You will shake your head, but I haven’t been taking notes while I’ve been reading Moby Dick. I know this is bad and one of the most important rules next to read-the-book-first. I have an ancient Kobo and ever since I started this classic book project have told myself to buy some Post-its so I can jot down a funny quote or note a cool passage and then slap it to the back of the ereader. But I haven’t.
I’m making my way through Moby Dick at a good pace, but who knows how much of it I will retain by the time I need to write a review. If I don’t have Post-its by then, you can all write in the comments: Shame! Shame on you, ebookclassics!
All the world’s a stage
Another one of the hundreds of things interesting about Moby Dick is the way Melville has written chapters as if they are scenes in a play. Some chapters are super short like “Sunset” and “Mast-Head”, and seem to have the purpose of not only providing a history lesson, but a stage for a character monologue. Even Chapter 36 “The Quarter-Deck (Enter Ahab: Then, all.)” is titled like a play. Perhaps this is why Moby Dick is considered a “hard” book to read. It’s so wildly unconventional in style and structure. What’s next? I’m still waiting for the Try-Pots chowder recipe. Maybe lucky Chapter 100.
“God hunt us all, if we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death!”
In the aforementioned chapter, “The Quarter-Deck”, Ahab gathers all of the crew and makes a call to arms: bring him the head of the white whale and be rewarded. The crew seals the deal by cheering for their captain and sharing some booze. Ahab then knights the three harpoonists and makes them have a drink too. The ritual bonds the crew and may have included some butt-slapping and hugging, but Melville doesn’t elaborate.
I liked imagining this chapter in my mind (not because of the butt-slapping) because this is the scene in the movie that gives you a shiver down the spine. The scene where all hangs in the balance and the hero makes the rousing speech that asks you not to give up, to fight for what’s worth fighting for. But in this case, the great speech is all about Ahab’s revenge which the first mate, Starbuck, tries unsuccessfully to bring to his attention. He shouts in frustration, “Vengeance on a dumb brute!” and sulks for the rest of the party. I like him.
Happy reading (and note-taking)!