Saturday, March 5, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 37.2 (Herman Melville)

Melville, Herman
Moby-Dick, or The Whale


Not sure where I purchased this one -- either at Talking Leaves or online.

I can think of only one or two novels I love as much as this one. I've read it twice, and I've read the first half of it three or four times (it took me a few tries to get through it the first time). I am not sure if I actually finished it until I got to grad school, although I don't think I ever read it for a class. If I did, it may have been for a course with Susan Howe, but I am pretty sure I only ever read The Confidence Man with her.

I think I really "discovered" Melville through my reading of Charles Olson. I read Call Me Ishmael before I ever finished Moby-Dick. I think I may have read CMI, then MD, then CMI again, then MD again. I know that at some point I set out to read a lot more of Melville, as will become evident over the next few entries. Even sitting here, trying to write a quick entry before doggy obedience class, I find myself thumbing through it, reading favorite passages again. It may be time to read it again soon!

I am currently struggling through a Roberto Bolaño novel called, El Tercer Reich. It's pretty good, but I've been have trouble staying awake reading in Spanish late at night, so I only get through about five or ten pages per day. It feels like it is taking forever.

In case you are wondering, I have lately been reading a lot of different things. Lots of Francis Ponge, my new favorite French poet. Killing Kanoko, by Japanese poet Hiromi Ito. You Are Not A Gadget, A Manifesto, by Jaron Lanier. City of Quartz, by Mike Davis. Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson. Turtle Island, by Gary Snyder. That all I can think of for the last couple of months.

from Moby-Dick

"D'ye see him?" cried Ahab; but the whale was not yet in sight.

"In his infallible wake, though; but follow that wake, that's all. Helm there; steady, as thou goest, and hast been going. What a lovely day again; were it a new-made world, and made for a summer-house to the angels, and this morning the first of its throwing open to them, a fairer day could not dawn upon that world. Here's food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels; that's tingling enough for mortal man! to think's audacity. God only has that right and privilege. Thinking is, or ought to be, a coolness and a calmness; and our poor hearts throb, and our poor brains beat too much for that. And yet, I've sometimes thought my brain was very calm - frozen calm, this old skull cracks so, like a glass in which the contents turned to ice, and shiver it. And still this hair is growing now; this moment growing, and heat must breed it; but no, it's like that sort of common grass that will grow anywhere, between the earthy clefts of Greenland ice or in Vesuvius lava. How the wild winds blow it; they whip it about me as the torn shreds of split sails lash the tossed ship they cling to. A vile wind that has no doubt blown ere this through prison corridors and cells, and wards of hospitals, and ventilated them, and now comes blowing hither as innocent as fleeces. Out upon it! - it's tainted. Were I the wind, I'd blow no more on such a wicked, miserable world. I'd crawl somewhere to a cave, and slink there. And yet, 'tis a noble and heroic thing, the wind! who ever conquered it? In every fight it has the last and bitterest blow. Run tilting at it, and you but run through it. Ha! a coward wind that strikes stark naked men, but will not stand to receive a single blow. Even Ahab is a braver thing - a nobler thing that that. Would now the wind but had a body; but all the things that most exasperate and outrage mortal man, all these things are bodiless, but only bodiless as objects, not as agents. There's a most special, a most cunning, oh, a most malicious difference! And yet, I say again, and swear it now, that there's something all glorious and gracious in the wind. These warm Trade Winds, at least, that in the clear heavens blow straight on, in strong and steadfast, vigorous mildness; and veer not from their mark, however the baser currents of the sea may turn and tack, and mightiest Mississippies of the land swift and swerve about, uncertain where to go at last. And by the eternal Poles! these same Trades that so directly blow my good ship on; these Trades, or something like them - something so unchangeable, and full as strong, blow my keeled soul along! To it! Aloft there! What d'ye see?"

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