Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Moby Dick: The Official Haiku Review

Finally. Two weeks after this post about how I was floundering around in Moby Dick, I have finished reading! And here is my official Remedial Lit Project Haiku Review of Melville's masterpiece:

Melville and Ahab
Both obsessed with great sperm whales
In deadly detail.

Now, in fairness, I can see why this novel has the reputation of an American classic. The last 100 pages are splendid. Some lovely descriptions, a sense of foreboding and passion driving the plot, great action, a tragic conclusion. (Whoops. I hope I didn't spoil the ending for you. You were thinking Ahab and Moby made up their differences and sailed off into the sunset together, right?) And the first 100 pages were pretty entertaining, too, as Melville introduced some interesting characters and how they find themselves enlisted in the Pequod's doomed voyage.

However, I can also see how easy it would be to make one of those "Abridged Illustrated Classics" out of the novel. Simply cut out the many, many chapters with such scintillating titles: "Cetology"; "Monstrous Pictures of Whales"; "Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales"; "Of Whales in Paint, in Teeth, etc." (those last three were consecutive, ye gods!); "The Whale as a Dish"; "The Sperm Whale's Head"; "The Right Whale's Head"; "The Tail," and so on, and so on, and so on and on and on. Now, as I wrote before, I can understand the need for some of this detail. Melville's contemporaries truly would have had no idea what whales were like--the immensity and scale of them, the hard work of harvesting them (shudder), the dangers of life at sea. And at times Melville writes compellingly on these subjects. But too many times the details aren't so compelling--they're overwhelming. It's like the college lecturer who drones on and on for an hour, only to get to the really interesting and important stuff in the last ten minutes of class.

Still, through perseverance and pure stubbornness, I managed to finish. I can now say, Yes! I barely survived have read Moby Dick!

Now onto Hawthorne, to whom Meville dedicated MD, "in token of my admiration for his genius." Let's hope he didn't inspire that dogged devotion to detail.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations, Diane. I am jealous, as I am just about to start Chapter 74: The Sperm Whale's Head - Contrasted View.

    Whose idea was this anyway?!