There's a lot going on with Moby Dick. Well, duh. But let's start with identities, shall we? The most famous three-word beginning ever, "Call me Ishmael," is both straightforward and deceptive. Call whom Ishmael? Call me Ishmael because that's your name, or call you Ishmael to assign a name to a construct of identity that will morph into an omniscient narrator while simultaneously rendering the account of a voyage through one man's reason even as he whimsically observes others' quests? Yeah, and that's just the first line. Oh, Melville.
I mean, our good buddy Herman (can I call you Herman? It's not as if anyone else does, ever. Maybe there's a reason for that? Maybe you wish you were named Ishmael?) also constructs other identities for himself/the narrator, like the "late consumptive usher to a grammar school" and the "sub-sub-librarian" who provide the Etymology and Extracts that actually come before that famous "first" line. Those are worth reading, by the way. Herman's sense of humor comes through, plus you learn about languages and get more ideas of things to add to your ever-growing list of literature to read. Or wait, maybe that's just me.
So anyway, Manhattan? I had totally forgotten about the book starting in the "insular city of the Manhattoes" with everyone gazing to the water. The last time I perused these pages I had not yet lived Manhattoes-adjacent. How can one not love taking the plunge into this novel, with our wandering narrator who's like, "Man, you know, every once in a while I just got to GO to the sea! I'm off!" Love this man. Also how he doesn't actually want too much responsibility in his job.
"For my part I abominate all honorable respectable toils, trials, and tribulations of every kind whatsoever. It is quite as much as I can do to take care of myself, without taking care of ships, barques, brigs, schooners, and what not." -p. 5
By the way, I am reading the Penguin Classics ISBN: 014-039084-7 but even if you don't own the book at all it is available online. (Although, shame on you if you have stopped buying real books and only read digital. Shame, shame.)
And, just a refresher for those who didn't get the memo, why am I reading Moby Dick? Well, you see I have "read" Moby Dick before. I have "read" it three times in fact, once in high school (hi, Ms. Freeland!), and twice in English major classes in college. And I blew it off all three times. I SUCK. So in a concerted effort to suck less, I decided to re-read/read it, and had pretty much settled on it being my Big, Classic Book of 2010. Then this past New Year's Eve, for whatever reason, someone said something I now can't recall about the whale hating Ahab. I immediately started debating this with Brian, and then via text message to several others: that's not quite right, is it? I mean, the whale doesn't hate Ahab. Right? It's Ahab who's a crazy f***er. The whale just wants to go about being his bad-ass whale self. I decided then and there to get on the Moby Dick stick ASAP, which worked out to be mid-March. And despite some minor blogging delays, here we go!