Reading Moby Dick
March 23, 2012
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I took the photo below near Baños, Ecuador. It is the beautiful El Pailón del Diablo waterfall. You can check out my Ecuador photos on my Facebook site. Can you see the black sperm whale emerge from the river? It blew me away and reminded me of this: “Like those mystic rocks, too, the mystic-marked whale remains undecipherable.”
The truth is I have been feeling guilty because I failed to get though Moby Dick in February. I’m still only about 60 percent of the way through and I need to finish All the King’s Men this month for my reading group. The trouble with Moby Dick is that there is just too much to chew on as you work your way through it. Anyway, I’ve started All the King’s Men and it already is the best piece of U.S. political fiction that I have ever read. Latin Americans would find it familiar: Willie Stark is the quintessential populist. “Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he paseth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something.”
I mentioned in an earlier post that I had attempted to read Moby Dick when I was younger. I’ve been trying to remember why I dropped previous efforts. Typically, when I encounter epics that sing to me, I finish them compulsively and obsessively. What I do know now is that Moby Dick is as deep and beautiful a novel as I have ever read. My hypothesis for my previous false starts is that my ear for language has improved significantly. I have always loved the sound of poetry, even when I had no idea what it meant. When I was a teenager, I was swept off my feet by Derek Jacobi’s recital of this: “Seems,” madam? Nay, it is; I know not “seems…” Milton almost never made sense but I loved reading him just the same. When I was younger, though, I struggled to hear English prose. Now that I’m older, I can hear its music and few English novels sing with the poetry of Moby Dick.
“I should say, that those rocks must not a little resemble the Sperm Whale in this particular.”