It’s taken me a very long time getting back to Moby Dick. In college I tried, oh how I tried, to make it through the book without falling asleep. And I’m not sure that’s a comment on the novel myself, as much as my exhaustion having so much to read and so little time, especially as I again last night – very late – read Chapter One and was entranced by the language and the humor.
In college I “read” the book and wrote a paper on it, all without having actually gotten through it to any appreciable extent. I no longer remember how far I did make it but I testify it was nowhere near far enough to write a paper on it with any degree of coherence. How did I do it? I read about the book, dipped into some of the key scenes and received a respectable B on the paper.
The professor, as back story, despised me. I don’t mean in an adolescent accusation way, either. It was full-out hatred. What makes it all the more pathetic is she was – and is, she’s still doddering along – a nun, who ought to have known better than to piss off God by hating me. The situation was, I had recently broken up with the son of a family she turned out to be friendly with and she thought I was no better than the village whore because of it. Actually, the buffoon played me for a fool and dumped me but she may not have realized that.
Neither here nor there.
All this made getting past her with a B felt all the sweeter. The old hag. She’s the same woman who had the audacity to tell me later, in a meeting we scheduled regarding another assignment, I should get out more and perhaps I’d meet a nice young man to marry. I kid you not. And, at the time, I was engaged. What did all this have to do with the assignment and/or meeting? Absolutely nothing.
In any event, that’s the back story of my experience with Moby Dick and I am just now getting back to the book. I’m Irish. I hold grudges. It’s a simple truth. And that nun must be 110 by now, I can’t believe she’s still in the land of the living. I thought she was near death when I was in college so it’s a mind-blower she’s kept alive this long. Only the evil die incredibly old?
I became all the more keen on reading Moby Dick after visiting Melville’s House in Pittsfield, MA, back in 2007. It was the year our vacation, strangely enough, allowed time for my Dead Author Tour. I consider it strange because I’m the only reader of classic literature in my family and my kids have next to no patience being force-marched from author’s home to author’s home. Why they humored me I don’t know to this day but I’ll take it.
I love photographing things authors would have touched, original items from the house. Imagine his hand turning his doorknob. Such a mundane occurrence to him but such a poignant reminder he existed to me.
More on Melville and Moby Dick forthcoming.