Moby-Dick, Chapters 34-40

Chapters read: xxxiv. The Cabin-Table, xxxv. The Mast-Head, xxxvi. The Quarter-Deck, xxxvii. Sunset, xxxviii. Dusk, xxxvix. First Night Watch, xl. Midnight, Forecastle

Page reached: 170 of 522 (32.57%)

Status Report: I have fallen behind in my schedule, and am now reading the book in 30 page installments.

This book is taking over my life. Last night my wife asked if I wanted to watch one of the Battlestar Galactic episodes we have on DVD; I sighed and told her I had “work to do.”

It doesn’t help that Seattle has received nonstop rain since the first of November, including some of the heaviest downpours on record. I read about life at sea, put down the novel, look out the window, and see life imitating art, as my backyard becomes a lake and the road in front of my home transmogrifies into an impromptu creek.

I have a pile of unread and intriguing novels sitting on my bedstand. I look at them and feel like a married man in a singles bar.

Favorite passage: Second Mate Stubb observes Captain Ahab pacing the decks, deep in thought. “The chick that’s in him pecks the shell. ‘Twill soon be out.”

Words looked up::

  • Carking: Distressing; worrying; perplexing; corroding;
* * *

18 comments.

  1. So, you had to look up ‘hone’ in two successive entries? Internet editing, I summon thee!

  2. “and see life imitating reality”

    Was that a deliberate misquote? Somehow appropriate, I think…

  3. “I feel like a married man in a singles bar.” Wives love to hear their husband’s talk like that – I’m going to have my girlfriend read this post. Thanks. :)

  4. I don’t know how you are making it through that book! I haven’t even tried, just the thought of it makes me groan …

    Anyway, wanted to let you know that in Australia “carking” means dying … i.e. the act of becoming a “carcass.”

    I use it all the time here (in Memphis) and it always gets a good reaction. :)

  5. Books like Moby Dick were written in a time where reading was the ONLY entertainment, not something you did while waiting for American Idol to come on. It’s a case of McDonald’s vs. a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal: You need to kind of slow your mind down to enjoy 19th century literature.

  6. If you are the cause of the rain, I grant you permission to stop reading the book. We’ve had enough here, thanks. Plus, you know how it ends – the Pequod runs into a big white iceberg and sinks, while Ishmael gallantly gives up a floating piece of the ship to Queequeg, trying desperately but ultimately unsuccessfully to hold his hand in the freezing water as Celine Dion sings shrilly in the background. At least, that’s how I remember it from having read it a long time ago.

  7. Actually, your back yard is now considered a “wetland” and you’ll have to fill out reams of environmental impact statements if you want to build that swingset that the Squirrely’s got his eyes on. How do you feel about your vote on Initiative 933 now, eh?

  8. I just want to point out that you COULD ditch the book and simply listen to the rap “Ahab” by MC Lars. First verse:

    Call me Ahab, what, monomaniac
    Obsessed with success unlike Steve Wozniak
    On the hunt for this mammal that once took my leg
    With my warn down crew and my man Queequeg
    “You’re never going to find him,
    He’s a big sperm whale,
    The ocean is enormous!”
    “Shut up, we’re setting sail!”
    This scar that you see that runs down my face
    Has scarred my soul and inspired this chase
    Mental sickness has got me on the run
    Full speed ahead! This is American fun
    There is wisdom that is woe, so welcome to my life
    It was fine until Moby scarred me like a knife
    Towards thee I sail, thou unconquering whale
    To stab my spear into your white tail
    The first one to stop him gets this gold doubloon
    Now excuse me while I go be melancholy in my room!

  9. No offense, but I’m thinkin that your Moby Dick posts fall well below your normal level of wit and cleverness. The book sounds like a drag and you’d be doing me a favor ditching it and getting back to observations of pop culture, politics, and the most recent mischief of your son. Now, I don’t mean to deter you if reading through this daunting book is your dream. Maybe you need a shorter goal with the promise of a big break. I read through a 1000 page book by reading each quarter separately and after each one I vowed not to pick it back up. Then after six months I would say, “Well I’ll give it another try.” That’s how I got finished.

  10. Hi, just landed to your blog from Maggie’s blog.
    surely i will visit next time. your blog is different!!

  11. Relax. Struggle no more. You don’t have to complete this book. Allow me to ruin the ending for you: Moby Dick dies in the end, captured by a Norwegian/Icelandic/Japanese (delete as applicable) whaling ship ‘for scientific research purposes’.

    Cap’n Starbuck retires and becomes the founder of the world’s greatest coffee emporium.

    The ship is eventually mothballed and becomes a ‘floating museum’ (a bit like the UK, I suppose you could say).

    So, put down the book, put some Moby on the CD player (he’s related to the author, you know) and there you have it: the complete, authentic Moby Dick experience. If only all books were this easy to read.

  12. I read Moby Dick over one summer in Hawaii, near the town where Melville jumped ship. They had a whale skeleton and one of those boats at the local shopping mall. No Melville references, though. Keep it up, and ignore those people who tell you to drop the book.

    Very strange novel. I wonder if he intended all that homoerotic stuff, or if that’s the way we just read it nowadays (remembering that ambergris harvesting scene — almost frat boy-ish)

  13. Three Comments
    – Nov 14th is the 155th anniversy of the first publishing of Moby Dick. It was published Nov,14th 1851
    -I read a book by Nathaniel Philbrick called In the Heart of the Sea. It’s based on a true story and in turn it claims Moby Dick is based on it. Either way it is easier to read, more enjoyble, and certianly a amazing tale of survival.
    – I’ve been reading your site for years, and this is my first comment. You make me laugh. thanks.

  14. Sorry I gave you a bit of a tough time a little while back for making us experience Moby secondhand.

    However, after reading Tracey’s “No Offense” post, I take it back. You’ve made geat comedy out of a sow’s ear before (Read: The Star Wars prequels) and this last offering was good cooking.

    To Rich: your blog’s such a bore it’s no wonder you have to get away from it.

  15. Carking? I was way off on that meaning.

  16. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this Moby Dick thing, Matthew. And still thanking you from the bottom of my heart for saving me from ever having to read it. Your posts are always entertaining, and some of the comments on this have been so funny that I’ve had to add new blogs to watch. I wish LAN3 had his/her URL in there – s/he totally skewers me.

  17. I love the moby dick entries so far. Please continue.

  18. All I have to say is, don’t bother with Don Quixote. Moby Dick was a slog, work even, but Don Q was interminable and unfinishable.