Reading Moby Dick
Chapter 1 Notes/May 31
What I avoided turned out to be an enjoyable read – it surprises me that I like Melville’s style. It is truly weird that I passed up Moby in favor of Shakespeare, Tolstory, and Dickens which aren’t exactly easy reads (and have their critics). Perhaps a person has to grow into certain books, into Melville. I also have Pierre on my bookshelf along with Ahab’s Wife, or, the Stargazer (which I must confess I read years ago while living close to the sea in Mattapoisett, it made such an impression on me but didn’t send me into Melville’s arms). Sena Jeter Naslund wrote Ahab’s Wife starting out from inland Kentucky and researched her way to Nantucket: she captured the sound of the guy wires humming in the wind down perfect, and captured my heart. Wait a minute, if I read Ahab’s Wife but shunned Moby Dick – isn’t that a little hypocritical? Nooo, I believed the myth about Melville and Algebra being impossible to comprehend. Go figure.
Ishmael reads as true, as a real person; he talks to the reader as if walking along side by side. I share his observations that water needs to be nearby, and like him it need not be the ocean, fresh water ponds and streams will do just fine. I don’t have to be on the water either, like Ishmael, I just have to know it is near. Ishmael’s name is neat sounding – it rolls nicely off the tongue (a feminine point, I’m sure) and he is well spoken as if he were the school teacher he references. He can handle Greek philosophers as easily as if recalling a friend’s name.
Chapter 2 Notes/June 3
Packing two shirts to last four years is mind boggling. The shirts, never mind his pants, would be able to stand on their own by the time he comes to port at the end of his voyage. For all of the respectability of the time period, Victorians rarely bathed regularly! I admire Ishmael’s preference to sail out of Nantucket because of the history of the whaling port.
Chapter 3 Notes/June 6
Mainly, the focus of this chapter is devoted to Ishmael searching for lodgings in New Bedford. After missing a shuttle out to Nantucket, Ishmael finds a landlord that will put him up for the night if he’ll share a bed with another man to reduce his rent. Ishmael plays out scenes in his head about locking his bed-mate out of the room, going to sleep first, but decides to sleep on a bench in the common room. What was Melville really getting at with this chapter? Was he questioning the fraternity of men, that things went on in close quarters that was better to guard against?