Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Moby Dick read-a-long: Weeks One and Two!

I think we've established that I'm pretty terrible at keeping to post schedules for read-a-longs. I can keep up with the reading, fine, but then I never seem to find the time to actually write the damn posts on time. Anyway, here's weeks one and two!

Week One

1) So, first impressions. What do we think of the novel?

I was wonderfully surprised to find that I got really into it straight away! Seriously, so much more readable than I expected. I have a touch of fondness for the nautical, so the idea of setting off on a sea voyage is awesome.

2) What about Ishmael's attitude to Queequeg? Is is tolerance ahead of its time of just a form of casual racism?

Ahhh, Queequeg. Right, I have a lot to say about Queequeg/Ishmael.

So, Queequeg is basically introduced as the stereotypical savage/cannibal and all those things that make you wince because holy racism, Batman even though this was pretty much exactly standard for the time etc etc. But I don't think it's really as simple as that- Queequeg is actually a pretty fleshed out, honorable character. (There's some complicated race and nautical themed stuff in Melville's Benito Cereno too, just to give that a shout-out.)

I like his and Ishmael's weird friendship. Actually, it's more than a friendship, right?

"... giving a sudden grunt of astonishment he began feeling me..."
"Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Queequeg's arm thrown over me in the most loving and affectionate manner. You had almost thought I had been his wife."

Just to give a few examples. I ship it, what can I say.

3) Do you think Ishmael should have heeded Elijah's spooky warning?

Probably. I don't think he would though; he's much too determined to go to sea. Probably for the best, because then where would we be?

4) Captain Ahab! He's almost with us. What do you expect from him?

He's a bit of an enigma, isn't he? I have high hopes. I want him to be grumpy and cantankerous and full of rage towards all whales.

Week Two

1) We've met Captain Ahab now. What do you think of him? Did he meet your expectations? Who would you cast to play him in a movie?

Not quite as grumpy as I'd hoped, but surprisingly rather likeable, I thought. I can sort of understand his motivation; I'd be pretty pissed to lose my leg too.

I was curious to see what adaptations there were of Moby-Dick, and apparently there's a 1956 movie with Gregory Peck as Ahab. Not who I would have chosen, but how awesome is the poster?

I think I'd go for someone appropriately rugged and gruff. I keep coming back to Ciaran Hinds.

2. Some chapters seem to focus on action and attempt to move the story along, whilst others seem to ponder the concept of whaling and life. Do you find one type easier to follow than the other?

Hahaha. Yeah, I think we all know the answer to that. I'm glad I'm not the only one who struggled with this week's reading after last week was plain sailing (pun intended). I'm usually not even one to complain about books with a lack of action in them, but yeah, I'm not sure having so much musing on whaling was really necessary. I understand what he's doing (I think... I hope) but it sure doesn't make for easy reading. 

3. Keeping in mind everything we've learned about whaling this week, has it changed your views on it at all?

Not so much- I'm as against killing any sort of animals as ever, obviously. But I've enjoyed learning more about it- it's really freaking weird when you think about it. Let's hunt ridiculously large and dangerous animals in order to turn them into candle wax! That's some crazy shit. I think they're all crazy.

4. Why do you think Herman Melville suddenly branches off into lectures about how acceptable/difficult/clean whaling is?

I guess it's part of the whole thing where Moby-Dick isn't really about whales at all but Melville's own musings about life. At the same time, I really wasn't expecting him to go into quite as much detail about whales. I still don't know what that encyclopaedia-ish part was all about. Or how accurate it is.

5. Do the scientific misconceptions bother you at all? ie. that whales were fishes, etc. 

Not really. I've always figured taxonomical classifications of animals are a bit vague and useless anyway... I mean, a dimetrodon looks a heck of a lot like a reptile but is technically a mammal, and platypuses just ruin everything by somehow being mammals that lay eggs. Like, what.

Just an excuse to share my love of platypuses, ridiculous creatures that they are.
So if you wanna call a whale a fish, be my guest I suppose.


  1. Oh my gosh Gregory Peck actually played Ahab? I was thinking about putting him but I changed my mind because he didn't seem quite right, I'm amazed that that's actually a thing!

    So far you are the only person unconcerned by the whales as fish misnomer which is probably good. You can stop us all from getting caught up in stuff like that and forgetting to focus on the story!!

    1. But Bex... what's the point of a read-a-long if we're not going to get caught up in pointless trivialities? It's almost like you want us to talk about the story as a whole, or something weird like that!

  2. First off. I was reading the comments on my post during work, and I'd just taken a mouthful of tea when I read yours. It made me giggle so hard I choked on my tea and my coworkers thought I'd gone absolutely mental. Cheers for that :p

    Agreed, that poster is amazing.

    Haha, I see your point about the uselessness of animal taxonomy and I sort of agree with you... but I still want to throw my book at him every time he refers to whales as 'spouty fishes!'