Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gotta be the Dick

Some of you know I've been reading Moby Dick.

Still reading that, you ask?

Why, yes, I respond.

Why so long?* 

Because the shit is boring, thanks for asking.

Seriously, unless you're looking for a do-it-yourself whaling manual, I can't think of a single reason why anyone would want to read this thing. Except for one spectacularly good chapter that doesn't even really fit in the story, it's about like reading a precocious thirteen year old's diary of the year they spent studying for the National Spelling Bee. Or listening to a really old person who doesn't know how to tell stories tell a story. You know the ones I mean. Each digression becomes more detailed and tedious than the one before, until everyone forgets why they are even in the same room. I can usually manage about ten pages before blessed sleep rescues me from this hundred and fifty year old heart-warming tale of a xenophobic know-it-all who wants to make sure I know every frakking thing he had for breakfast one morning in eighteen-fifty-kill-me.

I guess I understand the appeal when the book was written, back in the days when most people had only read two books or less, all they knew was hunting and farming, and South America might as well have been Jupiter. A whale was like a dinosaur to them, so I guess Moby Dick is sort of like Jurassic Park of the nineteenth century. You know what? Jurassic Park sucked, too.

So anyway, the reason I bring this up is that I think it's affecting my writing. In the same way that we are what we eat,** I think we write what we read. And since Melville is an undisciplined rambler with a sharp eye for irrelevant detail, this is not a good thing for me. I think this post serves as an excellent example of this effect.

I'm what I like to euphemistically refer to as a non-linear thinker in the best of times, and my story-telling is in constant danger of being derailed by runaway digressions creating a chain reaction and destroying my train of thought. Being exposed to this kind of meandering crap for this amount of time cannot be good for me.

There is hope on the horizon. I've got the new Terry Pratchett waiting, and maybe some Irving after that. Now if I can just kill this whale (or whatever happens) and get through this piece of crap before I die of boredom.

* I'm having a really hard time with this one, trying to choose between the tried and true "That's what she said," and the slightly more esoteric, "That's a bit of a personal question, don't you think?" Opinions?

** That way being simultaneously "completely" and "not at all."


  1. Definitely, "That's what she said" is the best choice in those circumstances!

  2. so, what DID you have for breakfast? [taps toes impatiently, looks at watch]

    read the Irving. he never fails to resurrect my soul...

  3. I've been reading Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace, and Moby Dick for half my life now. More than half my life.

    What's my age again?! Reality check! Ouch!

    I'm still young.


    And onwards....

    So, I've been "reading" these books for nearly 20 years now. They have moved with me from house to house. Sat near a dozen bedsides. They just aren't doing it for me.

    We are still good people, right?

    Smart people?

    Cultured people?

    Of course we are.

    We are smart cultured people with discriminating taste. We know what we like, and we don't like Moby Dick. So shoot us.

  4. I thought it was just me! I thought there was some intellectual piece missing (I still thing there is) but I felt the same way about MD but hadn't let myself be honest. Thank you, thank you.

    "so long?" You know that old joke about why women can't park......

  5. LOL. Do be sure to read Proust after this - would you like a bullet for the gun now? An ex-member of my book club (I call it 'the lost bookclub' b/c we seldom meet) insisted we read all of them but I barely made it through Rememberances of Things Past - ugh -- life's too short is my motto. I used to finish books that didn't move me. Now? Toss 'em out the window and move on. That's what she said.....

  6. Slowly.... put the book down....

    Walk away from the Whale. You can do it.

    Lol. I can't imagine whale tasting all that great, so I can't imagine trying any. I shudder to think that high school teachers shove that stuff on the kids and then wonder why the grades are low!

  7. Eva: I was leaning towards TWSS, but I just used it recently.

    Daisyfae: Fish.

    Lora/Sandy: I have become convinced that books written before movies were invented are just not accessible to modern people. They may as well be written in Middle English.

    Wye: D is in a book club that doesn't even pretend to read anymore. They just get together for food and drink.

    Aleta: Amen. I don't know why they can't let kids read something relevant to them.