Thursday, August 28, 2014

August Banned & Challenged Book Club

This August for Banned and Challenged Books Book Club, I decided I needed to take on a behemoth.  That’s right, I put on my Wellies and went on to tackle the White Whale…and I somehow survived (don’t ask me, I’m as surprised as anyone).

Moby Dick by Herman Melville is considered quite a literary feat by some, clocking in at over 800 pages.  I mean, it’s no Game of Thrones book, but it’ll do.  I actually started either before August or relatively soon in, I don’t remember specifically when, but obviously the book takes a bit since it’s nearing the end of August when this post is going up.

The epic story is told by the narration of Ishmael, a sailor who signs on under Captain Ahab.  The Captain has lost a leg to a fearsome whale and he’s determined to see the beast’s bloody end.  So from Ishmael’s perspective, we get to see the Captain’s crusade against the White Whale and the colorful cast of crew members who are along for the ride.

I really enjoyed the story…or rather, the idea of the story.  Something gets lost to me in those 800 pages.  The story jumps from gambit to gambit and loses the integrity of this Captain’s obsession with his pursuit.

There are at times quite funny moments.  In one section, Ishmael seems to compare whale schools to societal seasons.  The whales migrate from warm to cold water as socialites would from “it” destination to destination.  There is also quite a chargedly humorous moment when Ishmael is talking about sperm (though not sure if it’s actually sperm or something just related to the sperm whale).  And he’s running his hands through it and talking about how profound it is.  I really can’t even explain how thoroughly hilarious this is.  It’s a freaking riot.

If you have the time, I suggest the read.  It really is an epic story and worth the time if you have it.  Consider what you would do with an obsession?  How it would drive and consume you?  Now imagine if it were over a whale?  Melville’s story may be dense with words, but if you can pick through them, you’ll find a good story.

You’re probably wondering why this book is on the banned/challenged list.  Well, you’re not the only ones wondering.  One district cited it was against its “community values,” and didn’t set well.  They must have looked into the whale as something other than a whale…because I’m not seeing any subtext.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“[…] whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul;” pg. 1

“But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.” pg. 4

“For to go as a passenger you must needs have a purse, and purse is but a rag unless you have something in it.” pg. 4

“Yes, these eyes are windows, and this body of mine is the house.” pg. 14

“[…] whether it was a reality of a dream, I never could entirely settle.” pg. 37

“And here shipmates, is true and faithful repentance; not clamorous for pardon, but grateful for punishment.” pg. 66

“Through all his unearthly tattooing, I thought I saw the traces of a simple honest heart; and in his large, deep eyes, fiery black and bold, there seemed tokens of a spirit that would dare a thousand devils.” pg. 71

“I’ll try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy.” pg. 73 (fave of the book)

“How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends.” pg. 75

“The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run.” Pg. 243

“Why so? Because a laugh’s the wisest, easiest answer to all that’s queer;” pg. 246

“[…] when all possibilities would become probabilities […]” pg. 289

“Out of the trunk, the branches grow; out of them, the twigs. So, in productive subjects, grow the chapters.” Pg. 419

“[…] for there is no folly of the beasts of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.” Pg. 556

“There is wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness.” Pg. 612

“Thrusted light is worse than presented pistols.” Pg. 676

I know, I put WAY too many quotes.  But the source material is huge, so I figure I’m allowed.  If you have the time or the dedication, I recommend giving this a try.  It’s not easy, but it’s an amusing story.

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