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Whalemen Wanted: Moby Dick Book Club Starts Here

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posted on Jan, 6 2017 @ 10:58 AM
Hi my fellow bookworms

Today is a special day- my son's 4th birthday, and also a joyous day, as my 74 yr old dad is recovering from a successful surgery. I am full of gratitude and relief.

I hope you all have plenty to be grateful for as well.

So back to the book. As I've written before (in the bio sections), Melville had witnessed truly evil behavior perpetrated by Christian missionaries (in Tahiti, but especially in Hawaii, where Melville traveled after his stay in Tahiti and worked as a pin setter in a bowling alley), "civilized" Western imperialists (France commandeering Marquesas and Tahiti), as well as from his own Dutch Reformist family who were active members in church but who had turned away from his widowed mother and her 8 children when they were most in need.

He had also been the recipient of royal and openly friendly treatment by the cannibals of the Marquesas islands and most likely owed his life to them.

Knowing all this, one can clearly see that his own experience led him to write what was on his conscience, which is that too many Christians were so only in name, and not in deed, and additionally, that the so-called "savages" he had encountered displayed more Christian kindness and brotherhood than most of the Christians he knew.

Melville had already faced the consequences of angering powerful men as a result of his criticism of the missionaries, people's ignorant assumptions of their own superiority over others, etc.. but I think he had an important message to the Christian community and couldn't keep silent.

I believe this is, in part, what was on his mind when he wrote Father Mapple's sermon, "Woe to him who seeks to please rather than to appal! Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness!" I also imagine that he had an inkling of how his message would be recieved, no matter how much he masked it in humor, truth, and good will. Of course, he was right but (as he had done before) he had underestimated the destructive power of his enemies who pretty much made sure that Melville's career would fail.

I find it very interesting that Melville followed his chapter The Sermon with his ceremonial "marriage" to Queequeg (great analogy to Christian koinonia, Ankh). In this chapter, Queequeg displays true Christian principles by telling Ishmael that now they were bonded, that Q would now die for his friend, and by dividing all his worldly possessions with Ishmael.

In return, Ishmael decided that the Christian way to relate to Queequeg would be to participate in Q's own pagan ceremonies and that God would surely approve of the brotherhood, rather than punish the idolatry. (Important to know that the "Christian" missionaries in Hawaii had forbidden all native dance and games- had destroyed the native psyche, had even used the natives as pack-animals to draw the ladies arround in a carriage. Horrific.)

This all written in a light-hearted and funny way but the message was very seriously intended, imo.

Can't wait to hear your ideas, and have a wonderful day!

posted on Jan, 12 2017 @ 05:51 PM
I found these great pictures today

posted on Jan, 23 2017 @ 10:44 AM
Anyone read Benito Cereno? It's another Melville book. I'd contribute to the discussion on Moby Dick but... I haven't read it

posted on Jan, 23 2017 @ 11:22 AM
a reply to: ReadHerring

Hi and welcome!
Thanks for stopping in

I'm pretty sure I have a copy around here.. I'll check around. I just looked it up and it looks really interesting!
What did you think of it?

I was surprised to see it had been written within a couple of years of Moby Dick. I'll have to get a post together regarding Melville's ideas about social reform. Great inspiration, thanks!

posted on Jan, 25 2017 @ 10:43 AM
a reply to: zosimov

Aw thanks! I'd never expected that my first post on here would be about books : P

I really enjoyed Benito Cereno. I expected to just read it and drop it BUT I starting thinking: Is Melville, through the use of a racist main character, trying to break down racist ideas of the time? Makes me want to read more about Melville and see what kind of a person he is.

I have access to Moby Dick so maybe I'll read it. A few people have told me that I wouldn't enjoy it but I'm considering giving it a try anyways.
edit on 25-1-2017 by ReadHerring because: I hate the ATS
and wanted to change it to : P

posted on Jan, 28 2017 @ 02:22 PM
I found the pdf version here. PDF

Just jumping in here. We spent two months studying, "the Whale" at Florida International University, in an American Lit class.

I also, collected books at the time, so my 1851 unabridged Dictionary came in handy, as many of the words have been phased out, but were available to Melville. There were only 500 copies made of the first edition. Most of them were destroyed in a warehouse fire. I believe there are only 60 extant copies. I heard that the last page was ommited in the first edition. That's the page where the ship goes down!
Reading the book at the age of 30 was enlightening to say the least. If you read this book as a youngster, I highly recommend reading it again, you will be surprised by the depth of what you missed.

posted on Jan, 30 2017 @ 08:23 PM
a reply to: davido

Thanks for chiming in! Isn't that interesting about the Epilogue being left out of the original printing? And though Melville played a small role in his checkered literary reception, so too, did misfortune (as you mentioned the incinerated books, the omission of a crucial chapter on its first publication, the poor reviews and more).

What did you come away with after your study? Can you recall what struck you the most? I agree that a reading later in life is essential.

I just had to share what I've discovered in the tiny little chapter Queen Mab (XXXI).. maybe we can find more of this genius elsewhere- I have no doubt it exists. Before I begin, I keep thinking about how Melville described his book Mardi as a puzzle.. and wonder how much of a puzzle is also to be found in Moby Dick. The title of this litte chapter intrigued me, so I did a bit of studying up on Queen Mab. I found a reference to her in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (which referred back to a ship!), a Shelley poem of the same title, a veiled reference to the Bible, to ancient Egyptian culture, and the reason behind Stubb's name/nickname. I couldn't believe how much was crammed into those 5 or so paragraphs. I'd expound a bit more on what I found if anyone's interested.. just let me know!

posted on Jan, 31 2017 @ 12:59 PM
a reply to: zosimov

I suppose the philosophic metaphors, effected me the most, as well as Melville's overall writing style and mystery. One of the things that jumped out at me is when Ishmael says, "I am
not superstitious"

"That business consisted in fetching the Commodore’s
craft such a thwack, that with all his pumps going he made
straight for the nearest port to heave down and repair. I am
not superstitious, but I consider the Commodore’s interview with
that whale as providential. Was not Saul of Tarsus converted
from unbelief by a similar fright ? I tell you, the sperm whale
will stand no nonsense."

If anyone is superstitious, Ismael is most certainly superstitious, with all his talk of portents and providence. Perhaps, he is negating the thought, or putting it into another context here?

Melville, definately affected my writing style. When I went to FIU, I had attended University of Miami, where in English, I learned about independent clauses, and conjunctions, which require a semicolon. Modern writers like Vonnegut, who is also awesome, write that the use of a semi-colon is not necessary, but is the mark of an educated person showing off.

Yesterday, I was working on developing a character as a malignant narcissist, when I came up with this:
Standing here quite nullified in the prodigious abasement, by the plebeian, who being, over incensed by his indefatigable pursuit of a phantom, without realizing the abstract concreteness, or the underlying motive, probity, or desire, from which such a phantom, might be real, while, perpetrating such for the vain glory, that for an instantaneous , minuscule sliver, of infinity, to justify such an imperious attitude; while barely penetrating the emulsive layers of an embodied spirit, he had so tried to conquer, for a singular drop of water, accelerating as he was downward, within a void, representing all he has ever known, while never quite able to reach or sense the bottom.

The idea of a malignant narcissist, is that they have created a false image of themselves. This passage alludes to the "unforgiven", or the fallin ones, who through a womb, did not enter. - the nephalim or the serpents, as recorded in my story.


edit on 31-1-2017 by davido because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 1 2017 @ 12:08 AM
a reply to: zosimov

dearest zosimov,

So sorry.

Lost at sea.

I battle other Whales.

I so appreciate you bringing an ATS that I only could have erver imagined possible after eating its liver for 6 or-so web-years.

You rock like a dream.

The fact is that The Whale Lives!!!.

We each battle our own Giant Whale.

Eat or be eaten!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

# off bro!

Much Love!


posted on Feb, 1 2017 @ 03:21 PM
a reply to: zosimov

followup. What I came out of the study most , is that Melville was obviously a genius, who had status through a good family, but that the wealth was lost by his father. He enterered the working class; but he did not think to well of the status que, as far as educated people are concerned. He hung out with headhunters, which was taboo for white folks in his day. The writing is prophetic of the multi-culturism of today. There are also metaphysical aspects of his work, that probably affected me the most. He even used Christianity to rationalize bowing down to idols (with Queequeg), as a gesture of the Golden Rule, showing us how to get along with others, regarding differing religions.

posted on Feb, 1 2017 @ 05:12 PM
a reply to: Dan01

My dear friend, may you find great adventures while lost at sea!

Yes we all do chase that Whale in one way or another, don't we?

Rock on yourself Dan00, I'll catch you on another journey. (Dan03 perhaps?)

posted on Feb, 1 2017 @ 05:26 PM
a reply to: davido

I really appreciate your posts, and the follow up as well. I definitely enjoyed your writing and your choice of a subject (narcissist) btw. Thank you so much for posting that.
I agree with you on everything you wrote on Melville! Yes, a genius. Yes, deep layers of metaphor and so beautifully written.

I posted this elsewhere but just love this metaphor when Ishmael and Queequeg were weaving a mat (3 fates weaving.. just rich with allusion!)

It was a cloudy, sultry afternoon; the seamen were lazily lounging about the decks, or vacantly gazing over into the lead-colored waters. Queequeg and I were mildly employed weaving what is called a sword-mat ,for an additional lashing to our boat. So still and subdued and yet somehow preluding was all the scene, and such an incantation of revelry lurked in the air, that each silent sailor seemed resolved into his own invisible self.

I was the attendant or page of Queequeg, while busy at the mat. As I kept passing and repassing the filling or woof of marline between the long yarns of the warp, using my own hand for the shuttle, and as Queequeg, standing sideways, ever and anon slid his heavy oaken sword between the threads, and idly looking off upon the water, carelessly and unthinkingly drove home every yarn: I say so strange a dreaminess did there than reign over all the ship and over all the sea, only broken by the intermitting dull sound of the sword, that it seemed as if this were the Loom of Time, and I myself were a shuttle mechanically weaving and weaving away at the Fates. There lay the fixed threads of the warp subject to one single, ever returning, unchanging vibration, and that vibration merely enought to admit of the crosswise interblending of other threads with its own. This warp seemed neccessity; and here, thought I, with my own hand I ply my own shuttle and weave my own destiny into these unalterable threads. Meantime, Queequeg's impulsive, indifferent sword, sometimes hitting the woof slantingly, or crookedly, or strongly, or weakly, as the case may be; and by this difference in the concluding blow producing a corresponding contrast in the final aspect of the completed fabric; this savage's sword, thought I, which thus finally shapes and fashions both warp and woof; this easy, indifferent sword must be chance--aye chance, free will, and neccessity--no wise incompatible--all interweavingly working together. The straight warp of neccessity, not to be swerved from its ultimate course--its ever alternating vibration, indeed, only tending to that; free will still free to ply her shuttle between given threads; and chance, though restrained in its play within the right lines of neccessity, and sideways in its motions directed by free will, though thus prescribed to by both, chance by turns rules either, and has the last featuring blow at events.

What strikes me about this analogy is that the "fates" (Queequeg and Ishmael) are so leisurely and peacefully weaving at the loom of fate, where we could presume kingdoms' fates are being carelessly and calmly decided.

Doesn't learning about Melville's fascinating personal life help to explain the components and experiences which enabled him to complete his masterpiece?

I agree with your earlier comment that Ishmael is a very unreliable narrator and when he says he is not superstitious, it's best to examine that more closely.

I also agree that Melville (and we've mentioned this a few times in this and previous threads) was incredibly progressive socially, politically, morally (he even talks about animal rights in Moby Dick) and religiously. The Pequod is absolutely a microcosm of this world, and shows how our society can all go down together if driven by the wrong captain and how some of us risk our lives for each other (Queequeg for Tashtego) while some would drive another to madness in pursuit of that whale (Stubb with Pip).

Thank you so much for your input.. very appreciated!

edit on 1-2-2017 by zosimov because: grammar

posted on Feb, 1 2017 @ 05:37 PM
a reply to: ReadHerring

I'm so happy you picked this thread for your first posts! Yes, Melville was definitely advocating for a more open and equal mindset in regards to minority race, class, etc.
He caught a lot of flak for that.

posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:23 AM
a reply to: zosimov

Thank you friend, for your warm reply. As I remember from the class, the teacher who recieved her PHD for her thesis on Meville and Moby Dick, metioned that the plot is multi-valenced, which tied into the multi-culturism. It was Miami

A multicultural city.

posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 11:33 PM

originally posted by: davido
a reply to: zosimov

Thank you friend, for your warm reply. As I remember from the class, the teacher who recieved her PHD for her thesis on Meville and Moby Dick, metioned that the plot is multi-valenced, which tied into the multi-culturism. It was Miami

A multicultural city.

Love this little insight. I'll bet it was a good time studying in such a vibrant place

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