Posted in Fiction

Call me…intrigued

Call me witty.

Call me wise.

Call me philosophical.

Call me believer.

Call me infidel.

Call me sarcastic.

Call me observant.

Call me Ishmael.

I’ve started reading Melville’s Moby Dick and I think Ishmael will become one of my favorite characters.  So far, I think he is the best side-kick/narrator I’ve experienced since Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby.  I say “since” because I read Gatsby a long time ago and am just now reading Moby Dick.  I realize that the chronological order in which the two novels were published is reversed.

In the short amount of time I’ve been reading the novel, I’ve come across some great quotations by Ishmael.  Such as this one in which he comments on the hypocrisy of those who try to paint money in an evil light:

But being paid, – what will compare with it?  The urbane activity with which man receives money is really marvelous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven.  Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!

Here’s one that I think I will be quoting often:

Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.

As a whaler, he’s familiar with the dangers of the job but seems to take it in stride (methinks):

Yes, there is death in this business of whaling – a speechlessly quick chaotic bundling of a man into Eternity.  But what then?  Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death.  Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance.  Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air.

Look for more posts about this novel.  I’m on chapter 9 out of 135.  The chapters are short by most standards, though.  I’m looking forward to the rest of them.

8 thoughts on “Call me…intrigued

  1. Hi Dale,
    You have a great journey ahead of you! I finally read Moby Dick in the early ’90s and enjoyed it immensely. It is one of the most “quotable” novels I can remember. I can also remember that I read a library copy of the book and it being a continual struggle to NOT underline or mark passages, which I do in books that I own. I’ve since bought a copy, but haven’t returned to it. I look forward to your future posts.
    P.S. I did start Anna Karenina, and have made it about half way through. I just remembered I was supposed to let you know if I decided to read that one. Sorry. 🙂

    1. I am enjoying it! I pulled my copy off the shelf and it had a Doubleday Bookstore bookmark in it. Wasn’t there a Doubleday Bookstore in the Circle Center Mall when it first opened? I have a feeling that is where I got it. I know it was mid-90’s – before Borders.

      And that’s OK about Anne Karenina. I plan to read it sometime this year, but I don’t know when. What do you think of it so far?

      1. Yes, that was the relatively small bookstore on the second (?) floor. I shopped there many times.

        I’m enjoying AK. A local book discussion group is reading it and meeting over two separate meetings on it. We’ve had the first meeting and the second isn’t until may. I’ll try to post on it when I’m done. 🙂

  2. It’s funny. I was reading Jeff Smith’s graphic novel “Bone” and one of the characters likes to reference Moby Dick frequently. So my “missed classics” radar had already picked it up. And now you’re recommending it?

    It’s quickly escalating through the ranks of my oversized reading list. 🙂

    1. Julio, it’s not as difficult as I thought it might be. So far it’s enjoyable. I feel old, but I’ve never read a graphic novel. My son has read a number of them. It’s time to put some on my list for the near future!

      1. Well, I never read a true graphic novel until well into adulthood (I did however collect comics as a kid, but the difference between the two is a very geeky discussion).

        It’s easy to overlook the graphic novel as most of them are really collected story arcs from comic books or even original one-offs that are still focused on well-known superheroes.

        But there are some pretty wonderful original works in the mix as well. “Bone” is enjoyable in that it’s a weird mix of cartoon, Lord of the Rings and Jungian subtext. “Maus” by Art Spiegelman is another great entry into the genre, being an autobiographical work about the Holocaust using mice and cats to re-enact the events. I’ve also heard good things about “Persepolis” and “Blankets”, both also original works, but haven’t read them myself.

        And since this is the internet and we’re talking about graphic novels, I’m obliged to mention “Watchmen”. It is a fascinating social and political satire acted out by superheroes original to that series. I didn’t personally ENJOY it per se, but I recognize that it’s very well done and very layered. I might bother revisiting it one day, but I have too many other things that I’ve never read before way ahead of it. 🙂

        In any case, they’re a nice change of pace sometimes. The best ones are absorbing and, as you can imagine, very quick reads.

  3. Julio, thanks for the info! A few of my kids have read “Maus” for school. The other ones you mentioned all sound very good and could be a good change of pace. The “geeky discussion” might be worth having sometime, too!

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