Tonight, I finished Moby Dick. It feels great to have finally gotten through this American classic, but at the same time, I don’t really feel like I read it at all.
I think I spent more time in awe of this book than I did actually reading it. It is so dense that I could read it 20 times over and still miss some of the references, notes, metaphors, and other little gems Melville wove in to this story. This leaves me without the usual triumphant, accomplished feeling I get from finishing a book, especially one as massive as this. I’m not going to lie, people; I feel a bit robbed.
While I was reading Moby Dick, I spent most of the time just trying to keep up with the context of the narrative. There is literally so much happening at the same time that it is really difficult to keep up! And then on top of that you want me to look up all of the random references Melville makes? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
At first I was doe-eyed and naive, and I was looking them all up. All of the 32-letter words, all of the obscure references, everything. If I didn’t know what it was, I looked it up. Then a month later I was only half-way through the book because it was taking me an hour to read 20 pages, and so I started looking up less things. As I said – ain’t nobody got time for that. That’s when I really started to make some progress. Confused and foggy progress, but progress nonetheless.
I think at some point in my life I’d like to pick this book up again and try to wrap my head around it. Really dig in to it, and pick up everything that Melville is putting down.
SIDE BAR: To answer the great question posed by Chastity (10 Things I Hate About You), as it turns out, you can be whelmed in the Pacific ocean by a whale:
“Meantime, from the beginning all this had been descried from the ship’s mast heads; and squaring her yards, she had borne down upon the scene; and was now so nigh, that Ahab in the water hailed her!- “Sail on the”- but that moment a breaking sea dashed on him from Moby Dick, and whelmed him for the time.” (Moby Dick, Chapter 133)