Thursday, November 10, 2011

the constant midnight

The most important thing going on these days is my reading of Moby Dick. All other political and economic escapades pale in its shadow; all thoughts of sleep and hygiene ease into the backseat. Now I let the boat-owning Quakers Bildad and Peleg determine the worth of things; I let Ishmael do the sleeping, in bed with Queequeg.

I read much of Melville in a college seminar, but somehow the professor skipped Moby Dick. And for the most part I’d been resolved to never reading it. It was right up there with Finnegan’s Wake and a lot of vampire novels. I didn’t need to go there. But it has kind of nagged at me, so this summer I said why not (with a nudge from my reading friend Ken).

Funny enough around the time we sank our teeth in, Moby Dick seemed to experience a mini-revival. A whale nearly swallowed a surfer on YouTube! Nathaniel Philbrick published his book “Why Read Moby Dick,” which I’m skipping for the real deal. And an artist named Matt Kish published a book in which he creates a drawing or painting “for every page” of Moby Dick (he used the 552-page Signet. I have the $3.99 Penguin with 536 pp).

For my birthday, at the end of the month, I bought myself the artwork you see above for p. 513: "As the unsetting polar star, which through the livelong, arctic, six months' night sustains its piercing, steady, central gaze; so Ahab's purpose now fixedly gleamed down upon the constant midnight of the gloomy crew." I also got the bargain page 347: "At the instant of the dart an ulcerous jet shot from this cruel wound..."

I love literature. It’s inspiring. Get it while it’s hot.


Anonymous said...

I like that Kish piece! I sent my husband three links with a hint that the holidays would be happier with one of his pieces...we'll see.

Kathleen said...

Yay! Literature! I did read Moby Dick when younger. And the lovely Billy Budd, much, much shorter.

NE said...

Hey, I'm reading Moby-Dick too! What an amazing coinci...

Ah. Never mind.

toniclark said...

Aww, you're making me want to read it again! I read it in high school and again in college. Probably grad school, too. The first time (high school), I put off doing my homework so much that, when it was time for the test on the book, I still hadn't read it. My Mom let me stay home from school but, of course, the hitch was that I had to spend all day reading the book. When I took the make-up test, it consisted of just one question that the teacher, Mr. Jarvis, wrote on the board: "Have you ever been caught in a whale net? When and how?"

Dave said...

Hmm, maybe it's time for me to re-read it to. I only ever read it the once, and it was back in high school when I didn't know anything of value about the world. I remember really enjoying the encyclopedic parts, though. It set me up to enjoy Rabelais a few years later.

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