Since last year I came across quite a few bloggers attempting to read Herman Melville's epic novel, Moby Dick. I can't say I was in the least tempted to try it. I recall my mom (she, brave soul, tackled this whale of a book in her college days, determinedly reading 30 pages a day) telling me that there were pages and pages dedicated to the harpooning of the whale alone. That was enough to put me off this book for ever. I didn't care about the philosophies that this book expounded. If I was going to read pages dedicated to shipping and the like I didn't think the struggle was worth it.
Now…I believe I've changed my mind.
Really? How come?!
Blame this post right here. That actually leads to this event right here. 135 chapters in 135 days doesn't sound too bad, does it? Add to that audio readings by the likes of Tilda Swinton and Stephen Fry and a host of other famous names, and you just have to give this a try!
I admit, it was the promise of an audio reading every day that made me check out this event. But, the introduction, at Moby Dick Big Read, blew me away so completely that on listening to the first chapter I felt this restless certainity that I was not grasping everything. So, I immediately downloaded myself a free ebook and began reading it again.
You know? I like Melville's style. I wonder I was so afraid to try! I think I can handle reading a book of many layers with such an engaging style of writing. No. 'Engaging' is too feeble a word. I think I could positively love the way this author writes (wrote?).
The very first paragraph:
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago–never mind how long precisely– having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.
The first paragraph of the powerful introduction to Moby Dick at the Moby Dick Big Read site:
Moby-Dick is the great American novel. But it is also the great unread American novel. Sprawling, magnificent, deliriously digressive, it stands over and above all other works of fiction, since it is barely a work of fiction itself. Rather, it is an explosive exposition of one man’s investigation into the world of the whale, and the way humans have related to it. Yet it is so much more than that. It is a representation of evil incarnate in an animal – and the utter perfidy of that notion. Of a nature transgressed and transgressive – and of one man’s demonic pursuit, a metaphorical crusade that even now is a shorthand for overweening ambition and delusion.
Having begun from 16 September 2012, the 135 chapters will be read one a day up till the end of January 2013.
I am not sure how much I am going to be able to stick to this schedule. But I think, even if I manage about half the book I will have gained something. I've also decided to go ahead and read the chapters for myself so that I don't miss anything (which I tend to do when listening to an audio).
So, do any of you think this book worth a tackle? Especially when you get to read it/follow it in this novel way? Are you going to try giving Moby Dick a chance?