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Moby-Dick: Chapters 2-4

Possible Pitfalls Of Liveblogging The Reading Of Moby-Dick

  1. Some graduate of Teh Intarweb School O' Comedy might send you a one line email, ruining the ending of the book for you.
Well, hell.

I suppose I could switch to another book, it's only Day Two. But, if I did, I'd have to keep it to prevent a reoccurrence of this kind of asshattery. So most of my entries would read like this:

Got to page 144 today. The chapter where the guy did the thing really moved me, though I frankly found it pretty unbelievable that those two people would run into each other in that building, considering how they had already met during that big event and then again at that place near the other place.
And so, we persevere.

Chapters read: ii. The Carpet-Bag, iii. The Spouter Inn, iv. The Counterpane

Page reached: 28 of 522 (5.36%)

Status report: Here's why I will never produce a Great American Novel. If I were to have my narrator stay the night at a inn, I would write:

And so he checked into a local hotel, spending most of the evening watching softcore porn on HBO2.
Melville, though -- this guy acts like his paper is ablaze and he's trying to quench the flames with ink.

Chapter two has Ishmael ambling around town, looking for a place to stay. And one point he stops in front of an inn, and Melville devotes a few paragraphs to describing it, before the Ishmael wanders off. Some of my precious, few remaining brain cells now contain the description of an inn I strongly suspect will play no further role in this story.

Chapters three and four cover Ishmael's night at the "Spouter Inn," where he winds up sharing a bed with a savage named Queequeg. The name Queequeg seems vaguely familiar to me, so presumably he's a major character and not just some one-night stand.

One thing that several people remarked upon in yesterday's thread was the abudant humor in the book, which some people manage to overlook, apparently. Chapter three is ripe with it: the interaction between Ishmael and Queequeg boarders on farce. One thing I was worried about, going into this, was that this book about the sea would be thoroughly dry. My concerns appear to be unfounded.

Despite Melville's volubility, I am enjoying this so far.

Words looked up:

  • Grapnels: A small anchor with three or more flukes, especially one used for anchoring a small vessel.
  • Settle ("I sat down on an old wooden settle"): A long wooden bench with a high back, often including storage space beneath the seat.
  • Tar ("At one end a ruminating tar was still further adorning it with his jack-knife"): A sailor.
  • Catarrhs: Inflammation of mucous membranes, especially of the nose and throat. Ah, delightful.
  • Fain ("We were fain to button up our monkey jackets [due to the cold]"): Constrained; obliged

  • Farrago: A confused mixture; hodgepodge; medley. Oo, that's a good 'un.

Posted on November 02, 2006 to NaNoReMo


From the original, reposted post:

"Now, at the age of 32, I not only lack the initiative to read boring classics or run marathons, I don't even feel the urge to lie about it any more."

Dude, welcome to the only good part of middle age.

Posted by: Dug on November 2, 2006 10:03 PM

Curious that ‘mole’ from the previous post is like ‘muelle’ in Spanish which means pier and ‘môle’ in French which means breakwater. Also ‘catarrh’ is like ‘catarro’ in Spanish which must have an Arabic root and also refers to a snotty cold.

I knew learning these foreign languages would come in useless someday.

Posted by: Lung the Younger on November 3, 2006 12:32 AM

Oddly enough, over here in Ireland, catarrh is still used. Cold medication is often said to give fast relief from congestion, sinus pressure, and catarrh. I asked my (Irish) girlfriend what the hell a catarrh was, and her answer was "You know... a catarrh!" - thanks, that clears it up. :)

Posted by: Ryan Waddell on November 3, 2006 1:06 AM

It is best to think of the description of the useless Inn as olden' days special FX. People didn't see a whole lot of Inns outside their own towns.

In 200 years a similar comment will be made, "Why did he focus 30 minutes showing all those buildings blow up? I see buildings blow up everyday, it ain't* nothing special. A building blew up last week and I lit my cigarette** off of it."

Describe your Inn to Melville and he'd probably be amazed at how many stair cases it has. (not to mention softcore porn on HBO2)

*the word will be in style then.
**Later he was arrested for smoking, nobody even inquired if he knew anything about the blazing building.

Posted by: dylanSnow on November 3, 2006 1:25 AM

I am SO enjoying that you are doing this. And the only way I've ever seen "fain" used (because I don't remember it in M-D, having not read M-D in the last two decades) is most from poetry and prose in which it seems to indicate a desire, almost like "wont."

"I fain would go," aka "I was wont to go."

I think "fain" gets sung a lot in madrigal music, too.

Posted by: Belinda on November 3, 2006 1:26 AM

hee hee Interesting twist you've put onto NaNoWriMo here. I tried the writing version once I failed miserably too, I might add. The first day, I wrote almost 4,000 words- a rate that would allow me to finish up 12 days into the month. Then it all came to a screeching halt. I gave up.

Posted by: Debra on November 3, 2006 4:15 AM

I wouldn't worry about spoilers. I'd say after wading (ha!?) through all seven thousand two hundred thirty-eight pages of Melville you won't be able to remember one line from some email or comment. You probably won't have any room in there for any words that aren't Meville. You might spend a month forced to communicate by cobbling together strings of phrases from Moby Dick.

Posted by: Tom on November 3, 2006 6:31 AM

Dude, just what IS a monkey jacket? I want one!

Posted by: Margaret on November 3, 2006 9:41 AM

Are spoilers for M-D even possible? How do people not know how it ends? I read an abridged (where abridged = a 20-page picture book) version when I was, I dunno, eight or something. Isn't the ending common knowledge?

Psst: Ahab has a wooden ***.

Posted by: Dave on November 3, 2006 11:49 AM

Agent Scully, whose father called her Starbuck, got a dog whom she named Queequeg. He was eaten by a massive crocodile (or was it an alligator?).

Maybe that's why the name sounded familiar?

Posted by: Karen on November 3, 2006 12:40 PM

The student newspaper (although it's more like a magazine in terms of format and publication frequency, really) here at the University of Melbourne (Australia, not Florida) is named Farrago.

Posted by: wildsoda on November 3, 2006 4:40 PM

You know that Francis MacBeth wrote a whole musical suite about this book? I dunno, maybe you'd wanna hear it for some background noise.

Posted by: Bando on November 3, 2006 5:07 PM

Er, and it's called "Of Sailors and Whales." That's sorta important, huh?

Posted by: Bando on November 3, 2006 5:10 PM

I'm always on the lookout for a good chance to use the word "rebarbative", but it seldom comes.

Posted by: The Sanity Inspector on November 3, 2006 5:27 PM

"...this guy acts like his paper is ablaze and he's trying to quench the flames with ink."
This has got to be one of my favourite things I've read all year. Its amazingly descriptive and wonderfuly poetic. I'm writing my own overwrought novel for NaNoWRIMo, and I doubt anything I write will be half so good.
I'd read along with you, but I'm not sure I have the time.

Posted by: sandrareinga on November 4, 2006 8:19 PM

That last one reminds me of a passage in a favorite book of mine, Nabokov's The Real Life of Sebastian Knight:

"His struggle with words was unusually painful and this for two reasons. One was the common one with writers of his type: the bridging of the abyss lying between expression and though; the maddening feeling that the right words, the only words are awaiting you on the opposite bank in the misty distance, and shudderings of the still unclothed thought waiting for them on this side of the abyss...at times he felt like a child given a farrago of wires and ordered to produce the wonder of light."

Posted by: Diablevert on November 5, 2006 11:35 AM

I read Moby Dick earlier this year (OK, I'm lying, I listened to it on CD, but it was the unabridged version, I swear!). I noticed that the humor/comedic aspects of the book seem to increase as you go on. Presumable this is an illusion, brought about by the contrast of mildly humorous comments to the endless slog represented by the end of the book. (WTF? A whole chapter about a pole? )

Posted by: The Fishmonger on November 6, 2006 9:18 AM