Moby-Dick – Chapters I-XVIII – Quick Check-In

Though dreadfully behind on Brona’s readalong, I am still plugging away at this American tome and really savoring it.  This is my second time reading Moby-Dick, the first time being nearly a decade ago.  The familiar scenes and phrases are coming back to me like old friends.

Nantucket NASA 2002
NASA Johnson Space Center – Earth Sciences and Image Analysis (NASA-JSC-ES&IA) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The first 18 or so chapters cover Ishmael’s land journey to his ship the Pequod, anchored at Nantucket, and meeting his unexpected, cannibal friend Queequeg.  Much has been written about the exploration of religion and culture that Melville covers in this introduction, where we see both conflict and communality between different characters, both on a broad scale and on a personal level.

What really gets at me this time is the range of emotions and “worlds,” if you will, which Melville shows us.  You feel Ishmael’s wanderlust in the first chapter, his mix of fear and humor on meeting Queequeg, and the gloomy aura of the church where Father Mapple preaches.  The whale bones which decorate the Pequod are just one detail which foreshadow things to come and which Ishmael, in spite of his irritating personality, will tell you about incessantly, like a close and endearing friend.

It is a slow and gentle descent into the plot’s ultimate chaos.  If you did not know the ending, you might not suspect it from this opening, which reads like a series of chronological vignettes. That is part of the genius of the book.

Reading Everything in August

No, that is not the title of a challenge…but it may as well be.  I’m up to my ears in books and it’s wonderful.

Sweet peas and ocean breezes   ♥

I spent most of my July weekends working on a large volunteer project for a non-profit.  It was a beneficial experience, but more of a commitment than I realized.  Now that that’s pretty much wrapped up, I can turn back to books.

Here’s a quick list of what I’ll be reading this month, at different levels of undivided attention and in no particular order:

  • 1984 – George Orwell
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne
  • Master and Commander – Patrick O’Brian
  • Drawn from Memory – Ernest Shepard (illustrator of the original Winnie the Pooh)
  • Psalms (almost finished)
  • Tesla biography (yes, still)
  • Smart People Should Build Things and The War on Normal People – Andrew Yang
  • Nostromo – Joseph Conrad
  • Moby-Dick – Herman Melville
  • Other??  There’s sure to be more.

I probably mentioned before how many, many times I struggled to start Nostromo and stick with it.  Well, I’ve finally succeeded making it past the start, and it’s every bit as engrossing as I thought it would be.  Abandoned mines, haunted Englishmen, political unrest, and questionable investors…if you’re fascinated by 19th-century South American history, this book is all about it.  Some parts are pretty funny, close to dark humor but more often like Dickensian absurdism.

Some quotes from chapter 6:

‘We shall run the world’s business whether the world likes it or not. The world can’t help it – and neither we can, I guess.’ – random American character

* * *

The parrot, catching the sound of a word belonging to his vocabulary, was moved to interfere.  Parrots are very human.

Joseph Conrad 1916

I will never get over the fact that English was Conrad’s third language.  Regardless of one’s views on his politics or perspective, the man was brilliant with words.

Tonight I think I will go read the first chapter of Moby-Dick, because it’s the moment I’ve been waiting for – the beginning of Brona’s read-along

You can read a sample of my old thoughts on the novel here.  I first read Moby-Dick back in 2010… it feels like a lifetime ago.  Since then, these are some of the milestones which have happened in my life:

  • Entering/graduating college
  • Getting my first car and job
  • Learning real faith
  • Falling in love
  • Cutting my hair short
  • Writing drafts of two books
  • Buying two Apple products (whaaat?)

I so rarely re-read books that I’m really curious how I will react to this one.  Will I enjoy it as much as I did before?  Will I notice anything new?  I’ll be posting intermittently about it, so we’ll see how it goes.  🙂