Do You Like Starbuck?

moby-dick-queequeg.jpgFlipping through long list of books I have yet to read and even a goodly number that I have already read I was overcome by a curious sense of urgency, possibly corresponding to my rapidly advancing years. It started in the Js and became stronger as I scanned through the Ks and Ls, becoming a visible trembling as I dipped into the Ms. Could it be?

Is it time for one last and massively enjoyable read of one of the greatest American novels?

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. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

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Another Month of Panic

download.jpgWhen you discover and suggest a new book every day it never really affects you until at the end of the month when you gather all those suggested books together and realize that you want to read so many of them and that you probably never will. As I sit here with hundreds of books surrounding me on my new white bookshelves and thousands of books silently buzzing in my miracle digital readers, I am realizing more and more the horrific truth in that Arthur Schopenhauer quotation:

To buy books would be a good thing if we also
could buy the time to read them.

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Why Read Moby Dick?

Back in High School they held us down and forced Melville’s prose into our rebellious brains and we hated it. Later in college I actually picked up The Great White Whale on my own and read it one summer at the beach in between the earlier William Golding novels with the lurid covers. I liked it and considered Moby Dick an excellent exercise in converting well crafted prose into opportunities for literary analysis.

That was many years ago and I have read the novel, I believe, two more times, once with an online reading group. Like so many classics, each reading seems richer and more rewarding (this doesn’t apply to Jane Eyre which is the same every time you read it).

Why Read Moby-Dick?I was surprised and interested when the New York Times included a review of a new book called Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick. I certainly intend to read this one and suspect that a few other readers might also be interested. For those that have not as yet read Melville, you might be surprised at how readable he actually is (some of his earlier works like Typee are actually considered Juvenile Fiction so how hard can he be?).

So put Herman Melville on you near-future reading list and don’t forget Moby Dick.