Twenty-fifteen: I’m going to do something I’ve been putting off for far too long. I’m going to get serious about reading. And I’m going to write about it…
I pried open the digital pages of my electronic copy of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. The book was penned in 1851 and has been given a century and a half to stew in the popular slurry of conciousness and literary discourse until ultimately tricking down to a few megabytes of data on my little reader, tucked neatly into my shoulder bag, and hidden amongst the “To Read” playlist I’d created in more abitious times.
1) …because I’ve been saving it, having been told, or read-somewhere, citation-long-forgotten and apparently unGoogle-able, that Moby Dick is a metaphor for approaching middle-age and it is a book best comprehended when one enters the bell curve of one’s fifth decade, somewhere between age 40 and 50. I’m not quite there, but I can see it on the horizon.
2) …because it is a classic, and an oft-referenced one that I feel like I should get it under my literary belt.
3) …and for no other reason than it was there, on my Kindle, and I hadn’t even touched the file since downloading it some years ago.
So, I started reading. And this isn’t a plot summary. It’s merely a notion.
The Opening Pages
… in which we meet Ishmael and Queequeg
I pushed myself to focus: it’s getting more and more trying these days, in some respects. My attention span, whatever that is, mellows as I age, but I seem to erode it equally from the other direction with a steady diet of television and video games. I pushed myself to focus because the language of the opening first chapter was flowered and scattered with allusion and metaphor, tuned to a barage of nuance that does not blend well with a chattering commuter-train car. I pushed myself to focus, digesting every word with a kind of meta-analysis and rolling each sentence through a brief but conscious inventory of critical literary analysis and cross-referencing the hyperbole-ridden descriptions with the synapses of simpler narratives stored in my cluttered head.
But such as Ishmael’s struggle to find a bed in a chilled harbour street, eventually a door opens on the frost across the plot and the story emerges. Our narrator and protagonist is about to set sail as a common worker on a whaling ship, in avoidance of true responsibility and because he’d rather not just pay for the trip as a passenger. And likewise, this plummet into the barracks of the average man, the story delves from the long winding prose of sophistication to the grunts and urks as the new characters present themselves as close-encountered curiosities, even so much as two unlikely characters cuddled up together in a hotel bed before what I suspect will be a rolling adventure to come…