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Thread: Moby!

  1. #1
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Moby!

    Holy Mackerel! Thar She Blows!

    Aaarrggg!

    Here’s the scuttlebutt: Love it or hate it Moby Dick is part of the American Canon. I read it once years ago, but I was probably too young and lacked the life experience to appreciate it. Well, I’m not young anymore. And I don’t know about life experience but I’ve accumulated a fair amount of scar tissue over the years, and some of the critics think that’s what it takes to “get” Herman Melville’s whale book. So I’ve decided to reread it and I’m inviting anybody who’d like to come along to climb aboard. I have a warning though — it’s a thick tome and it’ll probably take me a month of Sundays to get through it.

    Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

    Hack the clock…
    Uhhhh...

  2. #2
    Registered User tailor STATELY's Avatar
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    Ok, I'll give it a shot, or harpoon... been forever since I read it so it will be pretty much new. Project Gutenberg I guess. Oh, and my lips move when I read.

    Ta ! (short for tarradiddle),
    tailor
    tailor

    who am I but a stitch in time
    what if I were to bare my soul
    would you see me origami

    7-8-2015

  3. #3
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Well, shiver me timbers. Welcome aboard, Tailor.

    Haha. My lips move too…and my brow furrows.

    You know, I realized early on I’m going to need to do a lot of background work. Right from the get-go there’s a lot of biblical references — Jonah and the whale, etc. Sailors gonna be sailors, but the New England of the day was still highly Puritan, hence Melville would have had a deep and nuanced understanding of Old Testament Bible stories. I don’t. Tailor, I seem to remember you’ve got a good knowledge of the Hebrew and the Christian Bible.

    Anyway I downloaded a Classic Books copy of it on my Kindle for $1.99. I’ve also got a Barnes and Noble illustrated version of it around here somewhere. Ain’t it weird how a pot-boiler costs $15.99 on Kindle, but a classic of American literature is only two bucks.
    Uhhhh...

  4. #4
    Registered User bounty's Avatar
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    gentlemen, count me out on the actual reading but i'll look forward to the posts and being able to chime in when im able.

    I was writing the above while you were making your last post.

    I have a history of Christianity in the united states and Canada by mark noll. there is a page devoted to Melville and hawthorne and their writing.

    more later...
    Last edited by bounty; 11-25-2023 at 12:36 PM.

  5. #5
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Haha, no worries, bounty. I didn’t figure we’d get you to read it. That’d be like asking the Sheik of Araby to shave off his beard. Of course we welcome any comments or expertise on literary and nautical matters you have.

    So welcome aboard. We’ll keep the skiff handy in case you need to row ashore.

    Land Ho!
    Uhhhh...

  6. #6
    Registered User bounty's Avatar
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    its probably a good thing ive already read it. had I been reading along for the first time I likely would have done very little but complain. but now, a few years removed from the major disappointment, maybe i'll be able to help someone else enjoy it.

    i probably have a cliffnotes version i wouldn't mind peeking at.

    my aforementioned history book page falls under the 4th part of the book called "the emergence of religious pluralism" under the chapter "legacies of a 'Christian america'" under the section called "a literature preoccupied with god" and finally under a subsection called "Christianity in the literary canon."

    Melville was a friend of hawthorne, who had puritan ancestry, and his life overlapped chronologically with Emily Dickinson (don't know if they knew each other) who is also mentioned in the chapter. i bring her up because she also lived in Massachusetts, though apparently highly cloistered.

    tuck this away for later: remind me when you guys get to chapter 128.

    meanwhile Sancho, you might enjoy this; not to steal moby's thunder, i recently got turned onto a website called tvtropes.org and have been enjoying looking around. i discovered a thing called "the dulcinea effect."

    https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.p...DulcineaEffect

    (there are ten pages of moby dick references at the site)
    Last edited by bounty; 11-25-2023 at 04:10 PM.

  7. #7
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Sounds good. I’ll let you know when I get to Chapter 128. Here’s where I am so far:

    “Call me Ishmael.”

    And okay I already have some questions. Am I supposed to call him Ishmael because it’s his name, or because he’s writing under an alias for some reason or another?

    It’s gotta be one of the most familiar first sentences of any novel, ever. But I’ll be honest, I remembered it wrong. Or rather I remembered the second sentence wrong. I thought it was:

    “Call me Ishmael. Ishmael is my name.”

    I think I thought that because of this Steve Goodman tune:

    https://youtu.be/pXX3GvwxhSk?si=Idi8nXG5ruEm7ql1

    I even tried to learn that song on my guitar some years ago — never mind how long precisely. (Bet Y’all didn’t know this thread comes with a soundtrack.)

    Here’s the rest of Melville’s opening:

    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.
    And that’s a pretty good start for an adventure story, eh?

    Side note: I am well familiar with the Dulcinea effect. I mean what red-blooded man hasn’t fantasized about saving a damsel in distress at one time or another?
    Uhhhh...

  8. #8
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    I'm enjoying all your comments on this opportune thread. Like bounty I won't reread this book, which I probably read more than fifty years ago on account of it being a regular door stopper. But if you allow I will occasionally chime in. I also like the idea
    of looking at the biblical and other references.

    As for the one sentence from the novel I can remember, the one just mentioned by Sancho in the post above : "Call me Ishmael", it is an interesting opening. It suggests to me that Ishmael may or may not be the name of the narrator. I get the idea of a narrator that is not to open about himself. Ishmael has some biblical meaning but I don't remember which. In Nazi German , I remember, Jewish men had to call themselves Ismael and the women Sara.
    "I seemed to have sensed also from an early age that some of my experiences as a reader would change me more as a person than would many an event in the world where I sat and read. "
    Gerald Murnane, Tamarisk Row

  9. #9
    Registered User hellsapoppin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sancho View Post
    Sounds good. I’ll let you know when I get to Chapter 128. Here’s where I am so far:

    “Call me Ishmael.”

    And okay I already have some questions. Am I supposed to call him Ishmael because it’s his name, or because he’s writing under an alias for some reason or another?

    It’s gotta be one of the most familiar first sentences of any novel, ever. But I’ll be honest, I remembered it wrong. Or rather I remembered the second sentence wrong. I thought it was:

    “Call me Ishmael. Ishmael is my name.”

    I think I thought that because of this Steve Goodman tune:

    https://youtu.be/pXX3GvwxhSk?si=Idi8nXG5ruEm7ql1

    I even tried to learn that song on my guitar some years ago — never mind how long precisely. (Bet Y’all didn’t know this thread comes with a soundtrack.)

    Here’s the rest of Melville’s opening:



    And that’s a pretty good start for an adventure story, eh?

    Side note: I am well familiar with the Dulcinea effect. I mean what red-blooded man hasn’t fantasized about saving a damsel in distress at one time or another?




    "Ishmael" roughly means 'God will hear'. The biblical Ishmael was an outcast having no particular family except for mankind. He is regarded historically as a messenger and prophet by many (esp by Muslims). Thus, the name implies that he is a messenger for you and for all of humanity.

    On another thread I wrote about what that message is. You may find it here:


    http://www.online-literature.com/for...=1#post1401819



    Before anyone reads Moby Dick they should read Robert K Wallace's book so that they can see that Melville was conveying the same messages made by Frederick Douglass in his sermons on racial/ethnic equality before God and man.
    When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent

    ~ Isaac Asimov

  10. #10
    Registered User tailor STATELY's Avatar
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    Interesting in how there is an antebellum wikipedia of whale sources in "Etymology" and
    "Extracts" (especially) which the author offers the reader to fire the imagination before the famous opening lines: "Call me Ishmael." in CHAPTER I.—Loomings

    Added: Perusing Google Scholar I found an excerpt from a book that gives some background information for Melville/Moby Dick titled "Call Me Ishmael" no less by Charles Olson... https://www.google.com/books/edition...J?hl=en&gbpv=1

    Olson's book alludes to Shakespeare/King Lear which is fortuitous in that I recently watched the play on youtube from a link Danik 2016 supplied that may aid in my study. Whether style or substance I do not know yet. Other allusions: Moses/Law of blood, and Christ.

    Thanks hellsapoppin re: Robert K Wallace and the note about Frederick Douglas, although the toothpaste is already out of the tube.

    Evidentially the book is more than a whale's tale as was my assessment on my first reading anciently.

    Ta ! (short for tarradiddle),
    tailor
    Last edited by tailor STATELY; 11-26-2023 at 04:49 AM. Reason: Added
    tailor

    who am I but a stitch in time
    what if I were to bare my soul
    would you see me origami

    7-8-2015

  11. #11
    Registered User bounty's Avatar
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    poppin, if you've read Wallace's book, then id encourage you to wed whats in it to the specific parts of the posts here when the opportunity arises.

    as a case in that point---and to put the biblical Ishmael in better context. he was born due to a lack of trust in god from Abraham and sarah, who had "given" Abraham her maidservant hagar so that they could have the child that god promised them. Ishmael's birth happens outside the covenant of god. he was sent away, not to much because of that, but because of his mocking of sarah. gen 21:9-10.

    its not accurate to say that he had no "family except for mankind." even though "ishmaelites" were known as nomads, he had a wife, and genesis 25:12-18 accounts for a large number of descendants.

    Ishmael is not a revered figure in Christendom (nor apparently in Judaism) and very broadly speaking, in so much as he can be traced to present day arab nations and islam, the current state of affairs can be linked to the quote that ends the section above, "and they lived in hostility towards all their brothers."

    so back to the book, given the above, its not clear on the surface why Melville would have the narrator of the story be named "Ishmael."

    i think any leaps from god through douglass to Melville as explained by Wallace and in using "Ishmael" would have be nailed down lots more clearly to think its because he is regarded as a messenger and his name means "god will hear."

    Sancho--the tvtropes folks make the dulcinea effect a subset of the damsel in distress one. the former being somewhat derogatorily applied to women the heroes met only five minutes ago.

    for another thought on the opening of the book, see the attachment.
    Last edited by bounty; 11-26-2023 at 08:11 AM.

  12. #12
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    "bounty-Ishmael is not a revered figure in Christendom (nor apparently in Judaism) and very broadly speaking, in so much as he can be traced to present day arab nations and islam, the current state of affairs can be linked to the quote that ends the section above, "and they lived in hostility towards all their brothers."

    so back to the book, given the above, its not clear on the surface why Melville would have the narrator of the story be named "Ishmael."

    Thinking about it, without knowing both recommended book, Ishmael appears as an outsider, a sort of rootless, jobless tramp, the right man to be recruited for a whale hunt like this one.

    If anyone wants to read the book, i found this link with several download options.
    I don´t know if the Litnet library is still active. If it is it should be available there too.
    Last edited by Danik 2016; 11-26-2023 at 11:55 AM.
    "I seemed to have sensed also from an early age that some of my experiences as a reader would change me more as a person than would many an event in the world where I sat and read. "
    Gerald Murnane, Tamarisk Row

  13. #13
    Registered User bounty's Avatar
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    that's an interesting way to look at it danik.

    I don't remember enough of the book to comment on that, but maybe its something Sancho and tailor can keep their eyes peeled for as we all go along.

  14. #14
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Welcome aboard Danik!
    Welcome aboard hellsapoppin!

    Quote Originally Posted by tailor STATELY View Post
    Evidentially the book is more than a whale's tale as was my assessment on my first reading anciently.
    Well said, Tailor. Looks like we’ve already got a couple of ideas on the book’s subtext laid out here — one ancient (the Old Testament names), and one current (attitudes towards race).

    Danik, that is an interesting tidbit about the Nazis. I’d assume it was part of the dehumanization process the Nazis used against the Jews. The choice of Sarah seems obvious, but why Ishmael? Sarah of course was Abraham’s wife, mother of Isaac, stepmother of Ishmael, and the ancestral mother of all of Judaea. Sarah is also a hugely popular name, probably more so for Jewish girls than Christian girls. (I think Mary wins the day for the Christians) Was Ishmael a popular name for Jewish boys in mid twentieth century Germany? I don’t know. I’ve got a pretty superficial knowledge of the Hebrew Bible — Ishmael got booted out of Abraham’s tribe and went on head up the Arab side of the house. His mother was Egyptian. He figures more prominently in The Koran than The Torah or The Bible.

    Anyway, I’m still at the adventure level of the story. The Ishmael of Moby Dick is almost immediately a likable fellow. He’s also got a serious case of cabin fever, and a case of the winter blues. In his words — A damp, drizzly, November of the soul. He decides he needs to get to sea to:

    to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off
    Haha! Been there. I’ve got a job that puts me on the road a lot. If I’m stuck at the house for more than a few days, I get antsy to be out on a trip. Not only that, my wife gets antsy for me to be out on the road as well — “When’s your next trip, hon? Don’t you have somewhere else you need to be?”

    Anyway, here’s the soundtrack for cabin fever. Land Ho! by The Doors:

    https://youtu.be/yBWCgwKersU?si=0dIW_0CZMWVt6R5h

    BTW my Grandpa was a sailor. Also, Robbie’s guitar is pretty awesome in that tune.
    Uhhhh...

  15. #15
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Thanks, bounty! Just had a look at the first chapters, the book has many funny passages. Loved the language.

    If anyone wants it , I found this link with several options of download:
    https://onemorelibrary.com/index.php...moby-dick-3161
    "I seemed to have sensed also from an early age that some of my experiences as a reader would change me more as a person than would many an event in the world where I sat and read. "
    Gerald Murnane, Tamarisk Row

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