U.S. CitiesCity-Data Forum Index
Covid-19 Information Page
Go Back   City-Data Forum > General Forums > Entertainment and Arts > Books
 [Register]
Please register to participate in our discussions with 2 million other members - it's free and quick! Some forums can only be seen by registered members. After you create your account, you'll be able to customize options and access all our 15,000 new posts/day with fewer ads.
View detailed profile (Advanced) or search
site with Google Custom Search

Search Forums  (Advanced)
 
 
Old 03-15-2012, 02:09 PM
 
5,209 posts, read 9,503,052 times
Reputation: 5902

Advertisements

I'm still here 601! The weather here has been beyond gorgeous this week so I've been enjoying being outside - a lot. It's been Spring Fever Big Time out our house with lots of distractions, little reading. But I'm going to make a better effort tonight and tomorrow. Maybe I'll sit outside with my book on a lounge chair and get a tan...

As far as the choppiness of the story goes. Yes, I have noticed that, too. But, if I remember right, the action does pick up (PJ has mentioned that, too) so hang in there and focus on getting the details now.
Quick reply to this message

 
Old 03-15-2012, 03:13 PM
 
2,926 posts, read 4,810,621 times
Reputation: 3711
Don't worry, 601, I'm sticking with you. I'm really interested in everyone's impressions as they continue.

Yes, it is confounding as a narrative because of all the asides. The change in perspective is illogical. It might help you that for the most part it is Ismael's journey. Ismael you'll recall is a biblical nomad, and our Ismael is himself a spiritual wanderer. His essays do have rhetorical purpose.

To his points on whiteness, there is the question of what we invest in "signs and portents" as meaningful. So the whale can be real; what he, or anything in the world, should symbolize is the issue. What is the reality of our abstractions? This is the starting point of atheism. It's not so much about "nothingness" but being cast adrift in a universe without definition, "a colorless all color".

This is contemplation, it gets more complicated in the real world, so I want to defend Starbuck. I don't think his faith is blind at all. He does question, his moral conscience defies Ahab. But he's a tragic character honor bound to obey his captain. Just like religion, secular law--the very idea of morality and conscience--is, after all, also an abstraction. And if we've lived any kind of life we've all had our mortal social dilemmas. On the really big scale (again, I do think this is central): How does a man of conscience respond to the cultural norm of slavery?

The sudden appearance of five new crew members did seem incredible, but I want to see how the movie handles it. I think it's On Demand on Encore, though there's a regular airing on May 3. That might be a good target for finishing.

As for homoeroticism, oh buddy, you ain't seen nothin' yet. You'll recognize the passage when you come to it. Getting past the double-entendres, though, this was the passage that nearly made me well up. It's a lovely vision of fellowship and communion.
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 03-16-2012, 02:16 PM
 
6,071 posts, read 5,674,188 times
Reputation: 18501
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjee View Post
It might help you that for the most part it is Ismael's journey. Ismael you'll recall is a biblical nomad, and our Ismael is himself a spiritual wanderer. His essays do have rhetorical purpose..
Didn't remember that, and it is useful to make the connections that Melville made - surely his use of the biblical names has intent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjee View Post
What is the reality of our abstractions? This is the starting point of atheism.
Could you please explain what you mean by that? It went over my head.

I've been thinking still about the ocean - don't remember if it is in later chapters or earlier, but doesn't M write about Ahab's life as one ALWAYS, for decades, on the sea, and the boundaryless everythingness of the ocean itself drove Ahab mad. White can be everythingness OR nothingness. I think only someone who starts with a religious point of view, as Melville and Ahab did, would be driven crazy by either everythingness or nothingness - I personally find both concepts quite comforting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjee View Post
I want to defend Starbuck. I don't think his faith is blind at all. He does question, his moral conscience defies Ahab. But he's a tragic character honor bound to obey his captain. . . On the really big scale (again, I do think this is central): How does a man of conscience respond to the cultural norm of slavery?.
How can you possibly give Starbuck a pass? By not acting on his conscience he allows the madness to destroy everyone. Isn't that one of the lessons of slavery (and Hitler, and etc.) - that inaction by "moral" people is just as evil as the actions of the immoral?

I'm going to have to take a break on my Moby Dick chapters for a few days as I read my local book club book "Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver". If you don't know about Seed Savers, it's an organization dedicated to finding and preserving heirloom seeds and plants (www.seedsavers.org) Their farm is just north of Decorah, Iowa, and is wonderful!!!

Oh - just wanted to think about the name Moby Dick. When he talks about meeting other whalers on the oceans and how they gossip about the whales, whales are named by location and a man's common name - eg Barbados Tom. So, following that logic, is there a place called Moby?
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 03-16-2012, 10:15 PM
 
2,926 posts, read 4,810,621 times
Reputation: 3711
Quote:
Originally Posted by 601halfdozen0theother View Post
Didn't remember that, and it is useful to make the connections that Melville made - surely his use of the biblical names has intent.


Could you please explain what you mean by that? It went over my head.

I've been thinking still about the ocean - don't remember if it is in later chapters or earlier, but doesn't M write about Ahab's life as one ALWAYS, for decades, on the sea, and the boundaryless everythingness of the ocean itself drove Ahab mad. White can be everythingness OR nothingness. I think only someone who starts with a religious point of view, as Melville and Ahab did, would be driven crazy by either everythingness or nothingness - I personally find both concepts quite comforting.



How can you possibly give Starbuck a pass? By not acting on his conscience he allows the madness to destroy everyone. Isn't that one of the lessons of slavery (and Hitler, and etc.) - that inaction by "moral" people is just as evil as the actions of the immoral?

I'm going to have to take a break on my Moby Dick chapters for a few days as I read my local book club book "Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver". If you don't know about Seed Savers, it's an organization dedicated to finding and preserving heirloom seeds and plants (www.seedsavers.org) Their farm is just north of Decorah, Iowa, and is wonderful!!!

Oh - just wanted to think about the name Moby Dick. When he talks about meeting other whalers on the oceans and how they gossip about the whales, whales are named by location and a man's common name - eg Barbados Tom. So, following that logic, is there a place called Moby?
Well, I'm not giving Starbuck a pass really. He's a fictional character who actually and knowingly is destined to go down with the ship (which of course is not a spoiler). That's what makes him tragic. To say he's blithe or blind to the path he follows casts him as a bit one-dimensional. If everyone in fiction acted with utter moral perfection, then what would stories be worth to us?

I think Melville is not writing from a position of faith but of profound self-questioning--of everything. I have to think there's historical context.

I garden, so the reading break sounds fantastic. I just got back from an Asian market and I know a lot of the vegetables are grown locally. You can't find some of that produce in regular supermarkets. I'm gonna try and see if the seeds will grow in my yard.
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 03-17-2012, 06:12 PM
 
2,926 posts, read 4,810,621 times
Reputation: 3711
I realize I didn't really answer your first question. It goes to philosophical issues that I'm particularly interested in, so bear in mind these are my impressions and I seriously don't want to lead anyone. Somewhat by the same token, I may declare myself Catholic but I was also a longtime atheist so I'm conversant in many philosophical positions. None of this biases me for or against any particular perspective. I'm just discussing the novel.

Do you read Philip K. Dick, or even seen the movies like Total Recall or Blade Runner? It's sort of the same issue, the reality of Life versus what we conjure--what we abstract--as reality. This includes God, fate, law, science, anything our minds create to put order to the universe. Melville's questioning authority on the most intimate level.

Now, modern writers like Dick go further with the idea, but I think Melville was on the same track, being a man of dark conscience in an era of moral crisis. So in indicting Starbuck, did Melville in turn do enough about slavery? Shouldn't he have done more?

I hate to think my own thoughts have put you off the novel, because I'm still processing things myself. It's really a beautifully crafted experience. To keep myself involved, I tended to regard Melville's meanderings as those of a 19th century pot-smoker, using Ismael to go on long monologues about the meaning of things.
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 03-17-2012, 09:13 PM
 
6,071 posts, read 5,674,188 times
Reputation: 18501
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjee View Post
ITo keep myself involved, I tended to regard Melville's meanderings as those of a 19th century pot-smoker, using Ismael to go on long monologues about the meaning of things.
If I knew internet acronyms I'd use the one that means "laughing hysterically". How fabulous!

You haven't put me off reading MD, Bunjee! I'll just say again that people read into art whatever their own life experiences lead them to see, which is why each of us comments on MD the way we do.

Anyway, I'll pick it up again in a few days after I get done the 47 things for work I have to get done (a lecture, a volunteer training session, a costume construction, a grant ap, cleaning out the flower beds, figuring out how to make the guys actually move the woodstove, what to do about the ground hogs, calling about the new bluetooth mouse that only worked for 2 days, when to schedule the flag delivery and where to put it once it's here, thinking of reasons why not to smack the 23 year old intern on the nose, etc. etc. etc.) I've actually been using Moby Dick as an excuse to put off doing work!

I still want to know where Moby is. Does your annotated book say?
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 03-19-2012, 01:06 AM
 
2,926 posts, read 4,810,621 times
Reputation: 3711
The source material for the story is something called Mocha Dick. Mocha is an island off Chile apparently, although I always thought it was off Asia and lends its name to the coffee bean. The whole text of Mocha Dick is in my annotated version but I haven't read it. Melville had a friend from his whaling days named Toby (Tobias), and another source suggests "Moby" is a Brangelina of Toby and Mocha.

Certain notes indicate Melville was kind of a bloviator when it comes to his whaling experience. He claimed to be a harpooner at 18, but nothing supports it. There's some indication that he and his friend Tobias deserted a ship in the Marquesas.

In that light he sounds a bit like a slacker adventurer spinning these seafaring yarns. It doesn't diminish his artistic achievement. Yet...I would guess a modern Melville would talk Amsterdam, Costa Rica, Bali, Tibet, and Beaver Creek, CO, for snowboarding.
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 03-20-2012, 01:30 PM
 
5,209 posts, read 9,503,052 times
Reputation: 5902
Quote:
Originally Posted by 601halfdozen0theother View Post
If I knew internet acronyms I'd use the one that means "laughing hysterically". How fabulous!

You haven't put me off reading MD, Bunjee! I'll just say again that people read into art whatever their own life experiences lead them to see, which is why each of us comments on MD the way we do.

Anyway, I'll pick it up again in a few days after I get done the 47 things for work I have to get done (a lecture, a volunteer training session, a costume construction, a grant ap, cleaning out the flower beds, figuring out how to make the guys actually move the woodstove, what to do about the ground hogs, calling about the new bluetooth mouse that only worked for 2 days, when to schedule the flag delivery and where to put it once it's here, thinking of reasons why not to smack the 23 year old intern on the nose, etc. etc. etc.) I've actually been using Moby Dick as an excuse to put off doing work!

I still want to know where Moby is. Does your annotated book say?
We've had some minor household/yard maintenance turn into some real projects over the past week or so....

I'll see if I can do a little catch up reading.
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 03-20-2012, 10:27 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
23,751 posts, read 16,110,069 times
Reputation: 17827
A most remarkable coincidence happened tonight!
The PBS series American Experience presented an episode on American whaling!

The show interwove the history of the whaling industry with Moby Dick and Herman Melville. It provided a fascinating backstory to the book, and gave some great hints on the allegories in Moby Dick.

That Melville used the saga of the whaleship Essex as the basis for his novel is well known, but his personal connection to the story was much deeper than I expected. He personally knew 2 of the survivng members, and recieved a hand-written copy of the Essex account from one of them while he was himself out at sea, whaling.

I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen the show- I'm sure it will be posted on the PBS American Experience website, for those who can't see it on TV. But here are a few things:

One allegory stood out in the book:
Melville wrote the book just as the United States began coming apart. The Civil War was 10 years away, but the strife had already started. There are many mentions of the number 30 in the book- 30 crewmembers, the Pequod was 30 feet long, etc. The U.S. at the time had 30 states, and Melville himself was 30 years old as he was writing the book.
The racially diverse crew, the individual personalities of the crew members, the Southerner, and other things all were allegories to the looming Civil War to some degree.

The show also explained the book's failure. By the time it was published, the American whaling industry was at it's peak- 1850. By that time, the easiest to reach whaling grounds had already been depleted, and all the voyages became increasingly long and to ever deeper and more remote waters.

The whaling industry was once the great escape for those who were restless and wanted to move out and have adventure, but by the time of the publication, the opening of the West had begun in full, and had seized the public's imagination. Whaling adventures were sort of old hat in comparison to the stories of the Wild West.

By 1859, petroleum was discovered in Pennsylvania, and suddenly, the need for whale oil as the primary lubricant and source of oil for lighting suddenly diminished. Within 2 years of the discovery of oil, the Civil War broke out.

I have often wondered how Moby Dick became resurrected after falling into such deep obscurity. In 1919, the 100th year of Melville's birth, the story of the Essex began circulating again, and that led to the re-publication of Moby Dick. This time, just after World War I, the book resonated with a new audience, was recognized for it's worth for the first time, and has remained in publication ever since.

The story of the Essex is astonishing- it was a greater feat of seamanship than Captain Bligh's for the survivors, and was such a tragedy that the Essex was never mentioned publicly around Nantucket for the rest of the 19th century.

It was all extremely interesting and very relevant to what I'm reading right now. If you get that chance to see the show, don't miss it. It adds a new dimension to Moby Dick.
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 03-20-2012, 10:53 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
23,751 posts, read 16,110,069 times
Reputation: 17827
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjee View Post
First, springfieldva, are you tempted to a jaunt to the Chesapeake from reading this book? My coast is the Pacific and the Pequod's Pacific is far to the west of me.

The biblical Ahab is married to Jezebel, a worshipper of Ba'al. Ba'al worship was the major religion of the region. Ba'al, though, is a general term for "god" (lower case) or "master". I don't know if Melville intended a parallel to Captain Ahab's switching allegiences from a generalized "God" to a determinate one--one conjured of a specific, private obsession. But that parallel exists.

Mastery, therefore slavery, is I'd say the theme of Stubb's dream. There are pervading questions about what constitutes authority, spiritual or secular. In a middle chapter called "Head or Tail" there's discussion of rendering unto the King and Queen what is properly theirs. Taxation without representation, IOW, returning to the idea that this is in part an American narrative about the American spiritual experience. I haven't fully resolved it.

My edition does have some notes, and there's a constant poke at Melville that his research comes almost entirely from a single writer, Beale, who apparently published a big profile of whales.

Getting back to one of your previous posts, I think any homo-eroticism is a modern investment in this book. (Although, who knows?, Melville may very well be writing subliminally but I don't think it's thematic.) It seems any reference to gayness by current authors and audiences is more wry than real. You can't help thinking it when Stubb says "Ahab is qu**r, he's qu**r, such a qu**r man." And that they're sailors, of course. It may very well be that in a century, future audiences fully accepting of homosexuality will in turn find such wink-wink interpretations of Moby Dick rather odd or quaint.
Back then, almost all the American crew members were Quakers. The Quakers were the primary financeers of the whaling industry, and the crews were mostly from Nantucket and New Bedford. There were a lot of black whalers- like runaway Pip, but many were freedmen, and they too, were often Quakers.
Given the pervasive religion aboard ship, it's doubtful that the sailors practiced any homosexuality. It would have been seen as an unimaginable sin at the time.
It was also very common practice to share a bed with a stranger in an inn. Bedrooms were all unheated, so having another warm body in bed was welcome, but most commonly, the sexes were separated in lodging houses- women slept together, and men slept together. Most slept with most of their clothes on for warmth. The men often complained about the other guy not removing his boots, and there were just as many complaints about how the other guy stunk and hogged the quilt. Very often, there would be 2-3 beds in one large room, sleeping 4 to 6 men. Few slept deeply, as most of them had all their gear stashed close to where they slept.
Not a good situation for a sexual encounter. I'm sure that if someone tried an advance, they would be immediately tossed out the window or into the hall.

"Q_eer" had no sexual meaning back then at all. It was commonly used as a word for something very unusual and odd.
Quick reply to this message
Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $68,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.

Detailed information about all U.S. cities, counties, and zip codes on our site: City-data.com.


 
Please update this thread with any new information or opinions. This open thread is still read by thousands of people, so we encourage all additional points of view.

Quick Reply
Message:
Over $104,000 in prizes was already given out to active posters on our forum and additional giveaways are planned!

Go Back   City-Data Forum > General Forums > Entertainment and Arts > Books
Similar Threads
Follow City-Data.com founder on our Forum or

All times are GMT -6.

© 2005-2020, Advameg, Inc. · Please obey Forum Rules · Terms of Use and Privacy Policy · Bug Bounty

City-Data.com - Contact Us - Archive 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37 - Top