Some Dark and Heavy Summer Reading

Every summer, I turn my eye to old Victorian-era literature. Basically anything from like the 19th or early 20th centuries.

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In the past, I’ve read basically every book by Wilkie Collins, J. Sheridan le Fanu, Bram Stoker, the Brontes, and a smattering of other novels from other authors of the period. A couple years ago, I tried to read Les Miserables, but couldn’t get into it, though I did enjoy Toilers of the Sea, also by Victor Hugo. Continue reading “Some Dark and Heavy Summer Reading”

Chapter 36: The Quarter-Deck

Hoo boy, this is a big one. Not in terms of length, it doesn’t compare to Cetology, but in terms of importance and… depth of meaning?

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This is one of the most famous scenes in the book. If you know two scenes, it’s probably the ending and this one. Ahab is gonna play his hand, give a big speech, and reveal his innermost secrets. Not all of his secrets, mind you, just the deepest ones. Continue reading “Chapter 36: The Quarter-Deck”

Chapter 33: The Specksnyder

So, now that we’ve gotten past that monumental chapter about every kind of whale that exists, it should be smooth sailing, right?

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Well, maybe not. This chapter can be challenging in a different way. It uses a lot of winks and nods and glancing references. It’s very easy to, as I did the first time, just sort of let your eyes scan over the page and not take much in from it. Continue reading “Chapter 33: The Specksnyder”

Chapter 32: Cetology

Oh boy, this chapter.

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This is a real monster. It’s very long, a bit dry, and mostly just… confusing, as to why it is even here. It is, oddly, one of the more famous ones, I feel. People love to talk about how every fact about whales in Moby Dick is wrong or how it goes wildly off topic and starts talking about pseudoscience. But I think that’s really not giving it enough credit. Continue reading “Chapter 32: Cetology”

Chapter 28: Ahab

Well! It’s been a little while since I posted anything. Had another dogsitting gig this last week, and a minor personal crisis to attend to. But, I’m back at it now!

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Today we’ve got a real good one, the proper introduction of Captain Ahab, the most famous character in the book with the possible exception of the titular whale. Roughly one quarter of the way through this book, it’s about time he showed his face, there have certainly been enough hints and rumors about him to stoke our interest. Continue reading “Chapter 28: Ahab”

Chapter 27: Knights and Squires

Here we are again, taking a second crack at introducing the rest of the principal characters on this voyage. Now that Old Ishmael has had his feelings about the faults of courageous men, we get on with it.

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I didn’t even notice that these chapter have the same title until this reading. Just goes to show how little you can pay attention to a book when you’re just trying to make progress. Continue reading “Chapter 27: Knights and Squires”

Chapter 26: Knights and Squires

Alright, who’s ready to learn about Starbucks? The coffee chain started as a small shop on Western avenue near the Pike Place market in Seattle, back in the 1970s, but when that building bu-

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Wait, hold one, I’m reading more closely, today we’re talking about a singular Starbuck, that singular first mate of the ivory Pequod. Well, that’s a whole different kettle of fish! Continue reading “Chapter 26: Knights and Squires”

Chapter 25: Postscript

Another tiny little chapter today. As the title suggests, really more of a postscript to the previous chapter, one little last-minute addition.

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Surely there can’t be much to say about this, can there? This tiny half-formed thought doesn’t touch on any great themes like the Lee Shore did. Ohoho, we shall just have to find out! Continue reading “Chapter 25: Postscript”

Chapter 24: The Advocate

Now that Ishmael has properly begun his fateful voyage, this book will freely shift between narrative and non-narrative sections with no transition necessary. Ishmael doesn’t need an excuse to go off on a tangent at sea, there’s plenty of free time to sit around and think his thoughts.

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This is the first chapter where we’re not following the narrative at all. This isn’t inspired by something in the last chapter. It’s not an anecdote connected to some incident that we get a glimpse of. It is purely Old Ishmael rambling about something. The narrative chain has been broken. The next time we pick it up, it may be hours after the Pequod left port, or months. We have no way of knowing.

Continue reading “Chapter 24: The Advocate”

Chapter 22: Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! Boy, the timing on this one sure didn’t work out. Yes, as it turns out, the Pequod launches on Christmas day of… some… unknown year? I could just go grab the same date as the launching of the Essex, the real, actual whaling ship that was sunk by a sperm whale, and say “ah yes, clearly this is Ishmael recounting his voyage on that famous boat through the Medium of Fiction” or some such thing.

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But, as it happens, the sinking of the Essex is mentioned in this book, by Ishmael, as proof that it is in fact possible for a whaling ship to be sunk by a whale. Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself, that’s not for a while, I don’t think. Let’s get into today’s chapter. Continue reading “Chapter 22: Merry Christmas”