Great literature, as in real life can sometimes use some editing. Perhaps I am being a bit unfair as I, too, have been called verbose from time to time. However, I set a goal and met the goal, and in and of itself, I pat myself on the back because accomplishment of any sort is probably good, unless I am bank robber who is on the lam because of poor planning. Note to self…verbose run on sentence. I read all 452 pages in the span of fifteen days. Shorter than the voyage of the ill fated Pequod and Captain Ahab. Much shorter.
The most wonderful part of the book in my estimation, was the beautiful description of New Bedford, Massachusetts in the 1850s. The city’s rich history is described with such care. As this is my home, for the last forty plus years, to read Melville’s words provokes a lot of emotion of where the city has been and where it is now. To walk the cobblestone streets the narrator, Ishmael, walks, is to imagine the beauty as well as the seediness of the characters who become the actors in the story. I loved the names he gave the men onboard the ship, Queequeg, Daggoo and Mr. Starbuck. I could visualize them. I also researched where the company name of Starbuck came from and indeed it is a homage to Melville’s steady first mate but that was just serendipitous as the marketing team for the coffee company considered a town near Seattle called Starbo. The owner of the company remembered his high school book “Moby Dick” and the rest is history or something like that.
I laughed many times throughout the book at the interactions between Ishmael and Queequeg. There were a few times I wanted to poke my eyes out during the overly detailed description of sperm whales which spanned a great part of the midsection of the book. I plowed through the book with a dictionary nearby and I found many words whose meanings I had no idea of. I also found many expressions that were familiar to me that I never knew were connected with the novel. Of course many of the words are so antiquated and out of vogue that even if I tried to remember them (as elegant as many of them are/were), if I were to use them in a sentence I would sound ridiculous. The last seventy five pages or so pretty much wrapped it up in a gory little package.
I am a believer that books come to us when we need to read them. Living where I do gave the book a context that made me feel a strong and warm connection to the words and the times. New Bedford was known as the Whaling Capital of the world at one time and was also the home of many textile companies. It was a proud city then and though a bit threadworn and tired, it still has many people who are connected to the sea which is its lifeblood. The beauty of the city is apparent when you get off the highway and travel the streets that Melville walked. The mansions are still grand and more recently there has been significant effort on the part of many to revitalize the city and reinvent it in the 21st century. The pull of the ocean and the stability of the land are in constant flux.
The story of Moby Dick is the story of revenge on one level and determination and fitting in on many other levels. It is cooperation of a crew at the hands of an angry driven man. It is having a job to do, and the accomplishment of carrying on the mission of the group for the betterment of others, but being at the mercy of someone in power who has a singleminded task. Sound familiar. Everything changes and nothing changes.