Blogged Out Ma Nut

Emoticoning but with letters.

Moby-Dick - Herman Melville I’ve heard from more than a few people that the lesson of Moby-Dick is that “you can’t take revenge on an animal”. And why not? In concurring with that interpretation, you are in fact quoting one of the world’s most famous literary critics:

(And I suspect this is the kind of review a real 8 year-old might be able to muster up:

Well… I can’t relate. It sounds like such a great line, though. Like something you might want to pass onto your children, ‘Now remember Billy- you must NOT take revenge on animals.” Aside from Moby-Dick (and the real life whale it was based on), when has anyone ever tried? Did I miss a childhood rite of passage where you try and tie a firecracker to a cat to deal with your parents’ bitter divorce? I’ve never tried or even thought about taking revenge on an animal, have you? Were you the firecracker cat kid? Sorry to hear about your parents’ divorce, it was probably for the best though ☺

Give me a minute, I’m trying to think of more animal revenge scenarios.

I totally can’t.

Of course there will be true stories here and there for which this is the case, but as a classic book, surely there should be some universality to the message?

Which brings me to [a:Italo Calvino|155517|Italo Calvino|]’s definitions of a classic from [b:Why Read the Classics?|9814|Why Read the Classics?|Italo Calvino||1194952][1], he offers 14 of these to start the book, 3 of which I’d like to focus on:

“A classic is the term given to any book which comes to represent the whole universe, a book on a par with ancient talismans.”

Ahab is the… can’t get through the review without using the word monomaniac [2] captain of the Pequod, setting sail to hunt whales and harvest their sweet sweet whale oil, but it just might go off course on the captain’s mad mission of vengeance against the white whale, Moby Dick, for amptutating his leg on the ship’s last journey. Carly Rae “Ishmael” Jepsen is the young impressionable man who could well believe that the Ahab can do it.
As I see it, the whale is a big white synecdoche, a symbol of seeking retribution for the irreversible past, for the often innate unfairness of the universe [3].

“’Your’ classic is a book to which you cannot remain indifferent, and which helps you define yourself in relation to or even in opposition to it.”

And who couldn’t relate to that? Who could not empathise with a man who is taking the past into his own hands, finally! Hasn’t something happened to you, something so wholly, ridiculously unfair that it gives you that nasty visceral feeling when you think about it? What has stopped you from trying to change it? We can accept the past is the past, but sometimes we just don’t want to, it’s something we all know, but we just don’t feel it, it doesn’t feel right, and if we still exist, and so does the universe, then the possibility exists in some form or another for the past to change somehow, right? If not, why not try? Why not be the first to do it?

Because indulging in those dark emotions, the ones that stir your guts, and deciding to do something about it, is something you couldn’t easily come back from, that could drive you on a course of such singular vision that before you realise, you’ve burned too many people in your blazing path. You’ve burned yourself.

Moby-Dick is hardly a book you have to spoiler, but how do you think that turns out?

“Classics are books which, the more we think we know them through hearsay, the more original, unexpected, and innovative we find them when we actually read them.”

If you’re wavering about it, please read Moby-Dick. The prose is beautiful, the message is indeed universal [4], I don’t know if it’s a book to be enjoyed, but it is to be understood, in original, unexpected and innovative ways.

[1] Which I totally haven’t finished yet.
[2] Didn’t even try hard enough!
[3] In the interest of full disclosure, while I did put it into my own words, this is not an interpretation of my own handiwork, it was in an essay in the back of my edition of the book haha! But thankfully it was cause I can pass it on ☺
[4] And while you’re at it, skip the whaling non-fiction. No one ever said “Hey! I’ve got this great book you have to read, it’s about outdated whaling facts- shame there’s this weird story sandwiched into it…” unless you’re fascinated by the phrenology of porpoise crania. Ok I made that up.

Currently reading

The Recognitions
William Gaddis
Progress: 200/935 pages
The Recognitions
William Gaddis, William H. Gass
In Search of Lost Time
Marcel Proust, C.K. Scott Moncrieff, Andreas Mayor, Terence Kilmartin, D.J. Enright, Richard Howard
Teach Yourself Norwegian Complete Course Package (Book + 2 CDs) [With 2 CD's]
Margaretha Danbolt Simons