Monday, November 29, 2010

Reading the Classics with Paul- Moby-Dick- Week 11

Real ambergris from a whale. Photographed by Peter Kaminski. Used by some Wikimedia Commons general permission grant.
I think at long last I settle on my judgment on this book.  It is as follows: uneven.  There are passages of truly sublime writing.  This week I find myself wondering if I'd spoken too soon about self-reference in Moby-Dick.  I thought the ambergris chapters were well written and compelling in the midst of many very dull, bloated, unwieldy chapters about whaling.  The chapter in question is about finding a very valuable item in a whale corpse after going through a ridiculous and difficult rigmarole in order to get to it.  Again, this chapter could be a metaphor for the entire book. 

Exhibit B for uneven writing this week is the minor character of Pip.  Pip encompasses the theme of the seemingly capricious nature of the gods and the often horrible, crushing realities of existence.  However, Pip is a minor character in the middle of a long, hefty book filled with material I would call superfluous.  This serves to make a minor character all the more minor.

I've also been thinking about a discussion Rob and I had over the years about The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym by Edgar Allan Poe.  Rob thought that was an uneven piece of writing because the tone and style of the very end of the book shifts so quickly that he felt the transmission go out.  I, on the other hand, thought it was an excellent book.  Putting on my comparative literature glasses, I think it is by far the superior Victorian American nautical proto-Existentialist work of fiction.

This next week we read through chapter CVII which, in my text, brings us to page 430.

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