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Moby-Dick, Chapters 17-22
Page reached: 101 of 522 (19.34%)
Status Report: You know, despite all my grousing (though, given the setting of the novel, "carping" might be a more appropriate term), I am enjoying the book so far. It is not what I expected at all. I was bracing myself for 500 pages of turgid, byzantine prose, so steeped in symbolism that the plot was little more than a hook onto which the author could hang pages upon pages of religious allegory. In truth, Moby-Dick is, first a foremost, a fairly straightforward adventure yarn, a classic tale of "Boy Meets Whale, Boy Loses Whale (and Leg), Boy Goes in Search of Whale" story.
As for Melville's logorrhea ... well, I'll tell you a secret. I like long-winded authors. One of my favorite contemporary writers is John Irving, famous for his ability to bury a 100 page story in 400 page book. And the novel I've most enjoyed in the last few years was House of Leaves, a book which, like Dick, has more asides, tangents, and digressions than actual narrative.
The atomic story unit in Moby Dick, I've discovered, is about twenty pages; that is, some major event that advances the plot happens about once every score of pages. I'm now on page 100, and I'd say about five things have really transpired: we met Ishmael, Ishmael met Queequeg, the two traveled to Nantucket, they signed papers to serve on the Pequod, and the Pequod set sail (at last, in the final line of chapter 22).
This works out great for me, as I reading the book in twenty-page chunks -- 20 x 30 days = 600 pages, which means can take four days off and still finish it before December. So, really, it's like tackling a chapter a day. And each evening, as I tuck into the novel, I feel like I am reading the next installment of a serialized adventure story found in the back of Boys Life magazine.
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