"Damn You!" Screamed our Beglerbeg!
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We are reaching near the end; we're at the point where it is possible to really step back and start looking at the whole. And, I promise all, the end of the book is among the most exciting stretches of writing you'll find anywhere.
This week: To Chapter 119: "The Candles"
For the survivors: Epilogue!
Chapter xciv - A SQUEEZE OF THE HAND: "while discoursing of sperm, it behooves to speak of other things akin to it, in the business of preparing the sperm whale for the try-works."
Chapter xcv - THE CASSOCK: Priest in a penis; see the blog post in the prior thread
Chapter xcvi - THE TRY-WORKS: "Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it invert thee, deaden thee; as for the time it did me." Fire and light are persistent symbols in this book, and the Try-Works is the Boat's own sun
Chapter xcvii - THE LAMP: three short paragraphs, but a very important and obvious point
Chapter xcviii - STOWING DOWN AND CLEARING UP: On the boat and its mysteries
Chapter xcix - THE DOUBLOON: a favorite chapter for teachers, the essays almost write themselves: compare and contrast each characters' views on the Doubloon. But I think the chapter is really all about Pip.
Chapter c - LEG AND ARM THE PEQUOD, OF NANTUCKET, MEETS THE ENDERBY, OF LONDON: Perhaps Melville has some grudging admiration for the British captain, able to sail away obsession-free
Chapter ci - THE DECANTER: one cannot have a sail without a swig (or two, or a few thousand); on the Dutch, the English, and the barrels needing emptying, more thoughts on the Enderby and madness
Chapter cii - A BOWER IN THE ARSACIDES: we are treated to a South Sea tale, with Ishmael's voice resurfacing more strongly
Chapter ciii - MEASUREMENT OF THE WHALE'S SKELETON - more on our South Sea skeleton and the granduer of the whale himself
Chapter civ - THE FOSSIL WHALE - Think on the interaction of science and mythology in here; we are comparing fossils; we are discussing shrines
Chapter cv - DOES THE WHALE'S MAGNITUDE DIMINISH? - WILL HE PERISH? More fairly straightforward yet elusive etymology. I have trouble sorting out Melville's tone in this chapter
Chapter cvi - AHAB'S LEG - from the great bones to the smaller sculpted on; the whale that is a part of the man
Chapter cvii - THE CARPENTER - we begin eliding into a bit more of the drama; the carpenter and the blacksmith seem akin to each other
Chapter cviii - AHAB AND THE CARPENTER - "Oh, Life! Here I am, proud as Greek god, and yet standing debtor to this blockhead for a bone to stand on! Cursed be that mortal inter-indebtedness which will not do away with ledgers. I would be free as air; and I'm down in the whole world's books. I am so rich, I could have given bid for bid with the wealthiest Praetorians at the auction of the Roman empire (which was the world's); and yet I owe for the flesh in the tongue I brag with." I sense strands of thought coming together in this bit of drama, dealing with wealth, with power, and with Ahab's monomania; funny that a chapter on a carpenter does not drip more with the New Testament
Chapter cix - AHAB AND STARBUCK IN THE CABIN - a bit of drama where Ahab's monomania and the Ship's original purpose - bringing profit to Nantucket and light to America - conflict
Chapter cx - QUEEQUEG IN HIS COFFIN - comic, critical, fun; Queequeg is always these things
Chapter cxi - THE PACIFIC - a bit of a mystic chapter, an irrestistable rumination
Chapter cxii - THE BLACKSMITH - Compare to the carpenter before; think of the leg and the harpoon, Ahab's appendages; the marvelous chapter with the tempering of the iron in blood
Chapter cxiii - THE FORGE - Like the Try-Works, fire on the boat
Chapter cxiv - THE GILDER - We are comparing our crew members again, preparing for their drama
Chapter cxv - THE PEQUOD MEETS THE BACHELOR - A ship from home, a ship that the Pequod could become
Chapter cxvi - THE DYING WHALE - A prayer from Ahab
Chapter cxvii - THE WHALE WATCH - A post on this shortly; this is the most devoutly religious of chapters in this book
Chapter cxviii - THE QUADRANT - The chapter "The Pipe" immediately comes to mind; Ahab's temper, some of our conflict between science and spirit
Chapter cxix - THE CANDLES - Mystic, mystic, mystic; still a dramatic vein to the chapter, and the marvelous glow of St. Elmo's Fire; yes, we are now preparing for the grand epic act of this drama!
Well, I'll find some things to post on from earlier, but here is a post on Chapter 117, a short chapter which I consider Melville at his most devout: http://thetreadleoftheloom.blogspot.com/2012/02/true-religion.html
There is some discussion going on over at Murr's thread relevant to all this: http://www.librarything.com/topic/132379
It seems some of our discussion is now moving on to the end-of-book, what do we make of this all. I know Murr is done, and Ridgeway Girl, anyone else? I am near there, only not there because I'm luxuriating in it and don't want it to end. A lot of reread chapters here!
Up to 109 "Ahab's Leg". Have had a couple of day break, but hoping to get back to it today.
Apropos of "Bower in the Arsacide", "Measurement of the Whale's Skeleton", and "The Fossil Whale" this in today's New York Times:
Melville would have loved that. I'm surprised at the delicacy of the lower jaw.
Just read The Log and the Line (chapter 125).
re chapter 105 - I was impressed/curious that already in 1851 it was known that the whale has only gotten bigger. Origin of Species wasn't published until 1859.
The prophesies of chapter 117, whose plain delivery A_musing points out in his blog post, have the hallmarks of the Greek "a great empire will fall" oracle trope.
I am up to "The Chase First Day" and so will finish tomorrow. Ahab is getting older by the page.
But do I look very old, so very, very old Starbuck? I feel deadly faint, bowed and humped, as though I were Adam, staggering beneath the piled centuries since Paradise.
Bas, excellent point on his age. I read this as a primal thing; he is becoming more god-like and ancient.
I have a new post on the blog, which is part one of a two part post taking a particularly close look at "The Candles" chapter: http://thetreadleoftheloom.blogspot.com/2012/02/song-of-typhoon-first-verse.html
I'll confess, the second part of the most is where the most excitement and strangeness occurs, but, that is not to say, part one is not otherworldly.
The second part of my post on The Candles is now up, which includes in it some key elements of how I read Melville as using mythologies in the book, which has been, for me, a real focus of this read. http://thetreadleoftheloom.blogspot.com/2012/02/song-of-typhoon-second-verse.htm... Also, a very pretty picture from a Master of Masters.
I have opened the thread for the final chapters here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/132639
Though I think we are finishing more with a whimper than a bang; this book does take a lot out of me as I finish.
Daniel, my read on Melville's understanding of the directions science was going in is that it was very good; by this point, scientists know that there is change and development of species over time - Lamarck wrote in 1809. But we'd still be at a point when there is as much debate over the challenge of geology to a literal reading of biblical time as ther was biology. I'd love to hear someone who really knows the history of science in this period give his taken on Moby-Dick.
Sam, great stuff on your unpacking of "The Candles". What a wonderful chapter this is.
It is a chapter where Melville re-introduces his stage directions and I had a picture in my mind of stage lighting for the lightning and steel sheets making noises like thunder as the players take their places on various parts of the whaleship. It is all so over the top.
In your blog Sam, you point out the references to previous chapters, which have been going on throughout the novel. It makes me wonder how much of this is conscious on Melville's part (a good proportion I would think) and how much of it is unconscious. Whatever the proportion it all serves to add a richness to the novel and helps bring the strands together.
Everything is conscious. Melville was an (supreme) artist and knew exactly what he was about.
These two chapters in the typhoon are some of the best writing in the book. The appearance of the fire was absolutely chilling for this reader. I loved the way the writing seemed to stop: Melville uses the past continuous tense here, which emphasises duration without beginning or end, creating the effect of the still centre of the storm. we never see the fire start or end, it's just suddenly there, burning. Fantastic craftsmanship.
Great posts on your blog Sam.
Thanks. The more I read, the more I agree with Murr. The detail is often amazing. While it all has a wild-and-wooly character, I think that fits the subject: you get to Confidence-Man, and he uses the same techniques but so very tightly and clearly controlled. Lots of the early revival folks thought much of this had to be uninentional or unfinished, sort of like the academy's first reaction to the impressionists.
I really think the tragedy of Melville is that his contemporaries really had no idea of his genius. Virtually no one supported him.
The word is detail, Sam, you are right. The loose wooly character you mentioned is so deliberate, I think. He anticipates the wild loose writing of American modernism, Pynchon and DFW in particular, whose work also creates an illusion of being very messy while actually being incredibly well knit together in the details.
Moby Dick has such a marvellous rhythm to the structure of the thing. the first third ashore, the setting out on the voyage, and the mind numbing tedium and work of the early days at sea, where the expository writing starts, round about Cetology. the narrative pace picks up always when there are rough seas; the trip round the horn, following the phantom water spout (god, I love that bit, sublime stuff it was,) the race through the Malacca straights, the Typhoon. in between, long days of voyaging at sea in which nothing happens are filled with the expository stuff. It all comes in waves, with this shatteringly abrupt ending, when the sea covers all.
Melville is more interested in creating this organic structure to reflect the seaman's life, rather than sticking to the generic formula of the classic mid victorian 3 decker novel. His contemporaries didn't get it.
He knits the whole thing together with strings - ropes - of myth, referring to all the ones you've been drawing out for us- osiris, the old testament-, and tragic heroes like the ones we talked about earlier. It's a fucking awesome book, if I might be permitted to use such language in front of the ladies.
And amazingly, I think it tooks years after the revival to appreciates its dramatic integrity. Many of its early fans appologized for the lack of integrity of it and the lack of novelistic pacing, but loved it in spite.
Yes. in that connection it would be interesting to see what Pynchon and DFW thought about it. Perhaps we can only 'get' Moby Dick because we've already read Pynchon and DFW? Is Melville a post-modernist avant la lettre?
It seems more and more likely to me as if Melville is the fount of subsequent American literature, in the way that Shakespeare and Milton, dickens and Eliot are in brit lit, Gogol and Pushkin in Russian, Racine and Moliere in French.
to add a quick footnote, I am reading Benito Cereno at the moment, and the detail is obsssssssesssssive. Henry James takes on a whole new meaning for me now. The style is completely different from Moby. Completely.
I read that last fall, and Martin last summer or so. We should chat.
DFW wrote some college papers on Melville; I don't know if it worked into some of his later essays, will have to check. I didn't much like the folks he read it with in school, and don't remember much of our conversations on it then. Pity.
Faulkner and even Hemingway go on record as enormous Melville fans, too. Alter on Faulkner, Melville and God is in the early running for this year's oscar for lit crit from me.
21 "Is Melville a post-modernist avant la lettre?"
I think so, that is why I love this book so much !
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