminars based on Ahab. After all, they do encourage people to take risks and not to fear failure. I agree that Ahab is not insane. The way that he speaks with Starbuck and how he speaks of his wife are evidence of that. Instead, we see a man who has dedicated his whole life to hunting whales. Ahab feels the loss of what he has given up to hunt whales. He also feels the anguish of that circumstance which is typical to sailors, the unmarked grave. An anguish which he expresses in his soliloquy to the whale's head Ch. 70, p.450 MLC. It is also mentioned in Ch. 7, pp.50-51 MLC so that very early in the novel we are made aware of the significance of a coffin to those who live and die on the seas. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (101 of 112), Read 37 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 02:46 PM I couldn't agree with you more Steve, and I would give you a high five if we were in the same room. I feel much the same way reading Moby Dick as I do Hamlet and Antony and Cleopatra. Both which I forgot to mention earlier on my intimidating book list earlier to Beej. I tend to see similar ideas in Hamlet(and of course Blood Meridian because the judge lectures the kid about his lack of action, how he held back in the ceremony they all joined in to together, he says the kid is the only one who held his heart back. Blood Meridian suggests that history favors might and the winner.) I also see where Dean is going, and I get the idea that Dean has kind of outlined ideals of Manifest Destiny. What partly fascinates me about Moby Dick is all this is going on and yet the novel also suggests to me that there is a time for reflection on action...but I could be weakon this and must think about it some more. And, if action gives meaning to the world, I see this as also including Starbucks actions...so I am mulling this right now...
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (102 of 112), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 03:35 PM I also find fascinating how the novel often reminds the reader that the reader is comp licit in this story and how it is read. "So ignorant are most landsmen of some of the plainest and most palpable wonders of the world, that without some hints touching the plain facts, historical and otherwise, of the fishery, they might scout at Moby Dick as a monstrous fable, or still worse and more detestable, a hideous and intolerable allegory." And we are often reminded of the complicity of non-whalers in the whaling industry. That's right, warning! This is a Consummerland Novel, heh heh. " For God's sake, be economical with your lamps and candles! not a gallon you burn, but at least one drop of man's blood was spilled in it."
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (103 of 112), Read 37 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 03:36 PM Candy, I should hasten to add that I did not intend to imply that I am the hunter primeval modernly incarnate. Quite the contrary, and that is why my own reaction to this interests me. Actually, I see a very great similarity between Hamlet and Starbuck. I think they are birds of a feather. When Starbuck ineffectually contemplates killing Ahab, he is Hamlet all over the place. Dean, very neat observations. Forty years of whaling have stripped Ahab of civilization. He has become a perfectly elemental man in a perfectly elemental world. This came to me while reading your remarks. Yet, he knows how to manipulate that crew. Notice how he relies on ceremonies to bind them to him. Very like Hitler in that regard. A leadership seminar based on a study of Ahab would work. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (104 of 112), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 04:32 PM Ahab is an indomitable human spirit who would have been honoured as a hero if he had brought his men home even as Ernest Shackleton was honoured for not losing a single man on his ill-fated Endurance expedition to Antarctica. As it was, only one man survived, Ishmael. "Call me Ishamel," he says as he begins his tale after his experience on the Pequod. "Call me Outcast" for he is an outcast as he belongs to no group, he is not a conqueror like Ahab or a religious like Starbuck, neither mocking like Stubb nor pragmatic like Flask. He is outcast by his own equanimity. His sense of balance estranges him from those who inhabit the extremes. As Ishamel advises us (Ch. 73, p. 473 MLC) So, when on one side you hoist in Locke's head, you go over that way; but now, on the other side, hoist in Kant's and you come back again; but in very poor plight. Thus, some minds for ever keep trimming boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw all these thunder-heads overboard, and then you will float light and right. Ishamel speaks from experience for he did indeed "float light and right" on the coffin and survived. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (105 of 112), Read 48 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 04:42 PM Dean, Your posts on MD have been tremendously insightful...excellent. Just outstanding. Thanks for sharing these insights. I've realized a lot about this novel, because of your comments, here. Beej
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (106 of 112), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Jody Richael Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 05:38 PM I enjoy your thoughts also Dean and need to go back and read some more! Where do I start! I am almost done with the book. I had read about the first half and was not really enjoying it. I loved the actual storyline of the Pequod and Ishmael but the side notes about Cetology and whales in pictures, etc. were driving me crazy! I thought they were boring, verbose (do we really need to be given EVERY SINGLE example he can think of), and annoying because he would make sweeping assumptions based on no data . From the very first page I got the impression that Ishmael was prone to exaggerating and describing the world from his own very biased perspective. Then I decided to stop reading and go back and review everything again and try to really understand why Melville would try to do this. When I did that I found that I really did enjoy the book more. The book is so rich in symbolism, themes and imagery that I still feel like I am missing at least half of what Melville would like to convey. I am still undecided as to whether Melville means Ishmael’s tangents and theories to be taken seriously or in jest. And then I start thinking that perhaps he is vague intentionally. I think one of the major themes of the book is that we each view life from an extremely biased perspective and that we all make life and the world appear as we would like it to. I believe Melville intends for us all to find different meanings in the symbolism of the book. I haven’t actually encountered Moby Dick in the book yet but I think it is certain that Melville intends for Moby Dick to represent different things to different people. In Chapter 42 he says that the whale means different things to Ahab and to Ishmael. I also think in the tangents, Melville is using whaling as a vehicle to portray many issues men encounter in life. As one example (and I have many) the chapter on Cetology could be viewed as a demonstration of men’s tendency to classify each other just as we try to classify whales. In the chapters immediately following Cetology we are given the classifications of the men on the ship. Perhaps these tangents where Ishmael makes an assumption on pretty much just his own opinion and thoughts are an example of something we all do - make conclusions on very little data and mainly our own opinions. ( A good example is in Chap 45 where he tries to convince us that Pricopius’s sea monster was a Sperm Whale. Did anyone buy his arguments there?) One more thought for now - Moby Dick is certainly an engaging book of contrasts such as Christian vs. Pagan, Civilized vs. Uncivilized, Life vs. Death, Good vs. Evil. I find numerous contrasts of life vs. death within the same event. A great example is when Tashtego is in the whale’s head which is sinking and represented as his coffin. Then suddenly events change and the head now represents a womb and life. Melville juxtaposes chapters to make the contrast stronger. Chapter 81 is a horrible story that shows some of the worst sides of whaling and whalemen while Chapter 82 is all about the honor of whaling. I am looking forward to the ending and more discussion! Jody
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (107 of 112), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 06:13 PM Jody, I liked how he classifies whales and then classifies the stauts of the men on a ship too. I don't see it it as either a strength or weakness, or too much science or not. I personally enjoyed all the "side notes" and "asides". Very many passages are geared like a play, which entertained me. I too am really enjoying all the insights of different readers here, very exciting stuff. I believe this to be one of the most delightfully written and told stories. I think there are many things about Ismaels account, he is the first to say it is just a beginning draught. I feel he means this also as a way of saying we can't always know everything, and part of being a human is beginning to classify, to measure and sometimes accept and sometimes reject our measurements. I find Ismael to be a refreshingly well adjusted character... I find this novel also terribly terribly funny, like Karens teacher...to follow...
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (108 of 112), Read 37 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 06:31 PM Some ore quick quotes and thoughts I want to consider and remember. I feel Ahab betrayed his crew in some ways by having a secret crew below. I guess it was because he anticipated some mutiny or doubts form any old crew...so he had back up scabs just in case...but I felt that was his first real bad treatment of the respect for his crew, its a give and take, and a captain can kill a mutineer, but he should have at first earned their respect across the board...(before the secret crew, we see Ahabs plotting and lying and secret plans to manipulate the crew, he has all bases covered more than the reader knows at first... A quote I feel worthy of note: "So have I seen Passion and Vanity stamping the living magnanimous earth, but the earth did not alter her tides and her seasons for that." I feel the novel differentiates between various motives for action. Its not blind action that gives meaning, as I see it. Then we have the first whaling encounter, where Ishmael boat gets wiped into Ocean and they spend the night outside...after this are some very funny, to me, scenes here begins the following chapter right after they get pulled aboard after being in the dark all night cold...I find this whole chapter "the hyena"chapter 49, hilarious...its when Ishmael makes quick to write his will, his forth will at sea. And he considers how sometimes life is a practical joke. I love this writing and scenes...how he realizes his life is at the talents of a side captain, and a mast man and the wind...It is much like descriptions my friends have told me when they joined the army and they realize what their lives depend on is a bit of luck, a leader, folly and courage...and they sort of buckle up and go for it...( or I guess its one of the same realizations that make someone go awol. heh heh) It ends with..."Now then, thought I, unconsciously rolling up the sleeves of my frock, here goes for a cool, collected dive at death and destruction, and the devil fetch the hindmost." Right after this guffah, is a conversation that I think is outstanding, droll and serious all at the same time. Perfect. "Who would have thought it, Flask!" cried Stubb; "if I had but one leg you would not catch me in a boat, unless maybe to stop the plug-hole with my timber-toe. Oh! he's a wonderful old man!" "I don't think it so strange, after all, on that account", said Flask. "If his leg were off at the hip, now, that would be a different thing. That would disable him; but he has one knee, and good part of the other left, you know." "I don't know that, my little man; I never yet saw him kneel."
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (109 of 112), Read 39 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 07:26 PM Mary Anne's point about cannibalism made me remember that I read somewhere that Melville left one whaling ship and wound up on a small island with a tribe of cannibals. They befriended him and insured his survival. So, he must have seen first hand the situation was not clear cut. As usual when reading something this complex and unusual, I find myself fascinated by the creator of it. I've glanced through a few biographies of Melville at the book store, but am making myself wait until this summer. I am particularly curious about his religious beliefs though. This book is full of comments dripping with irony about organized religion. Chapter 81, "The Jeroboam's Story" is a particularly bloodcurdling one. But, these references are scattered throughout. I agree with some of you who have said that Moby Dick is a force of nature. And, the story feels to me like a fable of the futility of man's effort to truly conquer those forces. I don't really find questions of God, Satan, evil, etc. fitting in here thus far (not finished yet, I'm on page 550). And, I'm wondering if my viewpoint is affected by my own highly agnostic beliefs or if this was Melville's intent. Barb, chuckling at Candy's comments in parenthesis about Ahab....
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (110 of 112), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, April 11, 2002 01:40 AM Thanks, Beej, Jody et alii. Jody #106 "[the book says]...that we each view life from an extremely biased perspective and that we all make life and the world appear as we would like it to." I agree and Ishmael makes this very clear in Ch. 99, The Dobloon, where several people look at the coin and each sees it differently. When Flask overhears the Manxman's interpretation, he says "There's another rendering now; but still one text. All sorts of men in one world, you see." Candy, I'm glad that you keep mentioning the humour in this book. It can't be overstated. Here are some other funny moments: - the situation of the captain going across to the gam. Ch.53 - Stubb diddles the captain of the Bouton-de-Rose and her aromatic circumstances. Ch. 91 - His experiences on the Samuel Enderby Ch 101. - When Ishmael is measuring the whale skeleton, the priests rebuke him with "Dar'st thou measure this our god! That's for us." Whereupon the priests can't agree "concerning feet and inches." Ch. 102 - -the description of the carpenter as "...like one of those unreasoning but still highly useful, multum in parvo [much in a little thing], ..." and then he makes the carpenter sound like a brainless Inspector Gadget. Ch 107 There is also constant word play throughout the book. Here are only a few examples: - Queequeg hits the mark with his harpoon and makes his mark on the contract (Ch. 18) - "...a king's head is solemnly oiled at his coronation, even as a head of salad. Can it be, though, that they anoint it with a view of making its interior run well, as they anoint machinery?" Ch. 25 - "The Rattler made a rattling voyage of it." Ch. 101 - during the discourse about the fossils of antediluvian whales and then Ishamel says "... I am by a flood borne back to that wondrous period ere time itself can be said to have begun." Ch. 104 - when Ahab realizes that there is a problem with the compass and we read, "... or if impressed, it was only with a certain magnetism shot into their congenial hearts from inflexible Ahab's." Ahab then proceeds to magnetize a needle. Ch. 124 Ishamel is a great story teller who isn't afraid of letting us know that he has had an education. The book abounds with allusions to Shakespeare, Blake, Cicero, Euclid, Descartes, etc. and I found some of these funny in their own right. I will post some later. Barb #109 I don't know about Melville's religion but I found Ishmael's attitude toward religion sensible and amusing, as in Ch. 7, when he tries to convince Queequeg, whom he calls "a sensible and sagacious savage," of the bad effects of fasting by saying that "...hell is an idea first born on an undigested apple-dumpling; and since then perpetuated through the hereditary dyspepsias nurtured by Ramadans." Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (111 of 112), Read 18 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, April 11, 2002 11:44 AM Martin, it may appear as if I have ignored your wonderful number 74 above. Actually, I printed it off and have been carrying it around since in order to reread it and ponder it. In the meantime I simply wished to make the point that on its face, this is a rollickingly good adventures story. Your questions: So what about this transcendence? Do you think it might be possible that’s what this whole book is about? You and others have noted that there seems to be little transcending here, more of the bottomless pit of nihilism. And do you think that it’s Ahab who does the transcending? Your use of the word transcendence got me thinking about Ralph Waldo Emerson and the transcendental movement with which Melville was clearly familiar. Kant was the forbear of that movement, and Melville refers to him specifically in the little reference Dean has provided us. You will recall that those folks rejected religious dogma and paradoxically also rejected reason as roads to truth. Deification of nature and intuition were what they advocated, and those landlubbers derived a touchy-feely sense of well-being about our state of affairs as a result. The sea is different thing though. It seems to me that Melville has turned transcendentalism on its head here. He has given us a work that says that if one transcends in the sense of Emerson, one is confronted with a nightmare. I would say that Ahab does transcend and detests what he finds to the bottom of his being. It is the horrifying abyss of cruelly indifferent geological time. (I think this is what he confronted while he was wrapped up in the straight jacket on the voyage back after losing his leg.) Unlike Pip though, he is unbreakable. He chooses not to go gently into that good night. His last defiant speech before the line wraps around his neck and jerks him out of the boat is something. Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (112 of 112), Read 4 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Jody Richael Date: Thursday, April 11, 2002 12:37 PM Another prominent theme in the book appears to be the power of the individual will against other forces such as chance and evil. A great insight into this is given in chapter 185 The Mat-Maker as he describes weaving. He compares weaving to three major forces is nature - necessity, chance, and will. Ishmael says that chance is the most powerful because it rules the other two. Does Moby Dick represent chance? I think religion definitely plays a part in the novel but that Melville believes religion doesn’t define a person. Ishmael seems to have been raised in a world where ’good’ people are Christians and ’evil’ people are not but he doesn‘t necessarily believe this. Ishmael runs into Queequeg who, as a pagan or savage may not be Christian in word but certainly is in deed. Then he meets Captain Bildad who is a “pious Quaker” but in fact is Christian only in word and not in deed (“to him religion and the practical world are separate”.) I think Melville is intentionally mixing up labels society gives to people and forcing his readers to rethink stereotypes. There are certainly numerous connections to the Bible throughout the book. Jody
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (113 of 145), Read 70 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Thursday, April 11, 2002 02:17 PM Thanks, Steve. I think this all ties together into the religion question that's bobbing up here. I've been meaning to do a little research on it and this is a perfect chance. My two readings as a middle-aged adult have brought to mind (ha, ha) something I heard the poet Donald Hall say: "Everything written is about the mind." I've seen such a strong Buddhist influence (Buddhism means awakened mind), yet how can this be? Thanks to whoever originally brought up the question, I'm getting my answer poking around today. In her biography Melville, Laurie Robertson-Lorant offers this: "Melville must have longed at times to dance out of his head, to escape from self consciousness, from the endless analytical thinking about thinking that bedeviled him. A creative genius who found linear, rationalistic thought frustrating, he was drawn to philosophers such as Sir Thomas Browne and Robert Burton... "In the poem and prose preface called 'Rammon,' a mythical son of Solomon who is weary of life becomes interested in Buddhism, especially the transmigration of souls, as a release from his ennui. Following in the footsteps of Siddhartha (the Buddha's last name before his mind awakened), he goes on a spiritual journey and meets Tardi, a 'suave and fluent' Tyrian importer and poet. Tardi, a lover of Buddha who avoids 'entire segments of life and thought,' tries to convince Rammon that he will find happiness in the 'Enviable Isles,'/ but the young prince decides he must live for the good that exists in his present life. (Anyone thinking of Ishmael at this point?) "'Bale out your individual boat, if you can , but the sea abides,'" the narratopr Rammon had advised in his preface, and with old age and death closing in all around, this was probably the best Melville could do." (p.600) Robertson-Lorant says that much of the Buddhist influence came through Arthur Schoepenhauer's works, especially those dealing with genius and madness, art and suicide. "Schopenhauer's philosophy appealed to Meloville because he saw in it a way to transform pessimism into a positive force for the conditioning of the soul. Strongly influenced by Buddhism, Schopenhauer argued that man's will impels him to strive incessantly and that unhappiness comes from fruistrated desire, as man rarely gets what he wants. On those rare occasions when a man does fulfill his desires, he immediately ceases to feel happy because the absence of striving leads to ennui and emptiness. Fulofillment is an illusory goal, but even so, man must not despair." (p.606)
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (114 of 145), Read 68 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Thursday, April 11, 2002 02:40 PM I also did a little digging in Shopenhauer's work The World as Will and Representation and find this: "...plurality of the homogeneous becomes possible only through time and space, i.e., through the forms of our knowledge. Space first arises by the knowing subject seeing outwards; it is the manner in which the subject apprehends something as different from itself. But we just now saw that knowledge in general is conditioned by plurality and difference. Therefore knowledge and plurality, or individuation, stand and fall together, for they condition each other. It is to be concluded from this that, beyond the phenomenon, in the true being-in-itself of all things, to which time and space, and therefore plurality, must be foreign, there cannot exist any knowledge. Buddhism describes this as Prajna Paramita, i.e., that which is beyond all knowledge." (Behind the mask?) Accordingly, a 'knowledge of things-in-themselves' in the b being-in-itself of things begins, knowledge ceases, and all knowledge primarily and essentially concerns merely phenomena. For it springs from a limitation, by which it is rendered necessary, in order to extend the limits." Sorry to go on at such length, but I think this sheds a great deal of light on Moby Dick.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (118 of 145), Read 61 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Thursday, April 11, 2002 04:33 PM This last passage from Schopenhauer, shall we call him Arty?, helps describe the significance of what many readers describe as tangents -- especially the passages that go on in such detail about the whale. At the outset, under Extracts, provided by a sub-sub-librarian, we get a catalogue of accumulated knowledge about the whale. It is presented as "valuable or entertaining, as affording a glancing bird's eye view of what has been promiscuously said, thought, fancied, and sung of Leviathan, by many nations and generations, including our own." In short, it's knowledge, a collage if you will, defined by the lines referenced by Arty that serve as the predication for knowledge. And it concludes with this little song: "Oh, the rare old Whale, mid storm and gale In his ocean home will be A giant in might, where might is right, And King of the boundless sea. Note the capitalization of Whale and King. It seems to me an indication that this whale is metaphor of that essential spirit of being that transcends knowledge of which Arty writes, and to which Ahab alludes in the behind-the-mask speech on the quarter deck. Also see the Moby Dick chapter: "One of the wild suggesting referred to, as at last coming to be linked with the White Whale in the minds of the superstitiously inclined, was the unearthly conceit that Mobyh Dick was ubiquitous; that he had actually been encountered in opposite lattitudes at one and the same instant of time." The landed world, a world defined by boundaries, is one of separation based on knowledge (some of it laughably wrong, some incomplete like all knowledge). This grounded and chopped up world is what Ishmael finds confining, just as Robertson-Lorant speculates that Melville would have liked to dance out of his head. In The Monstrous Pictures of Whales, Ishmael concludes: "Leviathan is that one creature in the world which must remain unpainted to the last. True, one portrait may hit the mark much nearer than another, but none can hit it with any very considerable degree of exactness. So there is no earthly way of finding out precisely what the whale really looks like. And the only mode in which you can derive even a tolerable idea of his living contour,m is by going a whaling yourself; but by so doing, you run no small risk of being eternally stove and sunk by him. Wherefore, it seems to me you had best not be too fastidious in your curiosity touching this Leviathan." Two important things here. It's the experience, as Dean indicated above, that renders up a true understanding of the whale's contours. And yes, that's metaphorical. But also, as the author Bruce Olds asked: How do you write about that which is beyond words? That which is beyond the mask. The being that Schopenhauer, Buddhism, and Melville indicate exists in us all. Melville's answer is that you write about all that surrounds it and that can be described in words, pictures, dissections, and all the other ways that man tries to punch through the mask. The illusion of the physical world is not separate from the being behind the mask. It's a condition that defines the being behind the mask. And studying that condition is the equivalent of going whaling to know the whale's contour. Study the conditions (mask) that define the being and you can know the being. Write about the mask, and you will describe what lies behind it.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (115 of 145), Read 69 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, April 11, 2002 02:51 PM Just out of curiosity, do your editions use Roman numerals for the chapter numbers or not? My version was printed in 1950, and uses Roman numerals. I would guess that is how Melville wrote it. Are Roman numerals even taught in schools these days? Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (116 of 145), Read 65 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, April 11, 2002 03:57 PM I have Roman numerals too, but then each chapter has words for numbers. Thats why it has taken so long for me to look up chapters, heh heh. I was sitting and working outthe Roman numerals all last week till I noticed the others...
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (117 of 145), Read 69 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, April 11, 2002 04:00 PM I am glad Steve brought up the question of Martins about whether acentraltheme in this book is transcendence...it is a lot to think about. Martin, I have really been getting into your quotes of Buddhism and Schopenhauer . I was reading a lot of Schopenhauer a couple of years ago. Fascinating thinker. I also was thinking about how well read Ishmael is, and finding it charming. Alos a lot of reference to Canadian locations. Hey, you know the classics, Schpenhauer, Canada, it all makes sense...
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (119 of 145), Read 64 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, April 11, 2002 06:48 PM Martin, Somehow I missed Arty(that is easier for me to spell, thats for sure)the last post of yours about transcendence and...I posted before you did, but they are now after your posts... all I can respond to your last post around 4:30...is that I had tears. Take that however you like, but the ideas stir something in me that I can not at this moment respond with logic or words. All of what you said is exactly why I return to certain novels over and over. Hey, and they happen to be guy books too. Heck, I should have been born a man, I drink beer, hate shopping and don't like to talk about my feelings. Plus, I like man's mans books. Off to cry some more and scratch my crotch and burp. That was an awesome post Martin!!!(post 118) More later...
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (120 of 145), Read 59 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Thursday, April 11, 2002 07:10 PM I've been puzzling through these notes for a while tonight. What a lot to think about.... As at least one of the people who posed the question about Melville's religious beliefs, I appreciate your research, Martin. I think I understand the first quote from Schopenhauer about striving and frustrated desire. I can see that tie-in with the novel. However, I'm not sure I'm understanding the second longer quote. Was his point that nothing can ever be completely perceived or was he only referring to a deity? I really do see the tie-in with the "tangents" now though. It makes a lot more sense. In fact, it might be possible to plug most of my questions into this theme. However, I'm starting to think that Melville probably didn't have one overriding theme here. Barb
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (121 of 145), Read 59 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Thursday, April 11, 2002 07:14 PM Mary Anne and Candy, I distinctly remember learning Roman Numerals in school (and kind of liking them for some odd reason, like a puzzle) and I still got mixed up in an earlier note. I was reading L as 100, instead of 50, and referred to something being in Chapter 132 or something similar. Everyone was gracious as usual and didn't correct me though. I also remember, at least, one of my sons being exposed to Roman Numerals a few years ago but not with much emphasis. Barb
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (122 of 145), Read 57 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Thursday, April 11, 2002 10:07 PM "I'm starting to think that Melville probably didn't have one overriding theme here." You're absolutely right, Barb. But there is a symmetry to Moby Dick - the symmetry of yin and yang. Several upthread have mentioned the juxtapositioning of opposites in the text. And the opposites act on one another to define one another. This is the mid-point of the yin and yang process that we all know, the symbol of the circle with the white and black sections spooning around one another and the dot of the opposing color within the other color, all symbolizing not only the influence opposites have on one another, but also that there's a little of the opposite within. But that doesn't tell the whole story. Before that phase there is a small barely deciferable ball. Then the mid-phase discussed above. And finally another black dot. The saying is that before the mind is awakened, the mountain is a mountain. After the mind is awakened, the mountain is a mountain. It's in that mid-phase that we discern the opposites influencing and flowing into one another. Yet the second dot is much different than the first (although they look exactly the same), because we have been through the experience defined in the mid-phase. Regardless of whether Melville was thinking of yin and yang, in his book we have at the outset Ishmael -- as Dean so rightly points out, set apart from others like his biblical namesake. We see him evolve as he reveals his knowledge. Particularly in the early chapters we see this meditation (that's how I think of Moby Dick) unfold. We see opposites percolate into that mid-phase whose symbol adorns so many key chains. And as the hunt builds to its moment of resolution they all are absorbed in that final black dot (aren't we all?). In the end, Ishmael's voice is left. But is it the same Ishmael as at the outset? After the experience of reading the book, as Steve mentions, yes, in many senses he is the same Ishmael. But, then again, no he isn't. Much has been experienced. And all the themes unfold within that framework. Barb -- the second quote from Arty is phenomenological in nature, and boils down to this: Form is emptiness Emptiness is form Form is none other than emptiness Emptiness is none other than form It seems to me that Melville had a grasp on this (it's from the Heart Sutra). He was a man whose poles were set far apart. Perhaps far enough apart to incorporate an experience of this. Again, experience is the key to fully grasping this. As Buddhist teachers constantly remind their students, this is not an intellectual exercise. When you experience it, then you have achieved it. On the question of transcendence, I think Ishmael/Melville has achieved much in this regard.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (123 of 145), Read 54 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, April 11, 2002 11:02 PM A short cruise on the net tells me that 2002 is MOBY DICK YEAR. By whose designation, I've yet to determine. In honor of this discusssion, I've found a few poems on the MB/Melville theme, and shall be posting them over on the Poetry Conference. Keep your eyes peeled, mateys! Ruth He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. Rafael Sabatini, Scaramouche
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (124 of 145), Read 62 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Friday, April 12, 2002 07:19 AM Just caught up with this great discussion. Lots to digest... Martin- You hit upon what might be a near-motto for the book: '...this is not an intellectual exercise. When you experience it, then you have achieved it.' Problem being that the ambitious Melville probably was trying to achieve both spiritual and intellectual transcendence... dangerous and contradictory goals that can drive one mad (see 'Pierre'). In 'Ahab & the Carpenter' Ahab jokes about making a man 50 ft. high, chest like the Thames Tunnel, 'arms 3 ft. through the wrist, no heart at all, brass forehead, and about a quarter of an acre of fine brains...' but NO eyes to 'see outward' ...he gets a skylight on top of his head to illuminate inwards. In Ahab's fantasy his 'creation' gets no eyes for watching for whales or horizons or storms... he gets a lamp that shines clear through the really threatening landscape of himself. Melville sees the glory and the folly of Ahab's intellect-heavy quest... so Melville is on a multi-dimensional/faceted/pathed quest. Interestingly, the chapter before 'the Carpenter', 'Ahab's Leg', gives an unmistakable prediction of the end of all too-intellectual quests... Ahab's ivory leg shifts off-center underneath him and gores him from below. He spends months in anguished recovery (or decovery) prior to sailing. A terrible accident, definitely adding insult to injury... but how infernally ironic to Ahab it must've been, this suspicious reader-into-things... it must've seemed like the whale had harpooned him! I can almost hear Hell's laughter echoing through his head. Or, as Melville said: 'The ineffacable, sad birthmark in the brow of man is but the stamp of sorrow in the signers.'
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (125 of 145), Read 64 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Nancy Nesbit mrs bracegirdle@aol.com Date: Friday, April 12, 2002 08:22 AM Ahoy the ship! I'm coming on board...
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (126 of 145), Read 65 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Nancy Nesbit mrs bracegirdle@aol.com Date: Friday, April 12, 2002 08:28 AM Sad, sad the human soul to whom the mighty avalanche of words found in Moby Dick says nothing.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (127 of 145), Read 54 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Friday, April 12, 2002 12:50 PM Welcome Nancy. I think you'll find this crew more energetic, more imaginative, and more insightful than previous virtual sailings. Sad? Really. Because I think behind the mask, Ishmael finds a boundless expanse and little else. What I find interesting is that from the crow's nest here that is regarded as nihilistic, or sad. More on that later. I've been on the trail Steve suggested, Emerson, and his transcendental influence, if any. The biographer Robertson-Lorant doesn't offer a lot, other than that Melville read Emerson's essays. But I did find this in regard to Melville's publication of a collection of poems in Sept. 1866 called Battle Pieces: "Henry Gansevoort thought the volume had 'some beautiful things in it' despite 'so much of Emerson & transcendentalism in his writing that it never (would) touch the common heart.'" But I also found this: "By portraying himself as a mad 'scribbler,' Melville was acknowledging the Dionysian wildness that impelled him to mix epic, satire, and poetry with nautical adventure. The enormous bursts of creativity he experienced, plus the never-forgotten horror of his father's derangement, constantly made him wonder how deep a 'thought-diver' could go without falling into the abyss. Now isn't that notion of a thought-diver interesting, especially in light of his plumbing of the depths in MD, and Pip's previously cited dip in the deep dark sea. And finally this on the reception and earnings from MD: In it's first month, Moby Dick sold 1,500 copies, 2,300 in the next 18 mos., and 5,500 in the next 50 years. For his efforts, Melville netted (I hope you're sitting down) $556.37 initially. His lifetime earnings from Moby Dick amounted to $1,260. Another $81.06 was paid to his widow after his death in royalties.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (128 of 145), Read 56 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, April 12, 2002 01:11 PM Martin, I have read before about the pitifully weak sales of Moby Dick during Melville's lifetime but did not have the precise figures until now. Thank you. I think we can say that Melville's was generally a miserable life, partly as a result of his own personality. It makes me wish that I could revive him for five or ten minutes. As his eyes fluttered open, I would lean over and whisper in his ear, "Hey, Herman, it's 2002. Rest easy from now on. You are the author of the greatest American novel ever written!" Steve
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (129 of 145), Read 55 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dick Haggart Date: Friday, April 12, 2002 01:38 PM I was reading something the other day regarding Melville's writing style -- obsessive, perseverant writing and rewriting, with his wife doing the transcription of his illegible scrawls. The same piece also suggested that Melville was abusive in his relationship with his wife. Knowing nothing about Melville's personal life, I still found this interesting -- suggesting that at some level the various characters of MB not only inhabit Melville's imagination but are part and parcel of his own personality and that his novel is metaphor for his own life, with Ahab, Starbuck and Moby Dick, among others, locked inside his skull in eternal, raging conflict. Dick
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (130 of 145), Read 60 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Friday, April 12, 2002 01:56 PM Thanks for all the wonderful background. Martin. Concerning transcendentalism it seems to me that the novel is warning us away from it. Ishmael talks to Queequeg to get him to give up his fasting. Ahab, also, seeks to distance himself from human experience as when he tosses away his pipe. Unfortunately, the social structure of the ship does not permit Ishmael to talk sense to him. Ch. 35 ends with a direct warning against it: There is no life in thee, now, except that rocking life imparted by a gently rolling ship; by her, borrowed from the sea; by the sea, from the inscrutable tides of God. But while this sleep, this dream is on ye, move your foot or hand an inch; slip your hold at all; and your identity comes back in horror. Over Descartian vortices you hover. And perhaps, at midday, in the fairest weather, with one half-throttled shriek you drop through that transparent air into the summer sea, no more to rise for ever. Heed it well, ye Pantheists! As for yin-yang, Ahab's transcendence lets him see it very well, Ch 133, p.792 MLC Ye two are the opposite poles of one thing; Starbuck is Stubb reversed, and Stubb is Starbuck; and ye two are all mankind; and Ahab stands alone among the millions of the peopled earth, nor gods nor men his neighbors! And so the message seems to be that transcendence is the way to the vortex. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (131 of 145), Read 60 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Friday, April 12, 2002 02:56 PM Ishmael is like the Ancient Mariner except that I would invite Ishmael to the wedding. He mentions many great thinkers by name and makes indirect reference to many others.Here are a few of the references which struck me. Ch. 81, p. 516 MLC, " ... the shadows that the three boats sent down beneath the surface, must have been long enough and broad enough to shade half Xerxes' army." Cicero, in his Tusculan Discourses, relates this anecdote about the Battle of Thermopylae. A small band of Spartans led by Leonidas had to hold the narrow mountain pass against the invading Persian army of Xerxes which numbered in the tens of thousands. Xerxes said to the Spartans, "Our army is so great that you will not be able to see the sky because of our arrows." Whereupon, a Spartan soldier shouted, "Then we will fight in the shade." Leonidas added, "Fight bravely, Spartans, today perhaps we will dine with the shades." They were all killed but had managed to hold the Persian army long enough to allow large Greek army to mobilize and defeat the Persians. Ch. 108, p.678 MLC Ahab says, "By heavens! I'll get a crucible, and into it, and dissolve myself down to one small, compendious vertebra." This reminded me of the opening of Hamlet's soliloquy in Act 1,Sc.2, O, that this too too solid flesh would melt Thaw and resolve itself into a dew! Both Ahab and Hamlet are frustrated in their ambitions to the point of evaporation. This one made me laugh out loud. Compare the opening line of Ch.108 "Drat the file, and drat the bone!" to "The Tyger" by William Blake, especially line 1 of verse 4 http://www.geocities.com/Athens/6181/tyger_tyger.html And don't forget Anacharsis Clootz, Ch.27, p.174 MLC http://www.bartleby.com/65/cl/Clootz.html Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (133 of 145), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, April 12, 2002 03:37 PM More great posts to catch up on, this place is hopping! Dean and all, I feel that there are insights into motivation of whale hunting and degrees of its worthiness-deliverance in the book. Many references to war and money are made with whaling. There is a difference made to whaling for food and heat. But then there is whaling for the motives of revenge, and these are seen as vanity and ego. This is qualified also in the search and attainment of transcendence. When the passage Dean quotes about the abyss then offers horror when one sees ones identity. It is identity and ego, as opposed to blankness, whiteness, infinity, or transcendence that is the horror. Martin, I was not feeling teary because I was "sad" but rather because I had an emotional response to reading many thoughts here about transcendence and this novel. I do not see transcendence or going for the abyss as sad. I think the horror is the far space between the motives of say, Ahab, or many seeekers and the space towards a feeling of abyss. Part of the horror is seeing how we are not above the world. The revenge motives sink all action. For all the bravery of facing nature, it is also an act of ignorance that we are just as much involved in the abyss as the stare of a whale. I like what you said Martin about reading this book being a form of meditation. I feel that way about all my favorite books. It is an act of surrender to read this novel...just to take each episode and anecdote and description and let the book do all the work, rather than the reader. I feel that Melville must have been terribly open to other forms of spirituality, and this impresses me as I read Moby Dick(or another favorite of mine The Confidence Man). I know nothing about his life, I would have to go out of my way to even know what year he was born, I am not big on bios as many of you know. It made me feel very sad to t hink of Melville being cruel to his family...he can NOT be Captain Claggart! say it ain't so! Or that he made no money on sales for Moby Dick. And Steve, I agree with you, this is the greatest American novel.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (134 of 145), Read 55 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, April 12, 2002 03:41 PM Oops, speaking of transcendence, I seem to have entered some parallel universe, where I think I'm losing posts, but I am not. So I landed up kind of repeating myself here in two separate posts. Sorry about that. Plus, I have two sets of the same posts here in classics corner. Very weird, the horror, the horror!
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (138 of 145), Read 54 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Nancy Nesbit mrs bracegirdle@aol.com Date: Friday, April 12, 2002 10:42 PM "Ishmael is like the Ancient Mariner except that I would invite Ishmael to the wedding." I like that line, Dean. Thanks for the welcome Martin. I was in the midst of an intense read of James' " The Ambassadors" when I saw your signal flag. It will take a little mental adjustment to get my sea legs back. My admiration for Mr. Melville and his book is based on the fact that he is the most original of American authors that I have ever read. Melville may have been influenced by wide reading but who else but he would have thought to cobble together such an oddly passionate book about whaling. Although to call "Moby Dick" a book about whaling is much like calling "Gone With the Wind" a book about the Civil War. In either case the ostensible reason for the book is a mere peg to hang quite another tale on.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (139 of 145), Read 48 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Nancy Nesbit mrs bracegirdle@aol.com Date: Saturday, April 13, 2002 12:09 AM "Moby Dick" inspires us with terror and pity as any great tragedy should. It is funny and furious, too. It isn't sad any more than life is sad. It just is what it is. I read "Moby Dick" in one week and breathlessly. I would never have guessed that it would prove to be a page turner but it got my attention almost instantly and held it till the Pequod sank from sight. I learned, at fifty, to trust my author. I close my eyes, so to speak, and make a leap of faith. I don't fight him and I don't keep running to critics or biographers to find out what the author intended or what I should think. I let the book tell me what the author wanted me to know. If I don't get their message, I am apparently not worthy of it.
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (140 of 145), Read 42 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, April 13, 2002 02:37 AM Hi Nancy, welcome to Constant Reader and Moby Dick! All, One thing about Ishmael I find so interesting, he's more than cosmopolitan and well-read. He is what I always thought of as a contemporary event. The recognizing of other cultures language and art forms as "equal" in artistic merit and cultural significance. he seems to be so modern....like an anthropologist. One bit he says how the carving on a weapon is as grand as the Latin lexicon. It stuck out of the page at me...he says several things like that throughout the book. Beej has a poem about Moby Dick in poetry section and something she says and something the poem says have me thinking... The kind of ego and self elation the whale hunters have is so different than hunters of the pacific west coast, or aboriginal hunting accounts. It was spiritual, not for ego boosting, but spiritual because the blood of the whale must be got, yet it was for food. The aboriginal hunters had ceremonies to respect the death of the animal. These hunters seem more like the cartoon versions of deer hunters shooting each other, and deer and keeping the horns and leaving the rest of the animal in the woods. They are killing to find out and prove their own existence...as if they are already cut off from experience...Ahab seems out of touch with being alive...a very dangerous thing in a hunter or a warrior!!!! (I mean no disrespect to hunters who hunt for food, I feel that is an honorable and necessary activity-I have no respect obviously for those who leave food behind and only keep a "trophy") To me Ahab is a trophy hunter at times, not a whaler...or fisherman...
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (141 of 145), Read 15 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, April 13, 2002 09:53 AM Welcome, Nancy! Is this your first trip to Constant Reader? I voted for The Ambassadors when it was up for the CC list this year but it didn't make the cut. I hope it will be back on the nomination list next year. I agree with you that there needs to be a sense of just releasing yourself to the author. And, I try not to read biographies or criticism while I'm actually reading the book. However, I often pick up a biography afterward if the author's originality and creativity fascinate me. I really hate the deconstruction efforts that reach to assign contemporary political sensitivities though. Some of the recent writing about Willa Cather drives me up the wall. Barb
Topic: Moby Dick - April Discussion (142 of 145), Read 11 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, April 13, 2002 10:07 AM This discussion of yin and yang as it applies to Moby Dick and, particularly, Ishmael makes sense to me. He seems to alternate intense analysis (that's not quite the word, but I can't think of a better one) with self-mocking irony. Barb
Topic: post new notes under Moby cont. (143 of 145), Read 18 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, April 13, 2002 10:08 AM Something very strange is going on with the Moby Dick thread (threads). Most of the notes have been duplicated under a second thread, but not all. I wonder if there is a system limitation involving the number of notes under any one thread. In an attempt to prevent any more notes from being lost, please post all new notes under the Moby cont thread that I just set up. Ann
Topic: post new notes under Moby cont. (144 of 145), Read 12 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Nancy Nesbit mrs bracegirdle@aol.com Date: Saturday, April 13, 2002 10:40 AM Okay. Let's see what happens... Thanks for the nice welcome, Candy and Barb. This is my first visit to Constant Reader. It will take me awhile to get used to the art of posting here but am nothing daunted as long as I can talk about books with intelligent readers. Martin once happened upon me in another readers' forum surrounded by a pack of Moby hating philistines snapping at my heels and making insulting remarks about Melville's use of the English language. Just like Dudley Dooright, he came to my rescue and we have been on good terms since.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (5 of 14), Read 33 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, April 13, 2002 02:37 PM Nancy, let me add my welcome to Constant Reader. I hope you stay for more than just the Moby Dick thread. Why don't you post a note under the "Welcome" Conference and tell us a bit about yourself and what you're reading. Sherry
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (6 of 14), Read 31 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Saturday, April 13, 2002 03:33 PM Thanks, Nancy, and welcome. I share your approach to reading. I even avoid reading introductions until after I've finished the book. Candy, you expressed an opinion about the novel "despite Ishmael's musings" but Ishmael's voice should not be so readily discounted because his voice is Melville's voice. This becomes apparent as we go farther into the story. Not only are the dramatizations Melville but Melville's voice becomes more prominent as we are told more and more things which Ishmael could not possibly have known. Ishmael fades and Melville appears. This is what Ishmael tells us about good whaling and bad whaling: Ch. 82, p. 524 MLC. "The gallant Perseus, a son of Jupiter, was the first whaleman; and to the eternal honor of our calling be it said, that the first whale attacked by our brotherhood was not killed with any sordid intent. Those were the knightly days of our profession, when we only bore arms to succor the distressed, and not to fill men's lamp-feeders." In other words, the only time whaling was pure was in myth. And we may well ask, is there more honour in hunting down a blind mutilated whale for its oil or going after the most dangerous whale who will after all be used to feed the same lamps? We can try to get away from the sordidness by leaving land and going on a ship, and leaving the deck to sit atop the mast and feel ourselves at peace and unity. What brings us back is not the return of identity but the horror of death, the root of all sordidness. There is no escaping the riskiness of life Ch. 47, p.311 MLC "... this easy, indifferent sword must be chance-- aye, chance, free will, and necessity--no wise incompatible-- all interweavingly working together." After his first lowering, Ch.48, Ishmael comes to terms with this and in Ch.49 he tells us of his "desperado philosophy" seeing as even belonging "... to this uncommonly prudent Starbuck's boat" did little to shield him from risk as he imagined that it would. He was kidding himself. Ch.49 ends with "Now then, thought I, unconsciously rolling up the sleeves of my frock, here goes for a cool, collected dive at death and destruction, and the devil fetch the hindmost." He can't run from it and he can't kid himself any longer so the best he can do is face it with as much preparation as possible. I think that you judge Ahab too harshly. Ahab is the only one who gives the whale any reverence. We see this in his soliloquy in Ch.70 The Sphynx. We should also consider the gams. Every ship which has lowered for Moby Dick has suffered losses. Each story justifies Ahab in his quest. I would compare Ahab to every person of great accomplishment. Each one took er cause personally. Each one in turn acted as a lightning rod through which all around them were roused to action. That they did not succeed should not be the only criterion for judgement. As an example coeval with Melville, consider Sir John Franklin. His last expedition on the ships Erebus and Terror set sail to the north from Greenhithe in Kent on 19 May 1845. On July 26, the captain of a whaling ship saw them off the coast of Baffin Island. This is the last time the ships or the men were ever seen. http://www.nmm.ac.uk/education/fact_files/fact_franklin.html Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (7 of 14), Read 31 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, April 13, 2002 05:11 PM Oh jeez, Dean, I have been so turned around with the double threads here, and I do not remember WHY I said, despite Ishmael...oops I am taking your insight into Ahab very seriously. Really, and will re-read your last post a coupe of times okay? Perhaps I am too hard on Ahab, but I don't trust him. I wouldn't want to go to sea with him, or be ina battle situation with him. I feel those are very dangerous places to have such an ego maniacal leader. Bad news, but let me think about this okay? I make no argument that his "will" is what people admire about him...I respect that kind of will to power too...but...I believe there are parallels of will in the novel...but wait,
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (8 of 14), Read 30 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Saturday, April 13, 2002 06:33 PM Candy, there is no doubt that Ahab is terrifying. When Ishmael sees him he comes face to face with implacable will from which Starbuck also retreated. For the first time, Ishmael faces something with which his philosophy, reasoning and affable nature cannot arrive at a compromise the way he did with the outwardly terrifying Queequeg. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (9 of 14), Read 28 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, April 13, 2002 07:00 PM Dean, Right,I see where you are going...I am still thinking... Seen any whales lately out there in Vancouver? This book has really made me miss being out on the west coast, I spent a fair bit of my time there out on the water, watching seals, otters, whales, octopi...ah I miss it...
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (10 of 14), Read 28 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Saturday, April 13, 2002 07:07 PM I like to look at the ocean but I rarely venture out onto it. I prefer greenery to watery. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (11 of 14), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Saturday, April 13, 2002 09:05 PM A safe answer. What's interesting is to compare Ahab's and Ishmael's motivations for the hunt. Yes, Ishmael hunts the whale: "I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and could still be social with it - would they let me - since it is but will to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one lodges in. "By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, midmost of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air." Essentially he's going for the same reason as Ahab. Ahab wishes to punch through the mask to discover the being behind. But what I think differentiates the two is that where Ahab writes "monster" on the whale's brow, where Ishmael sees the whale's noble nature. In the end, I think it's Ismael who, if he hasn't actually punched through the mask, at least has bridged the distinction between the mask and the being behind it.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (12 of 14), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Sunday, April 14, 2002 09:05 PM I’m reading MOBY DICK oh so slowly. I’m voyaging to the chase, entering into the whaling experience haltingly, first by fiction, then by fact, spits and spurts, filling in my awareness of as outrageous a profession as ever there was. Splendid, frustrating and poetic. I remember that the latter portion of BILLY BUDD really soared; the narrative just took off and by the conclusion I was in full flight. So far MOBY DICK has narrative hiccups interspersed with voluminous interludes of information. Melville reserves his magnificent economy for the storyline only, almost as a tease. But I’m happy to be on board. Robt
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (13 of 14), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Sunday, April 14, 2002 09:13 PM Oh, and I have to quote Dick from an above post because it’s a brilliant remark: “The difference between Ahab and the judge [from BLOOD MERIDIAN,] in my mind, is that Ahab is a human possessed by his demons whereas the judge is a demon possessed of his humans…..their actions and characters spring from two fundamentally different sources.” Robt
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (14 of 14), Read 4 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Marty Priola mpriola@midsouth.rr.com Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 06:00 AM Hoping I'm in the right place to post notes. I'm starting the book soon. I hope, this time, to be able to make it through. But, as I'm about to start, and as I didn't see it mentioned anywhere else, I think I'll ramble a bit about the first sentence. "Call me Ishmael." My inferences: "My name may be Ishmael, but it's just as likely that it isn't. For the purposes of this story, you the reader will need a name whereby you can identify me. So we'll use Ishmael." The name itself is fraught with meaning, the most prominent being that of the perinnial outsider or outcast. (I can elaborate more on this, viz. sources and whatnot, if anyone wants it.) This all reminds me of the priest's tale in Cormac McCarthy's The Crossing. It ends thus: What the priest saw at last was that the lesson of a life can never be its own. Only the witness has power to take its measure. It is lived for the other only. The priest therefore saw what the anchorite could not. That God needs no witness. Neither to Himself nor against. The truth is rather that if there were no God then there could be no witness for there could be no identity to the world but only each man's opinion of it. the priest saw that there is no man who is elect because there is no man who is not. To God every man is a heretic. Ther heretic's first act is to name his brother. So that he may step free of him. Every word we speak is a vanity. Every breath taken that does not bless is an affront. Bear closely with me now. There is another who will hear what you never spoke. Stones themselves are made of air. What they have power to crush never lived. In the end we shall all of us be only what we have made of God. For nothing is real save his grace. —Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing, 158. As McCarthy's known to be a devotee of Melville's, it seems only fair to bring him into the discussion (again). —idjp
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (15 of 49), Read 90 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 11:50 AM Robert and all, Sometimes I find myself thinking....why? Why did he write all these sections of information, and turning over information. Maybe its part of naming. Ishmael is naming everything he can about the whales. And what other book is like this? At least does anybody think of some other novels, written before or around the same time as this one that have similar ways of telling the story. Is Beowulf like this-having the three sections? I don't know...I just am fascinated that he wrote this book in this way. It in so many ways has minimal plot... still thinking...
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (16 of 49), Read 88 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 01:04 PM Somerset Maugham addresses this question in his 1948 essay on the novel, Candy. At the risk of riling Martin, here is what he had to say on the subject. Montgomery Belgion in a sensible introduction to a recent edition of Moby Dick has suggested that since it is a tale of pursuit and the end of the pursuit must be perpetually delayed, Melville wrote the chapters dealing with the natural history of the whale, its size, skeleton, and what not, to do this. I don't believe it. If he had any such purpose, during the three years he spent in the Pacific he must surely have witnessed incidents or been told tales that he could have used more fitly to effect it. I should have said that Melville wrote these particular chapters for the simple reason that he could not resist bringing into the work he was writing any piece of information that interested him. For my part I can read all but one, that which deals with the whiteness of the whale, with interest; but it cannot be denied that they are digressions which impede the narrative. . . . If he composed Moby Dick in the way he did, it is because that is how he wanted it. You must take it or leave it. He would not be the first novelist to say: "Well, I might write a more satisfactory book if I did this, that, or the other as you suggest. I daresay you're perfectly right, but this is how I like it and this is how I'm going to do it, and if other people don't like it I can't help it, and what's more, I don't care." To my way of thinking, that is as cogent a way to look at this issue as any other. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (17 of 49), Read 84 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 01:07 PM Marty, That passage is really something from The Crossing. I think it speaks very much to the exploration of naming and fact finding in Moby Dick. I believe Martin has said a lot about this with his idea of Melville saying everything all around a subject while the real face is under that mask of words and facts etc... Dean, I am still thinking about the differences between Ahab and Ishmael, and asking myself if I am unfair to Ahab. I think there is a different and important separation between what Ishmael knows of whales and what Ahab knows of whales. I am not sure I can agree that Ahab is more respectful. I think Martins last post about their approaches says it better than I can. I am hoping to track down two examples, but of course that means me sorting out all the post it notes I have going on my poor weathered copy right now, which is about to fall apart... I love all these voices here and ideas about this book, ya hoo-keep going Robert!
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (18 of 49), Read 83 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 01:15 PM Oh Hi, there Steve with the interesting quote. Hm, it is as cogent a way of looking at it as any. True. But why do I keep feeling he is messing with the pace of what we expect a story to be? I feel its almost downright deconstructive this novel! But how could that be when Mons. Lyotard was many years away from being born! ha ha and not yet invented deconstruction!? It seems to me that he is like Oliver Stone here, with odd bits and montages and juxtapositions....determined to put a stop to the kind of fast paced adventure story he is also able to pull off in his sleep...he is messing with narrative, and plot demands of readers here, he is the anti-Dickens! and yet Ishmael seems as Dickenslike as they come... just thinking out loud LOVE that quote business...got any more?
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (19 of 49), Read 84 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 01:28 PM I was also thinking how all the chapters on whales etc etc that (hey has anyone ever re-written Moby Dick, without all those information chapters...just the politics and relationships and major plot, that would be a funny exercise)reminded me that maybe all that information is supposed to be like unified theory...like an Aleph? here is short story link...what do you think? http://www.phinnweb.com/links/literature/borges/aleph.html
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (20 of 49), Read 85 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 01:37 PM As a matter of fact, I do, Candy. I also ran across a very interesting essay on the novel done in 1943 by Clifton Fadiman, which relates in a way to your question. This short excerpt does not do justice to his overall thesis, but I will put it up nonetheless: It is generally recognized that the canons of the ordinary novel do not apply to Moby Dick. If we applied them we should be forced to put it down as an inept, occasionally powerful, but on the whole puzzling affair. This was the conventional opinion up to two decades ago. During those decades we have discovered Moby Dick to be a masterpiece. What caused this shift in perspective? To put it simply, we discovered how Moby Dick should be read. We must read it not as if it were a novel but as if it were a myth. A novel is a tale. A myth is a disguised method of expressing mankind's deepest terrors and longings. The myth uses narrative form, and is often mistaken for true narrative. Once we feel the truth of this distinction, the greatness of Moby Dick becomes manifest: we have learned how to read it. Moby Dick is a myth of Evil and Tragedy, as the Christian epic is a myth of Good and Salvation. "Both the ancestry and posterity of Grief go further than the ancestry and posterity of Joy," thinks Ahab; and this central brooding conviction threads every page of the story, even when it seems most concerned with try-pots, harpoons, and sperm oil. So yes, this novel is like the Aleph. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (21 of 49), Read 84 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 01:38 PM And couldn't the Internet be a version of an aleph... What would Melville think of the internet? And Steve, when you whispered in his ear about his novel is the greatest American novel you could also tell him how whales are worshipped revered and protected...much to do with his novel, I suspect. And what about the coffee icon, that adopted a character who also represents the coffee corporations mission statement to not damage the earth while serving hot brew while they sought their own ambitions...?
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (22 of 49), Read 86 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 01:42 PM Ah we are posting at the same time again...I am madly catching upp to your posts. Thank you, that is wonderful. You know what, I am having a really hard time reading those italics. Is that some special font or something...different than the standard fare around here?or do I need to get my eyes checked?
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (23 of 49), Read 87 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 01:54 PM You will forgive me, ma'am, if I suggest that you are coming on an age when it is time to look into a cheap set of reading glasses. That would by no means be an admission of defeat. A strength of about 150, I would guess. One can acquire a set for less than ten US dollars. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (24 of 49), Read 87 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 02:58 PM Ha, ha, Steve. If Somerset is right -- and he's not at least not wholly -- then it's true, a reader can skip over those parts and miss little, or nothing. Melville has just out Franzened Franzen and all the other post modern writers who like to show off. But I have a question: Can you really read this, skip the parts in question, and still have the same experience? I can't. And I think I know why. Let try to explain by looking at the issue askance. In some forms of meditation, visualization is used, in addition to chanting mantras, and sitting quietly; all during the same session. In the visualization, a detailed image is formed in the mind. The more detailed, the better, because it enhances how deep into the mind the meditator is able to dive. As the visualization, through repeated practice, becomes more detailed, so the mind is affected in ways the practitioner could never have guessed. They range from sharper vision and thinking, to a sense of alert peace from the perception of living in an ever larger space. And I think the chapters are integral in helping create that affect. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I will profess to practicing the type of meditation to which I refer. But my brother, who is strongly opposed to practicing any kind of meditation, is the one who first brought the significance of the chapters about the whale to my attention. For instance, in practicing a meditation on a figure representing compassion, it's possible to feel ever more compassionate. The will is steered and guided. The same is true of Moby Dick. By contemplating this vision of the whale, it's possible to a large degree to see and experience Melville's perspective of what lies behind the mask. And that's the real magic of this book, at least for this half-blind reader. A second benefit is that it gives us the scientific view of the whale. We also have the commercial. The mystical. The poetic, just to name a few perspectives that come to mind. So many perspectives are needed to create the experience. Maybe it's possible to read only parts and come away from the experience having gained some meaningful insight. But I'm skeptical.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (25 of 49), Read 82 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 03:06 PM By the bye, Robert, YES to your recognition of the significance of witnessing. Except I was thinking more of the Judge, that hybrid if Ahab and his monstrous vision of the white whale, who also has a soliloquy about the significance of witnessing (Ismaeling?) and does a fair job of cataloguing all that he witnesses from ancient cliff paintings, to geologic finds, to name but a couple.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (26 of 49), Read 82 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 03:16 PM Martin, that is as fine an examination of the purpose served by the cetology chapters as any I have come across. From my own personal point of view, the pacing of this novel as a result of those contemplative chapters is perfect, as I said before. And I think you have articulated why--something I could not do. With that, it's time for you to forgive me for suggesting to a first time reader that he skip those chapters if he feels bogged down. My reasoning goes this way. The action chapters here constitute as good an adventure as has ever been written. It is a helluva straight-up chase story. I figure that if a reader at least completes that aspect of the novel, the odds are very good that he will reread the novel in its entirety at some point--to the precise effect that you describe. My suggestion was simply my own devious way to persuade folks to read the entire novel eventually. This most certainly is a novel that bears rereading, as I'm sure you would agree. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (27 of 49), Read 80 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Nancy Nesbit mrs bracegirdle@aol.com Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 08:51 PM Skipping parts of "Moby Dick"? Perish the thought. It has been eighteen months since I last read this book but although I don't remember every detail of the story I do vividly remember the pleasure I got from the experience.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (28 of 49), Read 80 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 09:22 PM Steve, Thanks for your kind words. I understood the rationale behind the recommendation and am in complete accord. Another thing I've learned is: "whatever it takes to turn the wheel." If skipping whale anatomy turns the wheel, then I would make the exact same recommendation for the same reason.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (29 of 49), Read 78 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 10:06 PM Martin, I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis. Perhaps Melville could have written a nice story about whaling, and left out all the narratives about whale pictures, types of whales, or whatever. But then you'd need to read the book with about 20 reference books to get the same effect. Now you just need a dictionary. Can one desire too much of a good thing? - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (30 of 49), Read 76 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Lee Clark leilia_c@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 10:23 PM Moby Dick could be said to be a novel of mythic proportions, with archetypical themes. So, something for everyone… In light of the discussions here, I have decided to have another go at Moby Dick; this time will be via an MP3 file of an unabridged version. How will the experience of the story be different, listening as opposed to reading the words? Will it be similar to the populace listening to Beowulf or Kalevela? Leilia
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (31 of 49), Read 57 times Conf: Classics Corner From: john matthews jw3@pobox.alaska.net Date: Tuesday, April 16, 2002 04:41 PM Fine comments all around in my view. I am really enjoying the readerly remarks of those here and am beginning to feel a bit like Ishmael seeking a berth on a whaler as I navigate the proliferation of discussions. On the matter of the narrative and the digressions I offer this. "Myth" may be viewed as a condensed cultural narrative. Even when the story seems simple and straightforward it is 'mythic' because of all of the elements that it touches upon and evokes. The oral tradition with repetition and intuition. Melville put all that stuff in to provide breadth to support the myth; and though it may be skipped at any reading, it is always there and when one responds to the fundamental narrative, one tends to be drawn to the cetology because its empirical breadth reinforces the fundamental nature of the story. Its the flotsom and jetsom that reminds us that it is a story being written as well as a story being told.......I don't know if that makes any sense. EL Doctorow in the most recent meeting of the Melville Society gives a wonderful presentation (don't have a link) in which he reminds us that Ishmael is a talker, less a man of action than a commentator and an explainer. I've always been fascinated by the fact that Ismael is narrating in both present time and from a time after the events in the book take place. We hear from him as the story unfolds and we are certain that it is a story retold from after his return to land aboard the Rachel. And of course there are long sections of the book in which Ishmael is not present and is not the present time narrator at all. The Ishmael of the opening chapter and the Ishmael found floating on Queequeg's coffin are two different characters and narrators and putting the two together is a great and difficult and dizzying enterprize.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (32 of 49), Read 58 times Conf: Classics Corner From: john matthews jw3@pobox.alaska.net Date: Tuesday, April 16, 2002 04:42 PM Ishmael
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (33 of 49), Read 53 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2002 07:27 AM Excellent points, John. Just to add to your observation that this tale has many elements of an oral tradition, oral recountings tend not to directly go at their target. Like a Shaman come back from the beyond to deliver the goods, the oral presentation tends to provide a lot of what we now regard as context (something separate but related to the central truth) but that was considered a seamless part of the whole before we had the written word that allowed for widespread dissemination of knowledge, which parses the oral whole. This time through I saw Ishmael in the light you describe, as a talker. Dean's point earlier that Ishmael fades is interesting. Does the Ishmael mask drop and do we witness Melville, or is it part of Ishmael's transformation? This time through I heard Ishmael as witness/teacher, very similar to a shaman's voice.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (34 of 49), Read 54 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2002 11:54 AM There are definitely things which are related in the story which Ishamel could not possibly have known. At these times, Melville is the narrator. I wouldn't say that this book wants to be taken as myth. I think, rather, that this book wants show the reality behind the myth. It wants to show people what is being done to furnish them with comforts. After all few people in 1850 had actually seen a whale. There is no need to exaggerate the size of a whale. The book has to work against myth to impart the already impressive reality of what a whale is. The book mentions the myths and representations of the whale but also gives tangible reasons and explanations for these myths and stories about the whale. Melville's humble servant, Ishmael, measures the length of the skeleton and provides direct observation. Thus, we are given a real sense of the physical scale of a whale. We are shown the reality underlying the myths. The book also wants to give credit to the flesh and blood people whose courage makes life's comforts possible. It is Melville who tells us to use our oil carefully as it comes at a terrible cost. Melville also uses verisimilitude to break down the notion that we are reading a fiction as when he attributes the practice of tying both ends of the monkey-rope to Stubb. Melville's descriptions and his powerful use of metaphor move the book from fiction to reality. We are brought to a view of whaling and life that is stripped of illusion and self-deception. Ishmael serves as a model of someone who learns to stop kidding himself; that there are some things which can't be placated, not the least of which are those which arise in the human heart. All of this only enhances the final chase making it even more breathless and heart stopping for the reader. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (35 of 49), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2002 12:53 PM I don't mean to speak for John, but I think you're right Dean that this story is to explore the reality behind the myth, physically and metaphysically. It's a bridge between the physical reality and the metaphysical, neither excluding the other. And that's what lends it such a mythical quality, I think. On Ishmael's perspective, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss his ability to see inside Melville's head, to witness events that he was not physically on hand to perceive with the five senses. It's very logical and rationale to say that Melville's voice takes over. But there really is more mystery about it than just hearing Melville's voice. If the reader allows that Ishmael narrates the whole, then I think there's a greater sense of mystery. By the bye, walk in any book store's nonfiction section and you will find accounts of biographers, historians, journalists, and others who are witness to what was going on in someone's head and heart at any given moment even though they were in no position to truly witness it. Now, that's a mystery!
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (36 of 49), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: john matthews jw3@pobox.alaska.net Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2002 02:02 PM Quite so Dean. I don't mean to imply that "Moby Dick" is merely myth anymore than it is merely a fish story or an adventure story or an allegory replete with symbol or a philosophical treatise. I think it so though that once aboard the Pequod, and particularly once the mission to seek Moby Dick is made clear, there is a concentration within the narrative in which all of the thematic elements and issues that are evoked as the voyage transpires take on a clear mythic significance in much the same way that (for example) Ulysses' voyage home from Troy does. I confess, however, to sometimes getting pleasure in thinking of the Sirens as a bunch of tarts and of 'Fast Fish Loose Fish' as little more than sardines. Another notion of mine, whether it has merit or not I do not know, is that one difference between the oral and written tradition is that Homer's audience knew all the stories and legends (or most all) referred to because of the common cultural heritage and the repetition. In our age, the linear print age, the modern age of technology and 'manifest destiny,' that is less likely so. I believe Melville provided all of the digressive material to aid in establishing (as I believe Martin and you have pointed out) 'context.' Interesting that industrial empire and manifest destiny has not yet come up. How much of the narrative that Ishmael is not privy to in any way we can establish, do you think is his narrative voice from after the fact reconstructing the voyage......in part in the manner of mythmakers and story tellers? I think some but don't know how much. There certainly were no witnesses to confirm or deny that which he chooses to tell.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (37 of 49), Read 46 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2002 02:20 PM Martin, I certainly did not intend to say anything about metaphysics. John, what you call a narrative of "clear mythic significance," I call "a really good story to which everyone can relate." Would you say that I have made a fair translation? Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (38 of 49), Read 46 times Conf: Classics Corner From: john matthews jw3@pobox.alaska.net Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2002 02:27 PM Yup. I think that a 'fair' definition and a pretty good description. Makes me think of something Harold Bloom once said that I liked. I'll see if I can find it.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (39 of 49), Read 43 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2002 06:09 PM Holy cow. There are so many things going on in this discussion I can hardly think where to begin responding. First, John, both industrial commerce and Manifest Destiny were brought up in this discussion. I know because I brought them up, ha ha. And was sort of surprised it didn't elicit a response or comment. I quoted a paragraph that directly seemed to define and react to the idea of Manifest Destiny. I also think the chapter "Will He Perish" goes on more about this too. I am not super qualified to speak at length about Manifest Destiny, because this philosophy was only introduced to me about four years ago. I had no idea that there were humans who believed in this kind of idea..an idea that is very far removed from how I was raised to look at life and the world. I was not raised Christian, so had no idea there was a philosophy within this religion that believed humans were superior to animals. I was recommended a famous work(which has left my memory, I believe written by an American? Its totally famous, so I am embarrassed I can not remember its title) and read several parts int he Bible that people have used to argue in support of this philosophy. I feel Moby Dick has a lot to say and contests this philosophy. Having said that, I am loathe to say there is one single intention in this novel. Which leads me to say that I feel we are all approaching an agreement in this discussion...that the last dozen or so posts seem to be aligning. As Steve might say, we are closing in on th central issues of this book. While at the same time, the novel constantly dissipates a notion of "central" argument. Martin, I am intrigued by your use of meditation as a metaphor for the structure of this novel. Did you make that up, or is this a generally held reading of this book? I was initiated by the Dalai Lama many dim years ago, and although it was not a "visualization" technique I was taught, the idea of having many approaches and letting these narratives run their course while meditating was something I experienced from my time as the worlds worst Buddhist. I would venture to say "everything" versus "specific" perspectives on nature was more in line with Buddhism...and I would say that I find this idea of offering "everything" to consider is part of what is beautiful (and part futileness of aiming for everything ha ha)in Moby Dick. I feel that is part of its lessons(for lack of a better word at the moment). Steve, I tried the glasses, a bunch of them, but it seems I still have excellent vision, so they don't help. Trust me, an optometrist was happy to try to get me to spend much more than $10 U.S. but he couldn't find anything wrong with my sight yet. He said come back in a couple more years you eagle you. but don't let my bitching stop you from those great literary criticism quotes! dean and Martin, to reiterate, i feel you are both on to something...and that each of your takes on the way this book was written are not so at odds... I guess I am more willing to say that Melville knew what he was doing Dean. I feel it is constructed ina very deliberate manner, and this makes me feel that it is partly why it is such an impressive book. It is also why I feel it so so different and its structure is "alternative" in some way to represent that we readers may want to consider being "alternative" in the way we look at life:on many aspects our intellectualism, our commerce, our attitude towards all lifeforms, nature as a whole. I feel a sense that his forays into "accounting" challenge why we have that capability. We assume that we are to name and count nature because we are the boss, the supreme animal here on earth...when Moby Dick seems to sugggest our accounting abilities may have a different purpose-to know what is out there, and how much of it...not to harvest it, but also to protect it and respect it. Or let it be.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (40 of 49), Read 46 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2002 06:17 PM Dean and all, Something I feel is important about Ahab as ishmael talks about the mind of a whale, and its whale culture, freedom and how long it has lived...he says, to my mind, one of the most important things about Ahab.. "Ahab's harpoon had shed older blood than the Pharoh's." I feel that much of his gathering and accounting of facts shows us that our inventions and so-called scientific knowledge and our accomplishments in civilization is much younger than our actual time here. Man and whale has been alive longer than our civilized awareness of ourselves, we have a knowledge and intelligence older than our buildings and governments and kingdoms. I'm on a ramble, but I just wanted to remember this line for later...more in a bit... about the whale facts and digression from plot. I love all this stuff. I find I learn as much just relaxing and reading as anticipating some plot line or resolution. Doesn't bug me at all.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (41 of 49), Read 44 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2002 07:54 PM Ha, ha, Candy. At the end, Ahab mentions he's been on his course for "billions" of years. I took it out of an earlier post thinking no one else would get it and if you have to explain it...But that would make him several kalpas, truly ancient. "I am intrigued by your use of meditation as a metaphor for the structure of this novel. Did you make that up, or is this a generally held reading of this book? I was initiated by the Dalai Lama many dim years ago, and although it was not a "visualization" technique I was taught, the idea of having many approaches and letting these narratives run their course while meditating was something I experienced from my time as the worlds worst Buddhist." I am making this up as I go along, Candy, so please bear with me. It's a process that started a few years ago (John has been indulging it kindly and poor Dean has been subjected to it as well). But the poet Donald Hall once remarked more than 25 years ago that everything written is about the mind. I had a very strong aversion to his statement. And strong aversions signal something deep under the surface. More recently, after I started meditating irregularly myself, it suddenly started to dawn on me how correct he is. This time through with MD drives home the point even more so than the previous read. And I really can see it as a meditation. Ahab, Ishmael, and meditation all have the same purpose: to punch through the mask; know (or should that be gain gnosis of?) the contours of the whale (not a whale); or liberation. I agree. Dean and I are very close in our reads.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (42 of 49), Read 44 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2002 08:19 PM John, while you are looking for the Harold Bloom, I will quote from Maugham's essay for the last time (I promise): Fortunately Moby Dick may be read, and read with passionate interest, without a thought of what allegorical significance it may or may not have. I cannot repeat too often that a novel is to be read not for instruction or edification but for intelligent enjoyment, and if you find you cannot get this from it, you had far better not read it at all. I agree with him. Moby Dick is a ripper of a story. I think I have a decent grasp of the difference between allegory and myth. Certainly, there is something of the mythic about this novel, which is one of the reasons it is such a ripper. It has a very primal appeal as myths are wont to. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (43 of 49), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, April 18, 2002 01:08 AM Martin, coming from your experience with meditation, the quote from Donald Hall is interesting in a way I was not acknowledging, because the "mind" to people who meditate tends to be regarded like "the world" to people who are Christian. That would be with suspicion. My weakness as a Buddhist laid in the fact that I love the world, the mind, the heart, the body, the animals. I would have made a miserable Christian too:as they have fear of the material world and think they are superior to animals. Having said that, Donald Hall is correct that everything written is about the mind...and that lays in heavy with the sentence when Ishmael says so much ambition is Vanity. And...now... I believe a lot of Moby Dick is about love. And hate. I feel Ishmael may be love, and Ahab may be hate. The only way anyone could be so obsessed about whale facts(myself included) is if one loved the whales. Or. If one hated the whale. One of the things I dig about this book is every now and then Ishmael keeps piping in, the only way to "know" about whales is to be out on the ocean with them. I like that, and feel it is true. It reminds us that we can study all we want but experience is the authentic(teacher?). I like this mask deal. I have a number of friends who are drag queens. "The mask" is a topic often discussed. Part of their job as performers is to emulate the mask...but part of the enjoyment as an audience is seeing the mask, the female all of a sudden be confirmed as male then back to female etc. Part of the "whiteness" of animals listed, polar bears, whales is that there is an idea of a blank slate. Ismael calls himself a blank slate near the end of the book. A blank slate is the perfect vehicle for masks and identity or lack of identity. Okay, I'm tired, I have no idea what I am trying to say. Goodnight, see ya in the morning... Candy
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (44 of 49), Read 33 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, April 18, 2002 10:00 AM Martin, could you explain to me how you got a reference to metaphysics from my post #34? I'm still confused how you managed to see that in my post and I would appreciate an explanation. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (45 of 49), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Thursday, April 18, 2002 11:56 AM Easy Dean. Perhaps it would have been clearer if I had written something to the effect: Yes, Dean. We definitely have an examination of the physical here -- especially in the whale chapters, as well as detailing of the mechanics of a whaling vessel. But we also have a similar examination of the metaphysical -- whether examining the expanse of the sperm whale's forehead, or contemplations of spiritual aspects of the physical. The point being that the two are linked inextricably. I did not mean to convey any connection between you and the metaphysical. Ten thousand pardons.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (46 of 49), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, April 18, 2002 01:26 PM Martin, I find your response condescending but I accept your apology. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (47 of 49), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, April 18, 2002 02:30 PM I feel Ishmael may be love, and Ahab may be hate. The only way anyone could be so obsessed about whale facts(myself included) is if one loved the whales. Or. If one hated the whale. Of course I know you know that it is more complex than that, Candy, but it surely is worth discussing. Ahab hated only one whale, not the species. The spectrum of attitudes is represented through the mates. Starbuck regards them as God's creatures placed under our dominion. Hatred of them is sacrilege to him. It is the cruel Flask who seems to bear a personal grudge against the entire species. The one time I flinched during the hunts was when Flask took such pleasure in lancing the ulcerous cyst, or whatever it was, on the side of the one whale. It is interesting that Flask is described as displaying a "pervading mediocrity." Stubb simply seems to revel in the danger of the hunt, and in that sense he loves the whales for providing it. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (48 of 49), Read 18 times Conf: Classics Corner From: john matthews jw3@pobox.alaska.net Date: Thursday, April 18, 2002 03:37 PM I don't think of 'manifest destiny' as being a 'philosophy,' except I suppose a political one. It is connected linearly to The Great Chain of Being, a more realized philosophy in which all of this earth have a place and man has dominion of and over it as the top earthly link in the chain. There is a hint of that in the variation of the enlightened ideal that 'all men are created equal, but some are more equal than others.' That's a taste of manifest destiny we can all relate to I think. Flask's "pervading mediocrity" is in part an absence of imagination, marked contrast to Ishmael. Melville was cursed by his imagination as well as stimulated by it. Hawthorne withdrew from Melville I suspect because the intensity of his imagination made him uncomfortable.....he as much as said so after.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (49 of 49), Read 1 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, April 18, 2002 09:10 PM Much of this discussion is way out of my league, but I do subscribe to the "ripping good story" philosophy. Can one desire too much of a good thing? - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (50 of 83), Read 82 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, April 19, 2002 11:52 AM Hey Steve, yeah I was being little miss reductionist there with the love hate thing..heh heh Okay I was super tired and getting all punchy I'm not great at philosophy after a good nights sleep, nevermind when I'm punchy. Although when I am so punchy it sures feels spiritual! heh heh Hey Mary Anne, sober us up a little with some more of your feelings about this book. Are we being too high falutin? heh heh... Candy "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (51 of 83), Read 83 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, April 19, 2002 04:35 PM Okay, here's another part that just made me laugh out loud. It's at the end of the chapter Measurement of the Whale's Skeleton. "The skeleton measurements I shall now proceed to set down are copied verbatim from my right arm, where I had them tatooed; as in my wild wanderings at that period, there was no other secure way of preserving such valuable statistics. But as I was crowded for space, and wished the other parts of my body to remain a blank page for a poem I was then composing-at least, what untatooed parts might remain-I did not trouble myself with the odd inches; nor indeed, should inches at all enter into a congenial admeasurement of the whale." I laughed partly because there he was so impressed and scared of all Queegeeg's tattooes...yet he was also covered with a lot of tatooes. Um, is it me, did I miss something, but doesn't it seem weird that there is little or no mention of Queegeeg at the end of the novel, his "friend" who must have died. You'd think he would have made a bit of a goodbye to him. I had this weird feeling that all of a sudden the reason he says call me Ishmael is because he is also Queegeeg. Like some kind of Manichean deal. I was thinking how this paragraphy is like the idea of a man in progress, there is the mask of tatooes too.(heh heh) And he says he wants to leave a blank space for a poem...or for his changes(?). Probably just still punchy, Candy "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (52 of 83), Read 81 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Friday, April 19, 2002 05:33 PM That's a good point about both being tattoed and yet another funny bit. Ishamel gives us a good description of Queequeg. We get to know him well as in Ch.12, p.80 MLC For at bottom--so he told me--he was actuated by a profound desire to learn among the Christians, the arts whereby to make his people still happier than they were; and more than that, still better than they were. But, alas! the practices of whalemen soon convinced him that even Christians could be both miserable and wicked; ... poor Queequeg gave it up for lost. Thought he, it's a wicked world in all meridians; I'll die a pagan. In the end we are sorry to seem him go and that is the best tribute which Ishmael could make for his friend. Although, their motives might be the same both Ishamel and Queequeg are self-outcasts from their communities. I don't know if that's significant as with the fact that Queequeg's mark is the symbol for infinity. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (53 of 83), Read 79 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Jody Richael Date: Friday, April 19, 2002 06:42 PM Wow! I have about 10 minutes to post something before my kids wake up. I have been trying to keep up on the other posts which has been no small feat. I have to agree with Mary that much of the current discussion is beyond me. Many of the topics being discussed are not things I am familiar with, but that is one of the pleasures of this forum -expanding my experience and being introduced to new ideas. I still need to do a lot of thinking about Moby Dick and in honesty probably re-read the book a good many times but as of this moment I am feeling that the book makes a significant statement on the forces of chance and individual will. (I’m not using the word fate because Melville uses chance instead and I think they have different connotations.) As Ishmael/Melville states in the Mat-Maker chapter - chance is the supreme force. Isn’t Moby Dick the story of one man who became so maddened by the evil done to him in life that he tries to muster all his individual will into one last assault on that force which has hurt him? The white whale becomes for him the representation of this force. As Melville demonstrates throughout the book, individual will is a powerful force that can change the course of chance but can never entirely overcome it. (Starbuck tries even on the third day to tell Ahab that it is not to late to change his course.) Individual will is also not a force that affects only one man’s life but all those around him as Melville masterfully demonstrated in the chapter on the monkey rope. In the end, the Pequod is destroyed by a combination of the exertion of one man’s will (Ahab’s madness and determination to kill the white whale) and chance (Moby Dick’s fatal blow). I cannot escape from the feeling that Melville was also making a major statement that we read our own meanings into events in the world and that those meanings differ by person. Again, perhaps he is saying that good and evil don’t really exist as forces in the world but it is all chance. Good and evil come from how we interpret those events. Once someone has implied good or evil on an event they then frequently exert their will in that direction to make it even more so. I loved the section with the cook preaching to the sharks. Here we have a symbol of something generally regarded as representative of evil or malice (shark) when in fact the shark is nothing but an opportunist and preaching of any sort is completely ridiculous. I didn’t really like Moby Dick when I first started it but by the end I was fascinated with it. I can’t help feeling it truly is a masterpiece - not so much for what I understand in it, but more from a sense of all that I am still missing. There seem to be so many pieces to work into this great puzzle…. Jody
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (54 of 83), Read 76 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Friday, April 19, 2002 06:59 PM Jody, that was terrific. Thank you for reminding me of the cook preaching to the sharks. I had almost forgotten about it. This is one of the most re-readable books I have ever read. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (55 of 83), Read 74 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, April 19, 2002 07:18 PM I have to agree Dean, that this is one of the most re-readable books ever enjoyable! Jody, really liked your thoughts there. I tend to agree with them. I think there is a lot about things mean what we decide to let them mean. But what I see in Mby dick, is that we can have as much layers of meaning as we like, as as much conviction as we like, but we are a cog in life. We are not superior to nature, but rather a part of it. Ahab believed he could master the world, animals forces of nature. He was a sore loser in the game of life, long before the whale got him good. He believed foolishly that action gave meaning to life. When it makes no difference wether we have meaning or recognize the meaning inherent in the function of nature....nature wins...nature is the force or should I say THE force... still thinking, must rush off to make a vodka tonic on this hot Toronto evening...we had five days of spring and then it sprung into summer tata!!!! Candy "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (56 of 83), Read 65 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ernie Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Saturday, April 20, 2002 02:13 AM After I put together the carefully assembled comments on various aspects of Moby Dick I did, as I have often done before, hit the wrong button and wipe dd it all out. Who knows, this may be a blessing in disguise. It may force me to condense and cut down on what I had previously written. Two aspects of the book stand out in my mind. The first is the literary, the language, the description. He does approach Shakespeare in this respect. He has a unique style which in itself would call for fame and recognition of Melville's writing. He does go into innumerable details as was rather common in his days when people had plenty of time to read and reflect. He blended his specific story of Ahab and the whale into a general description of the art of whaling. I found the last 150 pages especially fascinating and appealing. The plot is well worked out and dramatic. There is a spirituality to this book as well. Various postings reflect on religious and philosophical aspect of this book. My own feeling is that the truly great artist often deals with the "Ultimate". A religious person may say that he comes close to recognizing god while the literary, philosophical and scientific readers will describe this phenomena in other terms. Melville's writing reflects a profound under-standing of the deepest level of the world, human nature and the profundity of being. In other words, without saying so Melville's writing contains deep thoughts about the nature of man and the world. We only find this kind of writing in true geniuses and Melville was one of them. Ernie
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (57 of 83), Read 63 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Saturday, April 20, 2002 08:43 AM Ernie, Thanks for your post. Right on. I’ll have more to say about this later. Robt
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (58 of 83), Read 66 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, April 20, 2002 11:55 AM Ernie, great post! And its so true about how he honed in(well, maybe with all those pages honed is not that correct wordd, ha ha) on the human condition. Not only the human condition, but the condition of humans within nature/of nature and natures power itself. So much to think about from everyones posts. this has been an epiphany inspiring discussion for me. Thanks hope theres more!!! Candy "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (59 of 83), Read 59 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Felix Miller felix3rd@bellsouth.net Date: Saturday, April 20, 2002 10:13 PM Ernie said: ...He does approach Shakespeare in this respect. He has a unique style which in itself would call for fame and recognition of Melville's writing. .... The language is indeed Shakespearean, and so is the scale of the conflicts. The conflict between Ahab and Moby Dick, the more subtle and psychological conflict with Starbuck. Melville even adds touches from stage directions, such as "Ahab solus." Far back above, I quoted from Hemingway who remarked on the rhetoric being not so valuable as the detailed descriptions of whaling and whales. I don't subscribe to Hemingway's judgement. To digress, I will stipulate that the comments on Melville were made by a character in a Hemingway novel, and it is not appropriate to credit these comments as representing Hemingway's own beliefs. I got in trouble with Steve on that point long ago in a discussion on "The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber." However. The fabric of Moby Dick is indivisibly woven of both the Shakespearean rhetoric and the passages of expository description. The passions that rage in Ahab are set in the context of a broad enterprise, and a natural world which dwarf Ahab's rage and make his destruction not only expected but obligatory. I am enjoying all these notes, which are immeasurably adding to my enjoyment of this great book. But that is why we are here, isn't it? Thought he, it's a wicked world in all meridians; I'll die a pagan. Felix Miller
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (60 of 83), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Sunday, April 21, 2002 10:50 PM Finished! Thank God I never saw the movie of MOBY DICK so I could just revel in the tale. It’s really a great book and lives up to its exalted reputation despite the maddening interruptions of background chapters. All is forgiven. The climax is beyond equal. Ahab turned out to be a more sympathetic character than I expected. He was comfortably loathsome until the chase was imminent and then there was a glimmer of tenderness in his iron resolve, and valor galore. I had figured, as I waded through oceans of detail, that MOBY DICK was a cautionary tale of the destructive force of retribution; and it was, but not quite that simple, of course. Ahab’s lust for revenge, which had shorn away everything else in his life and led to his annihilation, still, in the end, gave him his greatest experience. There was such an awesomeness to the finale that whatever life lesson I’m left with seems just so much Sunday School drivel. I can’t reduce the novel down to a manageable platitude. Experience itself transcended the lessons contained within it. Robt
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (61 of 83), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 22, 2002 03:27 AM On 04/21/2002 10:50:00 PM, Robert Armstrong wrote: >Finished! Thank God I never >saw the movie of MOBY DICK so >I could just revel in the >tale. It’s really a great >book and lives up to its >exalted reputation despite the >maddening interruptions of >background chapters. All is >forgiven. The climax is >beyond equal. Ha ha, that's funny. I have never seen the movie (or movies) either, to this day. > >Ahab turned out to be a more >sympathetic character than I >expected. He was comfortably >loathsome until the chase was >imminent and then there was a >glimmer of tenderness in his >iron resolve, and valor >galore. I had figured, as I >waded through oceans of >detail, that MOBY DICK was a >cautionary tale of the >destructive force of >retribution; and it was, but >not quite that simple, of >course. This is a great insight. It does feel like we are going to hear about 'don't take revenge'. But you know what, I believe it is still a cautionary tale on one level. Cautionary about not thinking we are greater than nature, and can conquer it. We can have all te ambition and revenge we want, but nature is all encompassing, its force is bigger than our personal grudges. Ahab’s lust for >revenge, which had shorn away >everything else in his life >and led to his annihilation, >still, in the end, gave him >his greatest experience. >There was such an awesomeness >to the finale that whatever >life lesson I’m left with >seems just so much Sunday >School drivel. I can’t >reduce the novel down to a >manageable platitude. >Experience itself transcended >the lessons contained within >it. > I see what you mean, except I feel that in those seconds when he and Starbuck meet eyes, we find that it is the water in Starbucks eyes that reveals their bond. Ahab had so much around him, comradery, connections, that he was so alienated by his own obsession with himself, he neglected to see he had a family/co-workers if you will. I feel a lot of sense of loss in this novel is his own drive cut him off from humanity. I like thought the aspect you note that even though he was ambitious, and headed for death, his own folly---he STILL had his greatest experience. Honest Robert, I hadn't thought of it quite that way. It's true, he was alive and connected even though he was full of folly...he had a few minutes of bonding with nature and seeing his own place in it... I sure wish he could have left his crew behind though, they had some great friendships and appreciations of life with or without catching Moby Dick, heh heh...I would have read a sequel without Ahab... "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (62 of 83), Read 59 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, April 22, 2002 10:23 AM Actually, Felix, it was I who got into trouble with Dale long before that for identifying a narrator or a character with the author. It is Dale who has taught us that lesson. It is no accident that Shakespeare comes up. Clearly Shakespeare was far more prolific, but Ahab equals any particular creation of Shakespeare. Ahab's soliloquies, for example, are the equal of any from Shakespeare's characters. (Well, most of them are not really soliloquies, are they? Orations, let's say.) There's a little of Hamlet in him; a little of Macbeth; a little of Richard III. A complex character, as Robert says. Melville falls far short of Shakespeare in humor, however, even though some readers here seem to find Moby Dick hilarious. Whatever humor one finds in this novel is certainly not in the Shakespearean category. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (63 of 83), Read 47 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 22, 2002 12:24 PM I still keep laughing about the part I quoted here when,I think it's Stubbs and Flask, are talking about the loss of Ahab's leg. They are all serious, until one of them says how they didn't know he still had his knee...because they had never seen him kneel. Ie; they had never seen him pray, that just cracked me up. And it also implied they had never seen him humble, which is also sad and funny, and a big insight into his personality. I think I see what you mean about the humour not being like Shakespeare's. Yeah, in many ways that is so...but there is a fair bit of word play, with double meanings, that gave me a chuckle here and there. I would say that the humor for the most part relates to a kind of humor in Dickens in that people are funny in general with their characteristics. But, I would say that the scene at the beginning in the Inn was as funny to me as some of the sexual mistaken identities in Shakespeare. In a tragedy sense, I guess I see Ahab a lot like King Lear, that he missed the love around him, right in front of him. He choose an ideal over humanity. And I believe it is wise to give that notion some thought as a cautionary exercise. IMO. Candy "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (64 of 83), Read 46 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, April 22, 2002 12:56 PM I recalled incorrectly, Candy. It was Karen's teacher who found this book hilarious, per Karen: I am one of the people who nominated this book because a teacher I had a few years ago said this was one of the funniest books she had read. That one mystified me as it did Karen after she had started the book. You're quite right that there is humor of course. I simply meant that I doubt Melville is capable of comedy, say, in the manner of Shakespeare's Falstaff. All this talk about humor aside, there are dramatic one-liners galore in this that sound Shakespearean to me. For example: "D'ye mark him, Flask?" whispered Stubb; "the chick that's in him pecks the shell. 'Twill soon be out." Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (65 of 83), Read 45 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 22, 2002 01:52 PM Yes, many of those lines, gave me a chill down my spine. As for the humor and Karen teacher...a few years ago if I had heard that I would have scratched my head. My memory of reading Moby Dick, what 15 years ago did not include humor or comfort of reading or meditation. I would have described Moby Dick as difficult to read, profound,serious. I think one of my first posts here in this discussion was saying how old age is good for something! I found this a delightful, charming, easy to re-read book, and can't imagine why I wasn't guffawing many years ago. Another example of hilarious was the description of when a captain goes between ships to visit another ship. It's all about how he balances and form. Fine, but then, right at the end of this explanation he describes how the captain in a rocky sea may land up hanging on to the hair of a rower. shit, I can just see that and undignified our poor described captain is, he has had to resort to this just to stay standing for protocol! I would say there is an element of slapstick kind of humor in this at times. I believe I was so concerned with the cautionary tale aspect when I first read Moby Dick, that I wasn't very relaxed, I approached my reading with a kind of intellectualism, and academic philosophical stress of a young pretentious reader. Moby Dick never changed, little old Candy got a better sense of humor. I hate telling stories that I come out looking like an idiot, oh well, ha ha ha Candy "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (66 of 83), Read 45 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 22, 2002 01:56 PM Okay, and almost all of the description of a carpenter I found gut busting...I have to make sure all the carpenters I know at least have read that chapter...they were so gung ho and fix it ish...and I feel it was an apt portrayal of someone who practices and loves that craft...and our demands on them. "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (67 of 83), Read 58 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Monday, April 22, 2002 02:10 PM I thought that the funniest scene occured in Ch.91, The Pequod Meets The Rose-Bud. Stubb's exchange with the Rose-Bud's captain is hilarious. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (68 of 83), Read 54 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 22, 2002 03:30 PM Yeah, that first two pages is pretty funny...in a dark sort of way at first. The way Stubb thinks of the French is well, pretty politically incorrect. In some sick sort of way, I get a kick out of the dislike for the French from (some of!)the British and Americans...one can see some of this in jokes about french cooking in the movie Frenzy-Hitchcock plays it up.It reminds me of a brochure I kept from a new casino in Las Vegas a few years ago. It was selling the concept for the Paris casino-hotel. It said: All the pleasures of France without the French. Of course, Canada is not without its banter between the English and French speaking communities. After the Pequod comes up to the Rose ship they see they have caught one of their rejected whales, and the place reeks of decay and rot... He now perceived that the Guernsey-man, who had just got into the chains, and was using a cutting-spade, had slung his nose in a sort of bag. "What's the matter with your nose, there? said Stubb. "Broke it?" "I wish that it was broken, or that I didn't have any nose at all!" answered the Guernsey-man, who did not seem to relish the job he was at very much."But what of are you holding YOURS for?" "Oh nothing! It's a wax nose; I have to hold it on. Fine day, ain't it?Air rather gardenny, I should say; throw us a bunch of posies, will ye, Bouton-de-Rose?" Candy "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (69 of 83), Read 54 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, April 22, 2002 03:44 PM Points well taken, Candy and Dean. And as with the passage you quote here, the humor that we find is more often than not related to Stubb in some way. Stubb is one of those men for whom humor is a survival tool. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (70 of 83), Read 45 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Monday, April 22, 2002 04:58 PM Candy, it was Stubb's word play with the translations which I found humourous not that they were mocking the French. But I agree with your appraisal of that part of the book. One could say something similar about the depiction of the cook. On a different topic, here's an echo which I found interesting. In Ch.9, p.60 MLC, Father Mapple says in his sermon: But all the things that God would have us do are hard for us to do--remember that-- and hence, he oftener commands us than endeavors to persuade. And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists. Then in Ch.135 we read, "Against the wind he now steers for the open jaw," murmured Starbuck to himself, as he coiled the new-hauled main-brace upon the rail. "God keep us, but already my bones feel damp within me, and from the inside wet my flesh. I misdoubt me that I disobey my God in obeying him!" Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (71 of 83), Read 41 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dick Haggart Date: Monday, April 22, 2002 06:29 PM I like the description of the odor wafting up from the dead whales: "worse than an Assyrian city in the plague, when the living are incompetent to bury the departed." Dick
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (72 of 83), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Monday, April 22, 2002 09:57 PM Candy, Of course MOBY DICK is Cormac McCarthy’s favorite novel. The majestic natural element is the star of MOBY DICK. Vastness. Constellations pass over this stage; Hamlet’s palace is but a puny set. The immensity, grandeur and supremacy of the ocean is a fitting environment for asking big questions and pondering the meaning of life. McCarthy picked up on it in BLOOD MERIDIAN, which in many ways is an offspring of MOBY DICK, a tribute, a reimagining. Change the wilderness to land and keep the American conquest in the same time period. Inform the story with biological and historical accuracy and create a great character, someone wicked and wild, someone compelling. Defy anyone to identify God’s hand in the matter. Relegate Divinity to natural splendor. Fantasize the folly of man. Indulge in gorgeous language. Celebrate experience. Robt
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (73 of 83), Read 39 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 03:08 PM Excellent observations, Robt. Just excellent. The bigness of everything in this novel is so important. I have been reading several things about the book in an attempt to find someone who can articulate the reasons for the impact of this novel, something I myself have trouble doing. Just yesterday I found the very best piece yet. It is by Alfred Kazin, and you can find it here. He says the very same things you are saying--. . .this persistent atmosphere of magnitude, the essential image on which the book is founded. Kazin also corrects me on something. He points out that Ahab's speeches are Shakespearian, but Ishmael's voice is quite something else. He's right. And another thing. There is nothing in Kazin about that trite business of Ahab's "madness." Kazin insists that he is a hero, and that's the way I see him, too. This is a long essay, but one of the few I've found that is really worth reading. There are a couple of points I don't agree with, but overall I found it very insightful. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (74 of 83), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 04:15 PM I haven't read the Kazin yet Steve, but thanks for pointing it out, I'll get to it in a few minutes, I just quickly wanted to add that I really agree with this idea of the vastness, the magnitude. And I also really appreciate the idea Robert of "celebrate experience". Even without reading criticism my feeling has never been that Ahab is mad or crazy or insane. No, no. I understand why many people feel he is a hero figure. I, obviously, do not share than impression. Although his energy and excitement I do find is exactly what I admire about heros in general. I don't feel he is a hero...but neither do I feel he is evil. And I do feel the ending represents "experience". But let me go and mull and read...I am cautious to embrace Ahab's will and energy for action...as I am cautious to embrace Ishmaels' commitment to contemplation... Candy "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (75 of 83), Read 33 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 04:20 PM And quickly, as I am running off to work...here is a quote that somewhat describes my recalcitrance to take sides with either Ishamel or Ahab. "Experimentation must give way to argument, and argument must have recourse to experimentation." Gaston Bachelard Candy, late for work... "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (76 of 83), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 05:03 PM Candy, I think your view of Ahab is colored by the fact that you are such a softie for wildlife and animals in general. Now, don't get me wrong. It's a perfectly valid point of view, and in fact, as I understand your various remarks on the subject through this discussion, your reaction to Ahab seems to correspond rather closely with Starbuck's. There is one major difference between you and Starbuck, however. You will recall that when Ahab is hoisted aloft with a rope higher than the mastheads, he trusts Starbuck to oversee his rope: So Ahab's proceedings in this matter were not unusual; the only strange thing about them seemed to be, that Starbuck, almost the one only man who had ever ventured to oppose him with anything in the slightest degree approaching to decision--one of those too, whose faithfulness on the look-out he had seemed to doubt somewhat; it was strange, that this was the very man he should select for his watchman; freely giving his whole life into such an otherwise distrusted person's hands. The difference between Starbuck and you is that Starbuck watched the manrope faithfully. You would have let 'er go and dropped the bastard in the drink. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (77 of 83), Read 33 times Conf: Classics Corner From: john matthews jw3@pobox.alaska.net Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 08:18 PM That is an excellent insight and finding Dean......"misdoubt." How did you make that connection? Starbuck is a wonderfully human enigma in the middle of all this, and though I appreciate him with tried and true practice, I'm pretty sure I do not do him justice. The Shakespearian language and allusions are certainly there but we should never forget the biblical as well. That particular one is worth thinking about. Even beyond Jonah, who also had his 'misdoubts.'
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (78 of 83), Read 32 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 08:37 PM One of my favorite chapters in MD is LXXXVII - The Grand Armada. The whale boat is surrounded by a shoal of whales, as though it "had slid into a serene valley lake". They are hemmed in for some time, until a wounded flailing whale stirs things up. First, the whales forming the margin of our lake began to crowd a little, and tumble against each other, as if lifted by half spent billows from afar; then the lake itself began faintly to heave and swell; the submarine bridal-chambers and nurseries vanished; in more and more contracting orbits the whales in the more central circles began to swim in thickening clusters. Yes, the long calm was departing. A low advancing hum was soon heard; and then like to the tumultuous masses of block-ice when the great river Hudson breaks up in Spring, the entire host of whales came tumbling up in one common mountain.... The boat was now all but jammed between two vast black bulks, leaving a narrow Dardanelles between their long lengths. But by desperate endeavor we at last shot into a temporary opening; then giving way rapidly, and at the same time earnestly watching for another outlet.... Can you get any more descriptive than that? What a master Melville is! Can one desire too much of a good thing? - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (79 of 83), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Felix Miller felix3rd@bellsouth.net Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 10:27 PM Steve opined: Stubb is one of those men for whom humor is a survival tool. Which survival his humor did not secure. Laughing all the way. Thought he, it's a wicked world in all meridians; I'll die a pagan. Felix Miller
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (80 of 83), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 02:21 AM Thanks, John. I thought that Starbuck's echo of Father Mapple was interesting because it showed Starbuck's crisis of conscience, how religious he was and implies Ahab's place as god-figure. Here's another echo. Ch.47(XLVII), p.311 MLC Thus we were weaving and weaving away when I started at a sound so strange, long drawn, and musically wild and unearthly, that the ball of free will dropped from my hand, and I stood gazing up at the clouds whence that voice dropped like a wing. High aloft in the cross-trees was that mad Gay-Header, Tashtego. Ch.135(CXXXV), pp.821-822 MLC A sky-hawk that tauntingly had followed the main-truck downwards from its natural home among the stars, pecking at the flag, and incommoding Tashtego there; this bird now chanced to intercept its broad fluttering wing between the hammer and the wood; and simultaneously feeling that etherial thrill, the submerged savage beneath, in his death-gasp, kept his hammer frozen there; Mary Anne, that is a beautiful passage. I found that chapter beautiful also for the way that it attributed intelligence and personality to the whales. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (81 of 83), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 02:35 PM Ha ha, that so funny Steve. I must let you know that I am an enthusiastic meat eater. I lived on a ranch at one point. I loved our cows, feeding them, caring for them, fixing fences. But I had no problem eating them. To be the two are related, it's loving them alive as well as that they are what keeps you alive. I have eaten all manner of wildlife. I have also painted and photographed all manner of wildlife. I love the creatures for their own, and for the life they give me. Did you know, Innuit catch seals and whales, and they give the dead animal a drink of fresh water that they carry with them especially for that action? I am touchy feely about animals, true. You may also recall that my favorite genre of novels is interspecies. I think, you are close to understanding my take on this novel. I believe its Melvilles take on life. Remember, one of your first impressions of thisnovel was that it was nihilistic? I do not feel that at all. I believe some people would call Melville an misanthropist. Heck, I believe I might be called that, heh heh. But its not misanthropy. Its a very real experience of feeling nature and that humans are not the most powerful or superior force on the planet. I simply have never experienced that. Period. Its one of the most alien concepts to me. For me, Moby Dick, along with Call Of The Wild as another example...has a world view that sits very comfortable to a naturalist like me. I am not a Humanist. I can't be because I experience earthquakes, snow storms, oceans, whales, wolves, gorillas, rock slides to have every bit as much influence in the world as McDonalds or Bill Gates or Britney Spears. Ahab believed humans were superior animals. Look, he and the crew died doing what they love. I respect that. Have you ever read Into Thin Air? About one of the Mount Everest "disasters"? Its sad, the climbers made some fatal flaws by not working as teams, and putting their business before safety. BUT, they died doing what they loved. Thats how I feel about the end of Moby Dick. I also feel that there is a kind of ignorance about Ahab. Ignorant of how the world works... Yes, I appreciate his energy to "overcome" the odds...but he is WRONG about life. In your essay, I like how Kazin says Melville seems to have almost a masochistic pleasure at seeing people come to their end at the hands of nature. And in the context of Ahabs motivation, their death is just. I agree. Its not because they are "whalers" they die. Its because they STOPPED being whalers to attempt to defy the order of the universe, for Ahab to IMPOSE meaning. The "meaning" they search for is right in front of them-its called "nature" or "life" if you prefer. The mask is the the actor. Nature is writing the meaning Ahab doesn't see. heck, Ahab represents a lot of people not getting the meaning. Nature IS a narrative, and no one sees that more than Melvilles. Nature is THE narrative. This has nothing to do with me loving cute little animals, which I do. It doesn't make me an misanthropist. I like cute fuzzy people too, heh heh. I am all for having comfort in my home with lights and heat...I am not against finding those comforts in the world and bringing them home. No hunter is. But I don't believe in putting human intelligence above natures intelligence. And to do so is folly. Not in a moral sense but in a dangerous reality. Our intelligence is subservient to nature. This novel is not moralistic or nihilistic, it is naturalist. Some people call that misanthropic. i've been called worse, heh heh. I don't need to go out and drop the rope on the Ahab's of the world, they do a fine job of dropping the rope themselves. I just don't want to be in their posse, thank you very much. I'll get my own dinner. And pour fresh water in its dead mouth. Candy "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (82 of 83), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 02:38 PM Yes, Dean. I neglected to acknowledge the connection you made between Starbuck's speech and Father Mapple's sermon. So let me echo John. That was sharp of you. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (83 of 83), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 02:53 PM Very good, Candy. I understand your point of view. Adopting that point of view for the moment. . . If Ahab personifies the manic need to impose one's will upon nature, then he could be taken as a metaphor for the species generally. We as a species display this behavior--and we have been successful to the point that one might regard the earth now as being infested with homo sapiens. But through geologic time nature has displayed some efficiency in correcting infestations of the planet. Therefore, and as with the Pequod, the sea may very well close over us all. Which brings us to the question of whether even any fossil record of Britney Spears will remain. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (84 of 87), Read 30 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, April 25, 2002 12:30 PM Heh,heh, hey I see a new calling for you Steve, science fiction novelist. Uh, well, I don't know if Melville was saying all homo sapiens are just like Ahab. He seems to be fairly well versed in other cultures...for example I was really taken with his references to weaving...there are several cultures that have weaving as a metaphor for how we move in the world and to what level our 'infestation' is manifested. (ha ha that cracks me up.) Not every culture imposes itself onthe world in the same way...some tip toe...but they are also becoming extinct-maybe thats why. When you put Ahab next to an Andean mountain farmer, the latter is going to fade away. I am not sure that the novel is saying our fate as an animal is to be covered by the seas. Maybe he is suggesting that it takes all levels of 'imposing' ourselves in the world to live. I wouldn't exactly say that we impose in the world, I believe our design is every bit as "natural" as the design of a whale. In Moby Dick, Melville is not just careful...he explodes with making sure we get the idea that part of our design is action...and part of our design is contemplation, or as Martin wouldsay,(and so did Kazin) meditation. Action and meditation both contribute to our survival. And as far as 'imposing' a lot of the world benefits from our imposing. Hey look at tobacco and marijuana plants. I bet they wouldn't have flourished so much if we hadn't enjoyed their so-called poisonous features. We have quite the symbiotic relationship with all plants. Of course, we need to remember its symbiotic...especially when it comes to the plants and animals we have almost over used or threatened. That is if we think its worthwhile to 'save the whales'. Maybe its not. Maybe its just fine if we use up all the whales and the rainforest. If we are a part of nature, maybe we are justified to impose ourselves on it. The jury is still out. I tend to desire to tip toe-just a little bit-but then, I am in line to disappear with that attitude as history demonstrates, heh heh. History records might over tip toers. Me and Britney, lost for the ages? Ah, Britney is as big as Cleopatra, she'll stand the test of time. "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (85 of 87), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, April 25, 2002 09:06 PM Vic is reading a book called The Metaphysical Club, which he really loves. He read a section to me about how the Civil Was may have meant the demise of cotton for the South, but it was the end of whaling for the North. Over 80 whaling ships were lost during the war. Half were sunk by the North in a futile attempt to blockade a harbor. The rest were sunk by the South because they were seen as potential military targets. After the war, whaling was done mostly for whale bone, as petroleum and kerosene had been discovered. The book points out the irony of keeping up the dangerous voyages for the sake of keeping up women's corsets. Can one desire too much of a good thing? - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (86 of 87), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, April 26, 2002 06:54 AM Ooh, that book sounds interesting. It reminds me of the chapter in salt where lack of salt really affected the Civil War. "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (87 of 87), Read 7 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, April 27, 2002 08:42 PM Uh oh. We seem to be running out of steam here, and with another month to go on our discussion. I am a bit mystified that Melville makes such a big thing about the Manillan whalers on the very first lowering of the boats (Chapter XLVIII) but then they seem to disappear from sight and mind. Did I miss something? There presence added intrigue, but then it was dropped. Can one desire too much of a good thing? - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (88 of 93), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 11:33 AM I don't know that they disappeared, MAP. Fedallah and his "tiger yellow" colleagues were Ahab's own crew who rowed his personal whaling boat. Every time he goes out it is with this crew. See Chapter 100 and 133 for example. Having said that though, Melville does seem to have a penchant for introducing us to interesting characters and then dropping them. A prime example of this was Bulkington, whom Candy mentioned some time back. Here was someone whom I thought an interesting character worth developing, but we hear nothing further of him after Chapter 23. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (89 of 93), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 03:46 PM Oh, thanks for correcting me, Steve. I couldn't figure out who Fedallah was, and did not connect him to the Manillans. I agree with you about Bulkington. Why bring him along if he's not going to show up for some of the action? Experience is by industry achieved, and perfected by the swift course of time. - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (90 of 93), Read 18 times Conf: Classics Corner From: john matthews jw3@pobox.alaska.net Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 04:20 PM Bulkington is an enigma for certain. His presence and quick unexplained exit has been taken by many readers and critics as an illustration of the notion that the writing of the book got away from Melville somewhat in the process of writing it.........that the implicative thoroughness and expansiveness of the work 'unfolded' for Melville in some of the same ways it unfolds for the reader. I've thought that from time to time myself, and Bulkington......a true man of the see who only briefly rests his restless feet upon shore is in some ways reinforcement for that notion. I've thought that initially Bulkington was intended by Melville to play a more prominent role.......and that he pretty much forgot about him as the writing developed. Its hard not to think of him though when contemplating 'The Lee Shore.' I don't really think that anymore though, or maybe I think the writing is both in control and out of control at the same time. The sorts of connections that Dean's post illustrate that show consistency and interconnectedness in the narrative have reinvigorated my reading of the text......which is why I've not posted. I really think that Melville, like Ishmael, knew from the beginning where he was headed, but did not necessarily know the exact route that wind and current and fate would cause him to take. Anyone interested in looking at the first chapter closely in this regard?
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (91 of 93), Read 16 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 05:26 PM I shall dig around the first chapter tonight John...I am of the camp that Melville was very much in control of where the novel was going, and its style,format and reading experience, but also he may not have known exactly what wind and water would he encounter on the way...but he knew where it end up... "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (92 of 93), Read 12 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 06:10 PM From Chapter 1, "Loomings" Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of the story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all. Who ain't a slave? Tell me that. Well, then, however the old sea-captains may order me about-however they may thump and punch me about, 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; and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each others shoulder-blades, and be content. And,doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this: "Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States. "whaling voyage by one ishmael. "BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN." Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces-though I cannot tell why this was exactly;yet now that I recall all the circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and motives which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced me to set about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill and discriminating judgment. Chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great whale himself. Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused my curiousity. Then the wild and distant seas where he rolled his island bulk; the undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale;these, with all the attending marvels of a thousand Patagonian sights and sounds, helped to sway me to my wish. With other men, perhpas, such things would not have been inducements ; but for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas and land on barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and could still be social with it-would they let me-since it is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one lodges in. By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and mid most of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air. "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (93 of 93), Read 14 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 06:21 PM The above passages represent, in my mind and reading at least, some of the very stages the book is about to take. We are led through the idea that the sea is a temptress, and will humour our conceits...or reveal them to us. We will assuredly see ourselves, our egos, our masks and our own horror. Then, the last almost whole page of the first chapter could be looked at as an outline for the story, and the problems the writer must deal with and cover for the reader. It starts out, this last passage of first chapter, to me at least, hilariously. In my version of the novel, there are different fonts for "the fates" decrees. One, a presidency, two a whaling voyage, and three a noble warrior...options for all, but poor old Ishmael gets the least likely to be noble or honorable...and this is exactly how Melville takes us and shows us just where honor as man is...or isn't??? The whaling voyage becomes every bit as noble and exciting a concept as the Presidency or a famous battle history. Re-reading the entire section after "Bloody battle in Affghanistan" is an overview of the issues to follow in the book. The vast mystery of the whale, freewill versus fate, exotic locales, ship ranks and status, "the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose" is Ishmael being compared to who we later meet Ahab-whose wild conceits out do anyones! Is that Ahab, not the whale, perhaps "the one grand hooded phantom"? Is that death? I love that last too, 'like a snow hill in the air' reminds me of 'the chapter on the whiteness of the whale... thinking out loud, Candy "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (94 of 106), Read 58 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, May 04, 2002 07:15 AM I finished this last night and have a couple of questions. Even though I read this rather closely, I must have missed or forgotten the section where Parsee was introduced. He was such an important figure in the end. Since I hadn't really registered him, I was a little confused. Can anyone point out to me his initial section? I've scanned, but haven't found it. Even though I've read this before, and seen two movie representations, I was still a little surprised that the man lashed to Moby Dick at the end was Parsee, and not Ahab. If I recall, in both movie versions it was Ahab. Am I remembering wrong? Did the movie people take the shadow Ahab, and the real Ahab and make him into one character? In my American Literature Learning Company course, I'm reeling ahead to watch the Moby Dick lectures. I haven't even finished the first out of four lectures on this book, but I did learn something. I'm sure this won't come as news to you Melville scholars out there, but I didn't know it. Melville was himself pretty obsessed with Nathaniel Hawthorne. Even though the professor in this series doesn't usually incorporate biographical details into his literary discussions, he says this is a very important fact. Before meeting Hawthorne, Melville wrote much more lightly. His Typee was a very popular book. Hawthorne triggered in him some kind of rapid development that resulted in the deep dark nature of MD. His reading public was totally confused and abandoned him. Sherry
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (95 of 106), Read 55 times Conf: Classics Corner From: john matthews jw3@pobox.alaska.net Date: Saturday, May 04, 2002 02:16 PM The "Parsee" usually referred to is Fedallah, Ahab's Manilan, Zoroastrian harpooner. Several references throughout but two particularly interesting occur in the chapters "The Hat" and "The Symphony." The Zoroastrian religion at its heart depicts a fundamental and gigantic struggle between good and evil.......its difficult to say what Fedallah thought of Ahab's quest, but its interesting to think about.....especially as he is in some regards, Ahabs "shadow." At the end Ahab is pulled overboard entangled in a line.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (96 of 106), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, May 04, 2002 07:15 PM Thanks, John. I somehow missed that connection. Now it makes sense. What do people make of the very last scene with the bird? Sherry
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (97 of 106), Read 41 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Joe Barreiro barreiro4@attbi.com Date: Sunday, May 05, 2002 08:50 AM Their friendship didn't last but a couple of years. It started warmly and sort of petered out, though Melville certainly continued to admire the famous writer and one-time neighbor. An interesting comment from Hawthorne's journal when he was American consul in Liverpool, England and met with Melville for the last time in 1856: Melville, as he always does, began to reason of Providence and futurity, and of everything that lies beyond human ken, and informed me that he had "pretty much made up his mind to be annihilated"; but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation; and, I think, will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief. It is strange how he persists -- and has persisted ever since I knew him, and probably long before -- in wondering to-and-fro over these deserts, as dismal and monotonous as the sand hills amid which we were sitting. He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other. If he were a religious man, he would be one of the most truly religious and reverential; he has a very high and noble nature, and better worth immortality than most of us." Joe B "Where books are burnt, in the end people are also burnt." Heinrich Heine
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (98 of 106), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, May 06, 2002 10:50 AM Fedallah and his yellow colleagues certainly are strange presences in this novel. The crew views them with suspicion and superstition such that they start to seem demonic to me. And Ishmael encourages this impression: He was such a creature as civilized, domestic people in the temperate zone only see in their dreams, and that but dimly; but the like of whom now and then glide among the unchanging Asiatic communities, especially the Oriental isles to the east of the continent- those insulated, immemorial, unalterable countries, which even in these modern days still preserve much of the ghostly aboriginalness of earth's primal generations, when the memory of the first man was a distinct recollection, and all men his descendants, unknowing whence he came, eyed each other as real phantoms, and asked of the sun and the moon why they were created and to what end; when though, according to Genesis, the angels indeed consorted with the daughters of men, the devils also, add the uncanonical Robbins, indulged in mundane amours. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (99 of 106), Read 37 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dick Haggart Date: Monday, May 06, 2002 11:37 AM Who, or what, the devil is "the uncanonical Robbins" (or 'Rabbins' as I've also seen it rendered) in that last line? Dick
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (100 of 106), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Monday, May 06, 2002 12:14 PM Ch. 50 (L), p.335 MLC ...when though, according to Genesis, the angels indeed consorted with the daughters of men, the devils also, add the uncanonical Rabbins, indulged in mundane amours. Ishmael is saying that, according to Genesis, "the angels indeed consorted with the daughters of men." The Rabbis who hold a noncanonical interpretation of Genesis add that "the devils also... indulged in mundane amours." That is, that devils also visited the earth and mated with human females. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (101 of 106), Read 33 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dick Haggart Date: Monday, May 06, 2002 01:02 PM O.K., all cleared up. Thank you. Dick
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (102 of 106), Read 33 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, May 06, 2002 01:43 PM Sorry for the typographical error, gentlemen. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (103 of 106), Read 33 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dick Haggart Date: Monday, May 06, 2002 02:25 PM Actually, there's an electronic version of MD out there on the internet that has it as 'uncanonical Robbins' so I wonder if some editor actually changed it for some reason. Dick
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (104 of 106), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, May 06, 2002 04:13 PM Lemme check some other sources, too. Very mysterious. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (105 of 106), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Joe Barreiro barreiro4@attbi.com Date: Tuesday, May 07, 2002 04:49 AM My Norton Critical Edition says that this refers to uncanonical sources such as the Books of Enoch and Jubilees. Rabbins would refer to rabbis in this case, so I would think that "Robbins" is not what Melville intended, though a google search did bring up a couple of instances of it. But it does sound like a good name for a rock group. Joe B "Where books are burnt, in the end people are also burnt." Heinrich Heine
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (106 of 106), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, May 07, 2002 11:21 AM Thanks, Joe. That makes sense, whether "rabbins" or "robbins." Notice that it is Fedallah who is on watch at the masthead at midnight and sees the Spirit-Spout repeatedly, which leads them on around the horn. (Chapter 51.) There isn't any doubt in Stubb's mind concerning Fedallah's character. He considers Fedallah to be the devil, and he has several theories about what his role is regarding Ahab. At one point he suggests that Fedallah may be trying to trade Moby Dick to Ahab in return for Ahab's soul. (Chapter 73.) There is one thing that I missed. That is the nature of this prophesy about Ahab not dying until Fedallah has. Something about two hearses, too. I missed the source of this prophesy and its precise terms. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (107 of 114), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Saturday, May 18, 2002 06:10 PM In the secondhand bookstore here in Morristown I picked up the biography HERMAN MELVILLE written by Newton Arvin who was Truman Capote’s mentor lover. According to critic Alfred Kazan this book, which won the National Book Award in 1951, is “the wisest and most balanced single piece of writing on Melville I have ever seen.” So far I have read HERMAN MELVILLE through the chapter on MOBY DICK and here is an excerpted passage: “In the end, as one reflects on the book [MOBY DICK,] one is aware that one must reckon with the most comprehensive of all its qualities, the quality that can only be called mythic……Like a truly myth-making poet’s, Melville’s imagination was obsessed by the spectacle of a natural and human scene in which the instinctive need for order and meaning seems mainly to be confronted by meaninglessness and disorder; in which the human will seems sometimes to be sustained but oftener to be thwarted by the forces of physical nature, and even by agencies that lie behind it; on which goodness and evil, beneficence and destructiveness, light and darkness, seem bafflingly intermixed. In none of the great formulations that were available to him, neither in Calvinist Christianity nor in romantic optimism, could Melville discover a myth that for him was adequate to the lighting up of these obscurities.” Robt
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (108 of 114), Read 51 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Lee Clark leilia_c@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, May 18, 2002 10:11 PM Ch. 68 “It does seem to me, that herein we see the rare virtue of a strong individual vitality, and the rare virtue of thick walls, and the rare virtue of interior spaciousness. Oh, man! admire and model thyself after the whale! Do thou, too, remain warm among ice. Do thou, too, live in this world without being of it.” I know this whale! He has two feet, wears glasses and has a moustache. His smooth granite walls, cool to the touch, concealing the warmth beneath---almost impervious to my scratching…almost. This particular whale’s interior spaciousness bewilders and astonishes. Vast content and complexity undulates with no crowding. He does not follow the fashions, nor does he lead…but moves on his own individual voyage. An enigma. Leilia
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (109 of 114), Read 47 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Lee Clark leilia_c@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, May 18, 2002 10:50 PM I am about half way through my MP3 file of Moby Dick. Having read this book in high school and again about 3 years ago, this time I savor my time with the book. Also, I am gaining an idea of oral traditions. Oral narration has a focus on the conception underlying a discourse. It is the story. The oral is the language. Without the effort needed to actually read the words, I find myself “seeing” the Pequod and its inhabitants. The movie plays behind my eyes. Leilia
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (110 of 114), Read 48 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Sunday, May 19, 2002 08:03 AM That sounds like a wonderful way to experience it, Lee. I love to hear books, too. Sherry
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (111 of 114), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, May 19, 2002 01:29 PM Those were interesting comments about Melville, Robt. The author spoke of Melville's inability to find a "myth" to explain life, and he included religion in that category. To me, a myth is a false construct, so the author was saying something about his own beliefs as well as Melville's. Ann
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (112 of 114), Read 16 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Karen Kasmar doctorsadie@aol.com Date: Sunday, May 19, 2002 09:06 PM To Steve, Robert, etc. The "information" passages in the novel are sometimes interesting, sometimes a bit of drudgery, but isn't it wonderful how they eventually lead to other exciting, wonderfully-written passages?! I find myself getting wrapped up in the details of whaling in anticipation of something greater.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (113 of 114), Read 14 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Monday, May 20, 2002 12:43 AM Ann, Myth, to me, is a fictional construct which contains truth. So, I find it ironic when the word myth is used to connote a lie, as is often the case in conversational usage. As an example: “the teaching that there is great reward in the afterlife for a suicide bomber is a manipulative myth.” Here myth connotes falsehood. I took Arvin to mean myth in the sense of being a vessel for truth. In the context of the biography Arvin was not putting down Calvinist Christianity but rather explaining that it was incongruous with Melville’s tragic vision. Karen, In the end I thought that the way the information chapters interrupted the narrative flow constituted a flaw in the novel. But, the flaw did not outweigh the benefit of becoming informed about the many aspects of whaling. The power of the story was immeasurably enhanced by my awareness of these facts. I agree with you that the overall effect is wonderful. Robt
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (114 of 114), Read 15 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, May 20, 2002 10:30 AM Clearly you are correct about the use of the word "myth" here, Robert. Your Mr. Arvin says: In none of the great formulations that were available to him, neither in Calvinist Christianity nor in romantic optimism, could Melville discover a myth that for him was adequate to the lighting up of these obscurities. I suspect that Mr. Arvin does not intend a disparagement of religion here. Rather, he was referring to such mythic Christian works as Pilgrim's Progress for example. As for romantic optimism, I suspect that he was referring in part to the work of the Transcendentalists, such as Emerson. His point, as I discern it, is that from Melville's perspective these myths did not truly illuminate the real truth of our situation. Karen, the pace of this novel is a bit disconcerting when one is in the middle of it for the first time. In the end and overall though, the pace is perfect, I think. It builds and builds to a crash bang climax. Steve
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (115 of 121), Read 19 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Saturday, May 25, 2002 09:23 AM Yesterday I visited the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA which features early American (pre 1850) furnishings, folk art and implements with a main focus on tools and trades. An all together excellent collection housed in a concrete castle. Has anyone been there? Lo and behold there was a collection of whaling implements including a whaling boat, all hailing from New Bedford, Massachusetts. What fun to see the rough hewn harpoons, hooks, blubber tools, try pot and especially the sleek, elegant 30’ x 6’ whaling boat designed for 6 men with its extra long oars and carefully coiled ropes. Did I complain about Melville going into too much detail? Shame on me. Robt
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (116 of 121), Read 14 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, May 25, 2002 01:27 PM What fun, Robert. I'm sure none of us will ever look at whaling artifacts the same way we did before MD. We have been changed and moved by this book. Experience is by industry achieved, and perfected by the swift course of time. - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (117 of 121), Read 15 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, May 25, 2002 02:32 PM That makes me think of how Melville was almost building sculpture in his novel with attention to detail. What is interesting in your post, is I almost got the sense that you found this equipment beautiful, and understood maybe Melville was mesmerized by it in some way....? "Rock, it's what we're all about. It's what we live for. Come on shout it out." Sum41
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (118 of 121), Read 14 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, May 25, 2002 03:22 PM I finally finished Moby Dick today. I had a huge interruption when my responsibilities at work interfered so much with my concentration that I wasn't doing it justice. I need to go back now and read the discussion from the beginning. Was there any talk of the whale symbolizing mortality? I know there are no easy themes here but a multitude of possibilities. I just kept thinking that Ahab seemed to place himself above the vulnerability of humanity and that the whole final scene blazed with the futility of that. I'm going to be thinking about this novel for a long time. It was one of the proverbial "I would never have read it without CC/CR books" and it has, in turns, enthralled and irritated me. In the end, I understood the reasons for the digressions. The most basic of these is that I wouldn't have had a chance of understanding the final scene on a technical basis without the chapters on whaling. "The greatest American novel" claim also has me interested. Which ones do you all think rival Moby Dick? Barb
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (119 of 121), Read 18 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Edward Houghton eddh@pacbell.net Date: Saturday, May 25, 2002 03:45 PM BARB I'm not sure how to define The Great American Novel. Obviously written by an American, but does it have to have an American theme? If not, then I would say that BEN HUR by General Lew Wallace(?) would qualify. The General appears prominently in American history during and after the Civil War. He was in charge of the Andersonville and the Lincoln Conspiracy trials in his full life. Becoming a novelist always seemed out of character. There are, of course, enough novels to promote discussion for endless and possibly fruitless hours. THE LEATHERSTOCKING TALES by Cooper, THE SCARLET LETTER by Hawthorne, GONE WITH THE WIND by Mitchell, DUNE by Herbert, EAST OF EDEN or THE GRAPES OF WRATH by Steinbeck. Maybe we should start a separate thread just to come up with a list of candidates? EDD "I like green eggs and ham," Dr Seuss.
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (120 of 121), Read 10 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Saturday, May 25, 2002 08:32 PM Candy, I found the whaling objects beautiful. The harpoons: hateful instruments, destroyers of the mighty ones, hand hewn, not a straight line in them, no two alike, clearly crafted by someone on a tossing ship, a thousand attempts at geometry amounting to some organic-like balance, jaded javelins, darkest wood and crooked metal. Try pot: the witches of MACBETH couldn’t conjure up a more suitable vessel, black with a surface like the moon. The blubber hook: sister witch to the try pot, black and pockmarked with smoothed worn areas, large and dull. Everything was used and worn. Of the objects only the octant and marine compass had any refinement. Most of the implements had a crudeness that looked more in keeping with the 18th century although I think they were from the 19th century. The whaling boat: looked like it was expertly crafted, a fish in the water, much sleeker than I expected, I could easily envision it flying through the waves. Barb, MOBY DICK achieved classic status for me. Despite my irritation with it I don’t think it can be beat. I would say it’s better than SUTTREE and BLOOD MERIDIAN. I guess those two Cormac McCarthy novels come closest in my reading experience as far as American novels go. Robt
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (121 of 121), Read 5 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, May 26, 2002 09:32 AM You're right, Edd, I'm going to open a new thread for my great American novel question to avoid diverting attention from the Moby Dick discussion. Ann, can you move Edd's reply and that part of Robt's to that thread? Barb
Topic: Moby cont.POST NEW NOTES HERE (122 of 122), Read 12 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, May 26, 2002 02:04 PM There's a long and detailed review of Hershel Parker's biography of Melville in today's LA Times. "Hershel Parker has practically reconstructed Melville's DNA and in doing so has rendered Americann literature a signal service," is the subhead. Plus there's a sidebar by Susan Salter Reynolds. Since I haven't indulged myself in a reread of MD, I can't contribute much to the general discussion, but your mention of seeing the tools, Robt, was so interesting. I love tools. They are often such things of beauty in themselves. A well-made tool certainly speaks to Sullivan's edict that form should follow function. Ruth

 

 
Herman Melville
Herman Melville

In the Heart of the Sea
Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea examines the 19th-century Pacific whaling industry through the arc of the sinking of the whaleship Essex by a boisterous sperm whale. The story that inspired Herman Melville's classic Moby-Dick has a lot going for it--derring-do, cannibalism, rescue--and Philbrick proves an amiable and well-informed narrator, providing both context and detail.

Moby Dick
Share Moby Dick with your favorite pre-teen! In this full-color picture-book adaptation of the classic, Allan Drummond pays homage to one of the greatest sea stories ever told. Staying as true to Herman Melville's language as possible, and taking Ishmael as his narrator, Drummond tells of the adventure of Captain Ahab's relentless quest for revenge.


 
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