Place Settings #44: January 25, 2015

IMG_4289Eat | These are bacon pancakes with a blob of avocado mash. They were delicious and super easy to make: I just chopped up some bacon, cooked it, and added it to the pancake mix.

Drink | More Baruir’s coffee.

Read | Still going strong with Moby Dick. As I read, this book keeps getting higher on my list of favorite books. Whales are constantly on my mind — I went on an extended YouTube deep dive of whale documentaries — and the infamous whale chapters are actually the best ones.

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Melville, obviously, is a crafty writer. You can tell by the way he introduces Captain Ahab, who doesn’t make an appearance until page 157. Ishmael, Queequog, and the reader keep hearing mysterious things about the Captain from people: Captains Peleg and Bildad and the crazy old man Elijah. They say things like “He’s a queer man, Captain Ahab — so some think — but a good one. […] He’s a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab; doesn’t speak much, but when he does speak, then you may well listen” (Captain Peleg, page 112) and “But [say] nothing about that thing that happened to [Ahab] off Cape Horn, long ago, when he lay like dead for three days and nights” (Elijah, page 125 — one of a string of backhanded anecdotes). An entire mythology rises up around Captain Ahab before we ever meet him so that we are desperate to get a glimpse of the man for ourselves.

Even this is delayed until the latest possible moment. The Pequod ships out and Captain Ahab remains hidden in his quarters; they sail out into open ocean and Captain Ahab remains hidden in his quarters. And when he finally does appear on page 157, he only stands on deck for a few minutes and doesn’t speak to anyone.

Gradually, Captain Ahab becomes more visible and starts speaking, but even then Melville does not disrobe Ahab of his mystery. We’re left wondering about the Captain’s peg leg (allegedly made from the jawbone of a whale), the long scar on his face, and his preoccupation with white whales. Even coming into the book with a rudimentary knowledge of Captain Ahab and his quest for the great white whale, Melville has artfully kept me eager to read the next sentence.

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“For small erections may be finished by their first architects, grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything.”
Chapter 32
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5 comments

  1. Sounds interesting! I’m always so hesitant to read classics, because 90% of the ones I was forced to read I couldn’t stand. So I do enjoy reading your blog to get a glimpse into these books… I might read this one someday.

    Are you back in NY? You disappeared for a little while!

    1. I am back in NY! I started graduate school in September. Kinda let the blog lapse for a while, but got the itch again a few weeks ago :). Hope you’re doing well!

  2. Ah, you’ve returned to the ole WordPress. Welcome back. Moby Dick is an absolute blinder of a book. So rich and flowing and beautiful. There’s a very cool lecture about Melville and his influence on Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgyZ4ia25gg. Very interesting stuff. I’d actually suggest following up Moby Dick with Suttree, which is an equally beautiful book with a great rhythm to the prose.

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