Sunday, September 19, 2004

Why I love Moby Dick

No, there’s nothing witty about my subject line: I really do like Moby Dick. As it’s one of the only three books I brought with me two Italy (the others being a dry book on computer algorythms and the immenently unrereadable “The Left Hand of Darkness”) I’ve had a lot of time to read it and I have done so, twice this trip. I don’t really know how to explain my love of what is often thought of as a dense symbolist tome but let me try.

First, the story is interesting. It isn’t a love story or a faher son story or any of the other stock storys that I’ve heard ten million times before. It’s a story about a guy who goes out to kill a big fat white sperm whale becuase it bit off his leg. Try finding that in Shakespear or Greek myths.

And if I may point out, a white whale is a great metaphor for just about anything. Evil, fear of the unknown, nature, whatever. Go ahead and pick something: Death, God, Revenge. Therer’s gallons of metaphor held in deep pockets in the sperm whale’s hump. Next to all that sperm oil I mean.

Being metephorical wouldn’t do the book any good if you coulodn’t understand it. Fortuently, for all his volumous laguange, Mellville throws big red flares in front of his symbols to let the dimwitted know what’s going on. Ussually it’s something like “For was not Queequa really a nobel savage?” If you’re perpetually unobservant like me, you’ll appreciate the hand-rails and clearly marked exit signs.

Lastly, the book is informative. Although I’m sure the modern scientific knowledge of whales far outstrips eerything Mellville knew (we now know that the Blue Whale does indeed exists) it’s interesting to learn about whaling and sailing at the time. That is all.


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