::Literate Blather::
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Reading Moby-Dick: Part One

Chapter One: Loomings

“Immense as whales, the motion of whose vast bodies can in peaceful calm trouble the ocean till it boil.”

- Sir William Davenant, Preface to Gondibert

Call me Determined.

Some time ago – never mind how long precisely – I tried to read Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick.” But being a young man without much patience, I abandoned the novel somewhere about page 100. It was a discouragement to be sure and I found myself grim at the mouth.

“Moby-Dick,” after all, was a classic. One of those “big” books. Nay! One of those “giant” books ranking with Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House,” and Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.”

Alas, I had purchased an ill conceived paperback with print the size of micro-dots. My eyes were left strained and bloodshot and the book seemed an impossible endeavor.

With a damp, drizzly November in my soul, I returned “Moby-Dick” to my bookshelf, where it remained for many years. There it collected dust and the pages turned yellow and brittle. Oh, occasionally I’d finger the spine or pull it off the shelf – the old disappointment returning like a flash of lightning.

The years went by – the exact number is now lost to my memory – but I was older and more mature. One hazy, rainy winter weekend, I quite surprised myself by seeking out the volume and trying again. I spent an inglorious week struggling with the tiny type and the brittle pages.

This time my determination – my utter drive – took me to nearly 300 pages before, exhausted, I once again gave it up in vain. This time, I thought miserably, would be the last. It wasn’t meant to be. I was clearly not robust enough to tackle this weighty masterpiece.

Time continued to tick by – marriage, career change, children – and my copy of “Moby-Dick” ended up in a cardboard box in the basement. No longer would this tome mock me from my bookshelf!

And then – out of the blue – the reasons quite unclear to my foggy mind – I decided to try a third time. It was my copy of the novel – my cheap, tattered edition – that was preventing me from finishing. The brilliance of this insight set me to action.

I stuffed a dollar or two into my old wallet, tucked it into my back pocket, and started for the bookstore. I perused the finery of the stocked shelves. Is there any sight more grand and heart-warming than the glistening volumes of new books waiting patiently for an eager reader?

I found a hefty copy of “Moby-Dick” with big, bold letters practically leaping off the thick pages. Ah, I thought, this is the companion I’ve been waiting for! This is the copy of the novel that will help me to accomplish my mission!

The clerk rang up the sale and I was on my way. This time I am called Determined and I will finish “Moby-Dick.” I will record my adventures here – for you to experience, dear reader. Together we shall overcome the daunting task and my past failures and read one of the greatest American novels of all time.

But no more of this blubbering now, we are going a-whaling! Let us scrape the ice from our frosted feet, and see what sort of place this “Moby-Dick” may be.

Progress to date: Page 41 of 655.

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