Hi everyone, I’m Joan and I’m returning to the Zombies fold after almost totally folding on 2666! I first read Moby-Dick as an adult and I’m really glad that it was never required reading for me. I approached it the first time with open arms and I fell in love. It was the pick of the reading group I was in at the time in Brooklyn, and although we extended the time-frame by a month I was the only one to finish it. So I had only myself to discuss it with. Now, around 12 years later, I’m already way ahead in terms of discussion and analysis and it’s only week 1!
This time around I’m doing side reading, working my way through a number of the books Daryl reviewed here, particularly Hoare’s The Whale, Delbanco’s Melville, and soon Beachy-Quick’s A Whaler’s Dictionary which should arrive today. Additionally I’m dipping into Eric Jay Dolin’s Leviathan. I feel as though I’m completely immersing myself in Moby-Dick and what a rich world it is.
In what is looking like a bit of a theme for the first week here, I’m going to touch on one of the elements of the work that I truly love. I’m a total sucker for beautifully crafted phrases, the ones that take your breath away and make your heart sing, the ones that you stop, read again, underline and star in the margins, the ones that can in just a few words speak a universal truth. Many years and so many wonderful books have come and gone since my first time with Moby-Dick I had almost forgotten just how poetic and beautiful Melville could be. Sure, it’s an adventure story, and there are so many styles and tones woven together, but it’s those beautiful phrases that keep me coming back. Here are just a few of my favorites so far.
Chapter 12, regarding Queequeg’s native land:
It is not down in any map; true places never are.
Chapter 14, right at the end regarding Nantucketers:
For years he knows not the land; so that when he comes to it at last, it smells like another world, more strangely than the moon would to an Earthsman. With the landless gull, that at sunset folds her wings and is rocked to sleep between billows; so at nightfall, the Nantucketer, out of sight of land, furls his sails, and lays him to his rest, while under his very pillow rush herds of walruses and whales.
Chapter 16, regarding the Pequod, the well known but still wonderful to me, and beautifully illustrated by Matt:
She was a thing of trophies. A cannibal of a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased bones of her enemies
Which ones are moving you?