Genre: American Novel

Published: 1851 - Read:

Moby Dick

Herman Melville (1819 - 1891)

Pages: 527


Next up! Only a few facetious comments so far... [Now added a few slightly more sensible words.]

Once again: Actually embarking on this great whale of a book (see what I did there?) is like getting into a swimming pool that is a bit colder than you'd prefer. It takes a bit of pluck, but you just have to take the plunge - and then it all seems fine.

The chapters are short, which is helpful, as it makes you feel as if you are making progress...

Preliminary flippant comment: Read this passage below and wondered if there was any connection with the ubiquitous chain of coffee shops - sure enough there appears to be a link. So far no one has mention this specific passage from chapter 81 (just over half way) 'The Pequod Meets The Virgin'.

For some reason, the Jungfrau seemed quite eager to pay her respects. While yet some distance from the Pequod, she rounded to, and dropping a boat, her captain was impelled towards us, impatiently standing in the bows instead of the stern.
      “What has he in his hand there?” cried Starbuck, pointing to something wavingly held by the German. “Impossible! — a lamp-feeder!”
      “Not that,” said Stubb, “no, no, it’s a coffee-pot, Mr. Starbuck; he’s coming off to make us our coffee, is the Yarman; don’t you see that big tin can there alongside of him? — that’s his boiling water. Oh! he’s all right, is the Yarman.”
      “Go along with you,” cried Flask, “it’s a lamp-feeder and an oil-can. He’s out of oil, and has come a-begging.”
      However curious it may seem for an oil-ship to be borrowing oil on the whale-ground, and however much it may invertedly contradict the old proverb about carrying coals to Newcastle, yet sometimes such a thing really happens; and in the present case Captain Derick De Deer did indubitably conduct a lamp-feeder as Flask did declare.

One friend's response to all this: "The whole thing seems a little tenuous? Naming your multinational coffee empire after someone who mistakenly thought an oil flask was a coffee pot. But you know what these advertising creatives are like! Apparently it was going to be called Pequod before Starbucks though?"

Yes - until somebody thought that asking for a 'cup of Pequod' was unlikely to draw the punters in!

A word on the first paragraph: The first sentence must rank as one of the most famous opening lines of any novel. The rest of the paragraph is Ishmael's tongue-in-cheek confession that he knows it is time to go again to sea because he is feeling an attack of the 'hypos' - probably 'hypochondria', by which he means suicidal depression. In various cultures the 'spleen' is associated with melancholia. He gets the blues in Autumn - seasonally affective disorder? - and fears he will become a public nuisance in the street (perhaps in an effort to cheer himself up by behaving outrageously). Obsession with coffins and funerals confirms his suicidal tendancy. If he does not go to sea he will perhaps put a bullet in his brain...

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.

Perhaps more to follow...