Sunday, August 25, 2019

Moby Dick Continues

Reading *Moby Dick* once again--I have read it perhaps four times previously--gives me such pleasure. My familiarity with the book allows me to savor it. Mostly I am reading it a chapter or two at a time. I seem unable to lay into it but since I know where it heads, that's okay. I get to sound the depths.

I know Melville wasn't, in life, exactly a successful sailor (or much of anything except author of Moby Dick), not in the romantic sense depicted in the book. But that thoughtful man fully engaged with the life in *that* life. Thus the resonance one feels in reading the novel.

Melville pragmatically and thoroughly delves into the details of whales and whaling. He did not just produce a narrative, he wrote a life, or a living. In a way, he resembles Proust, tho in much different terms and execution. Both expand their work into depth, if you can follow that. In their respective works they stare at a murky horizon with eyes set for every detail. I have a border collie, I know what that's like. The writing of their respective master works required tenacity and endurance.

With Melville, a particular urgency pushed him, one that Proust perhaps did not face. Melville felt the need to followup early success. Additionally, he needed to make some mon. The early parts of his novel show him building a neat, lively story. Like with his earlier novels, he had vivid experiences he could relate. A sea change occurred however by way of a central dissatisfaction with the possibilities of simple narrative. And so Melville followed his nose and not the marketplace. In doing so, he failed to find the small success that he sought. But he wrote *Moby Dick*, a wonder.

I paint a simplified picture, or just write a hint of the expanse. *Moby Dick* has no single *about*, as nothing of worth ever has. He had, for instance, to contend with Shakespeare. Those passages in which he conjures Shakespeare strike me as clumsy, and taste of derivation. Nonetheless, that contention adds more drive to the operation. Just as he sought some manner of peace with The Bible's presiding power, so too with Shakespeare.

Moby Dick stands simply as a grand event. You could call it a poem because it coalesces around something other than narrative. It wants words to align both objectively and subjectively. Writing Moby Dick both confined and released Melville. Melville wrote that rare thing.