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Old 03-07-2012, 02:48 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjee View Post
Well, mine's a library book. 25 cents a day late fines--priorities!

Actually, I want a few days to read the reviews and critical analyses afterwards. I'm particularly interested in reviews of the book by Melville's contemporaries, then 50 then 100 years later. This volume includes that, so I can see how analysis of Moby Dick might have evolved.

From some of the annotations I can more clearly see the little imperfections of this work. That helps me not to regard every word as sacrosanct, which I think intimidates people when they read "classics". I'm finding that, yes, it is a masterpiece. But I can feel at ease reading it.
You could always renew it, you know. It's not like you've got a copy of Twilight or something . (teasing)

I haven't read any reviews or formal analysis, yet. But I plan to. Right now, I'm just looking up/clarifying Melville's more obvious references and batting around some ideas about them, trying to figure out how they tie into the story as I read.
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Old 03-07-2012, 02:58 PM
 
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Originally Posted by 601halfdozen0theother View Post
You guys are getting ahead of me. I took a break yesterday as this month's Vanity Fair arrived in the mail. It's important to have priorities!
I'm not very far ahead of you even with your break. I've gotten a bit sidetracked, myself..

I've been thinking about your question about the ocean and what it represents. I think, like you mentioned, it could represent eternity. In fact, at one point Ishmael looks at the sea and notes how it seems to go on forever.

Another possibility, at least to me, is that the ocean represents temptation (remember the magnetic draw of the sea?) and the ships represent the occupants' faith in God (or lack there of). I don't know that this interpretation really works, though. But I'm keeping it in mind as I read.

Last edited by springfieldva; 03-07-2012 at 04:01 PM..
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Old 03-08-2012, 10:43 AM
 
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Well, Chapters 11 - 20 last night.

For anyone scared of reading MD - this part of the book is just a great, fun read - humorously written, full of fascinating, descriptive, historic detail, and just a good buddy narrative. There's even a good recipe for chowder in chapter 15! The funniest line so far is when the landlady and Ish think that Queequag, locked in a room, has killed himself because he doesn't answer the door. ". . . there goes another counterpane" says the landlady!

But also -

I did also enjoy Melville's, ummm, scrutiny? (had to think of the right word) of religion here.

Have you all noticed how frequently he's said something along the lines of "better a good pagan than a hypocritical Christian"?

Go Melville!

He describes the Quakers of whaling ships and Nantucket - they don't spill the blood of humans, but they do commit murder in the Ocean, and they are ruled by a desire for money, says Melville. In C 16 he says that the Nantucket Quakers were made "morbid" by the sea. I had to look up the definitions of "morbid" to understand its use in this context. I think here it means "diseased", or "mentally unhealthy". Innnnteresting!

It was reminding me of the history I study here in Iowa. This part of Iowa was settled by Quakers at exactly the same period Melville's writing about - the 1840s. They came here when it was Mesquakie land, before it was legal for Whites to be here. They themselves didn't fight the Mesquakie or the Sauk, but they did yammer at the US Gov't enough about wanting the land that US soldiers did come here and spill human blood so that they could permanently have this land. So - hypocracy much, Quakers?

I'll leave you with this quote at the end of C 17: " . . . I have no objection to any person's religion, be it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any other person because that person don't believe it also. But when a man's religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and argue the point with him."

Yup!
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Old 03-08-2012, 04:02 PM
 
5,210 posts, read 8,313,871 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 601halfdozen0theother View Post
Well, Chapters 11 - 20 last night.

For anyone scared of reading MD - this part of the book is just a great, fun read - humorously written, full of fascinating, descriptive, historic detail, and just a good buddy narrative. There's even a good recipe for chowder in chapter 15! The funniest line so far is when the landlady and Ish think that Queequag, locked in a room, has killed himself because he doesn't answer the door. ". . . there goes another counterpane" says the landlady!

But also -

I did also enjoy Melville's, ummm, scrutiny? (had to think of the right word) of religion here.

Have you all noticed how frequently he's said something along the lines of "better a good pagan than a hypocritical Christian"?

Go Melville!

He describes the Quakers of whaling ships and Nantucket - they don't spill the blood of humans, but they do commit murder in the Ocean, and they are ruled by a desire for money, says Melville. In C 16 he says that the Nantucket Quakers were made "morbid" by the sea. I had to look up the definitions of "morbid" to understand its use in this context. I think here it means "diseased", or "mentally unhealthy". Innnnteresting!

It was reminding me of the history I study here in Iowa. This part of Iowa was settled by Quakers at exactly the same period Melville's writing about - the 1840s. They came here when it was Mesquakie land, before it was legal for Whites to be here. They themselves didn't fight the Mesquakie or the Sauk, but they did yammer at the US Gov't enough about wanting the land that US soldiers did come here and spill human blood so that they could permanently have this land. So - hypocracy much, Quakers?

I'll leave you with this quote at the end of C 17: " . . . I have no objection to any person's religion, be it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any other person because that person don't believe it also. But when a man's religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and argue the point with him."

Yup!
As soon as Ishmael looked through that keyhole and saw that harpoon I knew there would be trouble - lol.

There is a ton of hilarity in this book. I loved the part where (once on the ship) Queegueg pats the sleeping guy's rear end and then sits down on him as though he were a couch. Quee then goes on to explain, to a very appalled Ish, that it is customary and quite convenient for royals to use lazy people as furniture. Oh my, what a picture Quee paints for us.

Regarding the "better a good pagan than a Christian hypocrite" message - I do think that has been a major theme so far.

I'm glad you suggested this book 601. It's turning out to be a really great read.
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Old 03-09-2012, 02:14 PM
 
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Chapters 21 - 30.

First - Sudcaro and Banjomike I hope you're still out there! Don't worry about keeping a reading schedule - just read and write whenever you can - I'd love to hear whatever you think. For me 10 chapters a night is pretty doable, since Melville and James Patterson have the same idea about chapter length (except I hold that as one of many things against Patterson) but you do whatever you want.

Anyway, for me these chapters were just about the Pequod's characters being introduced. Starbuck, a Quaker - brave about practical things but not about spiritual terrors. Stubb - Happy go lucky, didn't worry about the future or about death. Flask - Not thoughtful, but physically strong. (So maybe this is why later in the book they all submit to Ahab's spiritual dominance??)

And the mixed race crew - American Indian, Pacific Islander, Aftrican. Melville notes that this reflects the realities of the American army & navy and railroad and canal construction - the officers of all were American while the crew were non (or new) American. The crew are all "isolates".

In C 28 Ahab is introduced - literally scarred from head to toe by his continual battle with the sea. Just as the Pequod was cannibalistic (made partially of whalebone) so was Ahab (his leg made of whalebone). The crew are conscious of being watched by a "troubled" eye. In C29 Ahab insults Stubb, and Stubb did nothing, and didn't understand why he did nothing. Did Stubb pity or fear Ahab?

Hey Springfield - have we figured out what the Sea means? Seems like sometimes it is just the sea, sometimes it represents Eternity, or is it Life itself??? Weigh in on this Bunjee, if you will.

Also -

C 19 - 21 Elijah the prophet - was he there to foretell death? Whoever out there currently owns a bible, will you look him up - what did Elijah in the bible do?
C-24 - Whalers equated to pioneers and explorers - they developed American and South American commerce which led to the liberation of the colonies from Europe, and they opened Japan up to the rest of the world.

And are you noting the Shakespearean stage directions that appear periodically? "Enter Ahab - to him, Stubb."
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Old 03-09-2012, 02:55 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 601halfdozen0theother View Post
Chapters 21 - 30.

First - Sudcaro and Banjomike I hope you're still out there! Don't worry about keeping a reading schedule - just read and write whenever you can - I'd love to hear whatever you think. For me 10 chapters a night is pretty doable, since Melville and James Patterson have the same idea about chapter length (except I hold that as one of many things against Patterson) but you do whatever you want.

Anyway, for me these chapters were just about the Pequod's characters being introduced. Starbuck, a Quaker - brave about practical things but not about spiritual terrors. Stubb - Happy go lucky, didn't worry about the future or about death. Flask - Not thoughtful, but physically strong. (So maybe this is why later in the book they all submit to Ahab's spiritual dominance??)

And the mixed race crew - American Indian, Pacific Islander, Aftrican. Melville notes that this reflects the realities of the American army & navy and railroad and canal construction - the officers of all were American while the crew were non (or new) American. The crew are all "isolates".

In C 28 Ahab is introduced - literally scarred from head to toe by his continual battle with the sea. Just as the Pequod was cannibalistic (made partially of whalebone) so was Ahab (his leg made of whalebone). The crew are conscious of being watched by a "troubled" eye. In C29 Ahab insults Stubb, and Stubb did nothing, and didn't understand why he did nothing. Did Stubb pity or fear Ahab?

Hey Springfield - have we figured out what the Sea means? Seems like sometimes it is just the sea, sometimes it represents Eternity, or is it Life itself??? Weigh in on this Bunjee, if you will.

Also -

C 19 - 21 Elijah the prophet - was he there to foretell death? Whoever out there currently owns a bible, will you look him up - what did Elijah in the bible do?
C-24 - Whalers equated to pioneers and explorers - they developed American and South American commerce which led to the liberation of the colonies from Europe, and they opened Japan up to the rest of the world.

And are you noting the Shakespearean stage directions that appear periodically? "Enter Ahab - to him, Stubb."
Well now you are officially ahead of me. I think I'm on C 27, right before Ahab is introduced. To me, these chapters haven't been as entertaining as the other chapters, but I suppose it's good to get the info on the characters.

It's funny that you should mention stage directions, because the first 20 or so chapters read very much like a play to me - going from scene to scene, set to set. I could easily see the characters up there on the stage acting it all out for us. It all seems very visual.

I haven't gotten to the part with "Enter Ahab", but it makes me wonder if Melville originally intended this book to be performed on stage.

As for the Elijah reference, I'll look it up and get back unless someone else beats me to it .

Last edited by springfieldva; 03-09-2012 at 03:43 PM..
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Old 03-09-2012, 03:15 PM
 
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Originally Posted by 601halfdozen0theother View Post
Hey Springfield - have we figured out what the Sea means? Seems like sometimes it is just the sea, sometimes it represents Eternity, or is it Life itself??? Weigh in on this Bunjee, if you will.
I'm not sure what the sea means, yet. But maybe, Sin?
Land seems to represent comfort, safety, being watched over, minding God.
But the Sea is mysterious, magnetic, frightening, tempting. As a reference: Jonah attempted to escape God's eye by going out to sea on a ship.

Furthermore, the devout Quaker who owns the Pequod will only let himself go so far into the ocean before he hastily returns to the safety of the land. However he is not above providing the means for his hired crew to journey out into the sea. He also profits from their bloody work.
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Old 03-09-2012, 03:21 PM
 
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Hi, 601. Friday's a leisurely day since my projects are done, so I'm considering a cannonball run through the book...and I can rent the movie! There's a later chapter called "The Grand Armada" and I'm dying to see how it's realized. I wish I'd held off, actually, since I'll be on a coast-to-coast flight in a couple of weeks.

But it's really a great book to go through unpaced. Short chapters, lively prose--take your time, all the time in the world. I need something like a Moby Dick lying around at all hours. I'm looking for new candidates, or a new laptop since I can read a chapter waiting for it to boot up.

Elijah was the prophet that foretold Ahab's death in the book I Kings.

I've noticed that the essays on various sundry topics of whaling all do have intention to them. They're not just meanderings. How Melville closes each chapter offers a summary of his intent. My interpretations are entirely my own take so far:

It seems to me it's a very grand intent. Religious hypocrisy isn't I don't think the primary target. He's out to harpoon the big metaphysical fish, how we can conjure not only the mystical and how we make sense of things, but morality, law, "objective" discovery or science, etc. Melville casually drops philosopher names like Spinoza, Locke, and Kant. The sea, I believe, is cosmological chaos. It's existential, the uncertainty of authentic meaning, and it's no wonder the modern audience has elevated Moby Dick so.

There's a later chapter that seems to point this up pretty specifically, and when you get to it we can discuss more.

I was very skeptical of an analysis you brought up from Why Read Moby Dick?, the one that claims a lofty metanarrative of the American enterprise. I think all these various ethnicities, races, cultures, and creeds invoked, with an inescapable social backdrop of slavery--all that in turn conditioned by issues of existence... Yeah, I'd say this is a journey of national conscience written at a critical time for it.

ETA: I just read a subsequent chapter with a passage that is so tender I even welled up a little. I don't yet know Melville's final verdict, but it's not all angst, not at all.

Last edited by Bunjee; 03-09-2012 at 03:46 PM..
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Old 03-10-2012, 11:14 AM
 
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I'm scrambled right now - because I want to respond to what you all have said, because I want to talk about the chapters I've just read, because I want to go back and think about things that are just seeming important now, because I keep thinking about the things Philbrick wrote. No wonder people have been agonizing about MD for so long.

First, I guess, it's just a truism that each of us brings our own personal experiences, beliefs, etc. to everything we read, and that's certainly true here. Bunjee, no, I don't think that religious hypocracy itself is the major theme of the book - but religion in the context of "figuring out if there's anything out there and what about the afterlife" is. I'm strongly influenced by the way Philbrick concludes his book - his final chapter is entitled "Neither Believer nor Infidel." He quotes Hawthorne's description of Melville (who he seemed to find kind of irritating): "Melville, as he always does, began to reason of Providence and futurity . . . and of everything that lies beyond human ken, and informed me that he had 'pretty much made up his mind to be annihilated', but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation; and, I think, will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief." (Why p. 125).

Here's what Philbrick says finally. Melville "can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or another." At some point, Ishmael expresses this: "Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with equal eye." (Why p. 127). So this is coloring my reading of MD, because it's something I continually wrestle with too.

Anyway, hmmm - I just read Cs 31 and 32 last night. What was the significance of Stubb's dream? An early explanation of why the men submit to Ahab's crazy leadership? "... It's made a wise man of me . . . the best thing that you can do, Flask, is to let that old man alone; never speak quick to him." This is the other thing I'm reading into MD - why do people submit to irrational or immoral or evil leaders? Because it's the safest thing to do? Because of fear? And how does this relate to mid 19th c slavery, which is another master theme of the book supposedly but which I haven't perceived yet?

About C32 - Cetology - did you guys read "Extracts" in the beginning of the book? It seems to me that Melville did extensive reading and research before he wrote MD - but he didn't necessarily digest everything he read - just spat it back out only slightly modified. This kind of relates to your thoughts about the theatrical aspect of the writing, I think, Springfield. I don't think that MD was ever intended to be a play, but instead, I think that Melville just read a lot of Shakespeare and was influenced by the rhythem (oh jeez, I can never spell that word) of Shakespearean language and stage directions. I do that too - I'll read something and then write or talk in that style for a little bit afterwards. Melville wasn't a perfect writer, just a guy.
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Old 03-10-2012, 11:16 AM
 
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Oops - I meant to ask one of you to tell me about King Ahab in the Bible - what's his story? And what's the significance to us here?
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