Page reached: 140 of 522 (26.82%)
Status Report: Oh, man. Chapter 32. This is probably a strong contender for the title of Most Skimmed Chapter In Classic American Literature. I would have skipped it myself if I hadn’t resolved to read this book in its entirety.
Thirteen pages long — about three times the length of the average chapter — “Cetology” has the narrator giving an impromptu lecture on the nature of the whale, grouping the beasts into fourteen categories and offering lengthy descriptions of each. Here, Melville uses a literary technique known as OMG BORING! In some other context I might have found this engrossing, but here it’s like, “Dude, you got your marine biology lecture in my adventure story!”
I wonder how many people have quit reading Moby-Dick at “Cetology”. I bet this chapter is a veritable Goodwin Sands, with a thousand shipwrecked readers littering its shore.
I could have been one of them, as Moby-Dick is perilously close to violating my One-Third Reading Policy, which states that I shall abandon any book that I am not enjoying when I am a third of the way through it. Unfortunately I am determined to finish this thing, so quitting on page 174 isn’t an option. But Cetology has sapped my of all momentum. Chapter 32 is a disabled vehicle in the center lane of this book’s narrative.
Words looked up::
- Ferrule: A metal ring or cap placed around a pole or shaft for reinforcement or to prevent splitting.
- Hone (“Sailors put [the oil] on their hones”): Whetstone