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Thread: Moby Dick?

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    Question Moby Dick?

    I'm about fifty pages into Moby Dick. Queequeg has been introduce and Ishamel is in the whalers chapel. It is a very strange book. Is this a common reaction?

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    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    It's certainly rather idiosyncratic, but stick with it - it's well worth it!
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    "Strange" should be recognized as not necessarily a negative attribute. There is a quote attributed to everyone from Sir Francis Bacon to Leonardo da Vinci to Edgar Allen Poe to Karl Lagerfeld that reads to the effect: "There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion." Harold Bloom speaks equally of the "strange" as a key element of great literature. If we consider that the opposites of "strange" might include the "familiar", "commonplace", "mundane", "usual", or "cliche", strange might indeed be quite complimentary in that it challenges the reader. I think a great deal of the greatest literature is quite "strange" if we were to really think about it.
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    Not strange in a negative way at all. Strange in the best way possible. And I would agree with that point of strange as common in great works.

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    Cool Beware of the discourses on cetacians .....

    The first time I read Moby Dick, I skipped these, then read them later. Many get bogged down with the almost encyclopediac discourses on the species of whales.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Austin Butler View Post
    I'm about fifty pages into Moby Dick. Queequeg has been introduce and Ishamel is in the whalers chapel. It is a very strange book. Is this a common reaction?
    The strangeness hasn't even gotten going, yet. I'm not going to tell you what oddities await as that would spoil the explorative experience that is such an integral part of MD. Just have patience. There are several really, really slow sections of the book, such as "Cetology" which is 20 pages (depending on the text size of your edition) of whale biology. It's fine to skip these parts as dfloyd suggests on the first time through, but you will be missing out on some of the key parts that give the book much of its experimental feel. If you do decide to read these parts, try and understand the humor, not only of the prose but of the very fact that Melville put these sections in the book. Melville quite enjoys toying with his reader.

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    Registered User Brett Cottrell's Avatar
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    I was hooked at "Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunk Christian.” I found the first half a riot - cetological prolixity excluded.
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    There is a lot of homo eroticism in the book, the scientific talk is old world gay literature foreplay.

    If you know Queequeg then maybe you read the part they slept together, and got married.

    That is the hidden theme of the book. All the stuff about hunting whales is code for "gay love" without being openly gay.

    I want to say more without spoiling the novel. So I will say if a bunch of guys never encounter women, don't think about women and only think about being with other guys, then look out for the homosexual hints.

    The obvious interpretation for Moby Dick is what does Moby's "thing" make a man think. And why is it so addicting?
    Last edited by author1500less; 09-24-2011 at 11:12 PM.

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    The huge amounts of homoeroticism and imagery is another way Melville is having fun, sort of at the expense of the reader. I think some may construe this as Melville saying that he's gay, or promoting that sort of lifestyle. I think it was done for comedy.

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    Yes, I've picked up on the homoeroticism. The scene of Queequeg and Ishmael sleeping was hilarious XD

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    I rather liked the cetology bits, like reading a very well written, if slightly out-dated, biology textbook. Then again, I did biology at 'A' level so perhaps I like that kind of thing more than most... It's only twenty pages, give it go, you might like it! (And don't buy an abridged version...) I didn't feel the urge to skip anything, it was a much more straigtforward read than I expected - more like reading Dickens than Joyce!

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    Just got to the cetology chapter. There is a certain humor to it. I like how he attributes certain personalities to several and his musings on whales like the humpback and sulphur bottomed are a little over the top, but great nonetheless.

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    On the "narwhale:"

    My own opinion is, that however this one-sided horn may really be used by the Narwhale–however that may be–it would certainly be very convenient to him for a folder in reading pamphlets.

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    I started reading the book this week. I was rather surprised by the gay relationship between Queequeg and Ishmael. I had heard some woman on YouTube go on about it, but I assumed she was just reading too much into a close friendship. The second thing that surprised me was to learn that many of those Nantucket whalers were Quakers. It seems incongruous. Quakers believe in non-violence and were often conscientious objectors in in wars.

    Edit: I am about 100 pages in and am quite enjoying it. Captains Pelag and Bildad have made me laugh once or twice.
    Last edited by kev67; 08-07-2016 at 04:06 PM.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
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