Saturday, March 19, 2016

Moby Dick - The Milestone

I must confess. This blogger, when nothing more a young, easily distracted bundle of college party energy, didn't always read all the books he was assigned to read. Yes, yes. There were books I simply either didn't read or only read the absolute bare minimum to pass the test. I skipped parts, read summaries, listened to others talk about the reading assignments, took good notes while in class, but didn't completely read a few of the actual books themselves.

Moby Dick was one of those books.

Assigned in American Literature class when I was a student at SIU-Carbondale, I don't recall how I performed on that test, but I ended the semester with a good grade, so I assume I must not have done too bad.

I never forgot Moby Dick though. What I did pick up from that class made me vow to read it at some point when I didn't have the stress of a classroom deadline and could approach it from a leisurely perspective. I liked the cover art of this particular printing, and it had many of the underlining and side notes I had scribbled in it from class.

Years passed. And passed. And passed.

It never left my sight. Always sitting there on the shelf, reminding me of the promise I made. It even manage to survived The Great Book Loss of the late 1990s when I accidentally donated the wrong box of books and lost some of my favorites. Recently, I took it down from the shelf, really gave it a good thoughtful examination, then began reading.

I'm glad I did, and I'm particularly glad I waited until I was an adult to do it. I fully believe that my reading now gave me more fulfillment than it would have then, and I also believe that I enjoyed this first reading at this age more than my classmates did from long ago. In fact, I'm convinced that if I had actually read this cover to cover when it was assigned to me, I would have hated this novel much like I learned to hate other great authors because of being forced to read them before I may have matured enough to fully appreciate their work.

It is a wonderful book, deserving of nearly all of the accolaids it receives, and I can understand why some people cite this as their favorite novel. It's a complex and deep work that honestly deserves multiple reads to fully grasp all the symbolism and philosophical elements it contains.With that being said, though, it is long and at times extremely slow narrative. I found myself thinking, "Oh let's get on with it," more than a few times, and sometimes, Melville's efforts to accurately portray every aspect of a whaler's life is more than is really necessary to make his point. I understand that a whaling voyage was mostly monotonous stretches of time broken up by unexpected and intense moments of action, but that didn't make this any easier to bear.

I have no doubt that I will randomly pick this up from time to time and reread some of my favorite parts, or even seek out quotes and sections for use in my other writing endeavors. I also have no doubt that I will one day reread it after I catch up on the ton of other books I need to knock off my list. But I can also guarantee that it'll be years and years from now - my brain simply needs the vacation.

Until Next Time...
Ishmaelly Yours,