If you would do me the kindness of forgiving the obviousness of the statement, we've hit choppier waters. We begin this week's reading with Cetology, a chapter which I expected to dislike immensely. However, largely thanks to Christopher's recommendation of the online annotation Power Moby-Dick as a very helpful tool in these chapters of encyclopedic information on whaling, I actually enjoyed this quite a bit. I do feel that one needs visual aids in this chapter. Ishmael inexplicably lapses into some strange "Folio" format in relaying the information he has to dispense on the topic of whales, but laying that aside, yes, I found it engaging to hear what passed for Cetological knowledge over 150 years ago.
We then have a series of chapters which go something like this:
A job description of a member of the crew, an account of a meal that the officers take together, an account of pole sitting and how Ishmael gets a bit moony up there, Ahab's inciting incident (150 pages in) of his impassioned speech, his nailing of a plot device to the mast, Starbuck's minor rebellion, a series of internal monologues where we seem to have dashed the established narrator altogether, and we finish with a script of what I think was a dance that turned into a brawl. My uncertainty stems from Melville's insistence on slopping the 1840s sailor slang on as thick as possible. It was difficult to follow and, I'm afraid, I wasn't terribly inspired to do the mental gymnastics that Melville was demanding over what I opined was superfluous material. I seem to lack the capacity to muster the required interest in working out what he means by phrases like: "What hey there, lad! Tear aside! Hoist ye knickers! 'Gains the mizzen with the gargamel!" And colloquialisms of that ilk in the parlance of either the Terpsichorean or the pugilistic.I am told there is a very important and great chapter on the way. I am looking forward to the celebrated Chapter 42. Over the past few weeks I've read a great deal about how this book went from relative obscurity to a fair bet on a good deal of lists of great literature. I am still not entirely certain I'm convinced. In retrospect, I wonder if some of my brain didn't realize, back when I was laying out the schedule for this reading group, that I ought to save this book for the end of our list. Because the inclination to jump ship at this point is fairly strong. The last time I read this book was over a decade ago. I have no memory of my reaction at that time, but I think I've decided that this will likely be my final journey through Melville. The "hit" in his "hit-and-miss" record thus far strikes me as too few and far between. I feel anxious to delve into my next reading project where thus far I've struck gold consistently with every title. It's a bit like I'm sorting through mud in which I am told there are many diamonds, but within plain sight of the mud pile in which I root is a big pile of visible, clean, cut diamonds free for the taking.
So... I'm sort of grumpy about Melville this week. You?