Moby Dick (Chapters 11-20)

AEAEE80D-2F9E-4108-94F4-620CB9F6D13CChapter 11: I was only alive to the condensed confidential comfortableness of sharing a pipe and blanket with a real friend.

Chapter 12: Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.

Chapter 13: (Queequeg saves a greenhorn who had been teasing him before he was swept overboard.) “It’s a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. (He says.) We cannibals must help these Christians.”

Chapter 14: The Nantucketer, he alone resides and riots on the sea; he alone, in Bible language, goes down to it in ships; to and fro ploughing it as his own special plantation.

Chapter 15:  “So, Mr. Queequeg (said the inkeeper’s wife), “I will just take this here iron (harpoon) and keep it for you til tomorrow morning. But the chowder; clam or cod tomorrow for breakfast?”

”Both,” says I; “and let’s have a couple of smoked herring by way of variety.”

Chapter 16: You may have seen many a quaint craft in your day, for aught I know…but take my word for it, you never saw such a rare old craft as the Pequod. She was a ship of the old school, rather small if anything; with an old-fashioned claw-footed look about her…a cannibal of a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased bones of her enemies.

Chapter 17: As Queequeg’s Ramadan, or Fasting and Humiliation was to continue all day, I did not choose to disturb him until nightfall; for I cherish the greatest respect towards everybody’s religious obligations, never mind how comical…

Chapter 18: Without saying one word, Queequeg, in his wild sort of way, jumped upon the bulwarks, from thence into the bows of one of the whale-boats hanging to the side; and then bracing his left knee, and poising his harpoon, cried out in some such way as this: “Cap’ain, you see him small drop tar in water dere? You see him? Well, spose him one whale eye, well, den!” and taking sharp aim at it, he darted the iron right over old Bildad’s broad brim, clean across the ship’s decks, and struck the glistening tar spot out of sight.

Chapter 19: Names down on the papers? Well, well, what’s signed, is signed,; and what’s to be, will be; and then again, perhaps it won’t be, after all.

Chapter 20: But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself.

***

Critics now want to say that Ishmael and Queequeg have a homosexual relationship; I disagree. I think they have a friendship that is formed of the tightest bonds from two lonely people who understand each other.

The chapter in which Queequeg displays his skill with the harpoon is entitled “Queequeg’s Mark.” He is far more adept at making his mark with a harpoon than he is with a pen as he is asked to do near the end of the chapter. What a clever title Melville used.

Melville’s humor, descriptions, setting, characterization, and foreshadowing are incredible. It is a book I carry on reading with the greatest of zeal.

Moby Dick: a sentence or two from each chapter; a type of Cliff notes, if you will. (Chapters 1-10 so far.)

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I never expected to be so thoroughly entranced by Moby Dick. I knew I wanted to read it because a reader should be aware of such classics, because Herman Melville’s birthday was 200 years ago on August 1, because it has been sitting on my shelf for years. But, I never knew that each chapter, even each page, would have something significant to say.

In order to remember such a long novel accurately, I am writing down quotes which seem to highlight each chapter. I will post them in groups of ten, to access them more easily. (And Brona, I realize this was to be a slow read-along, but I am compelled to sail along.)

Chapter 1: 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, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.

Chapter 2: …it became a matter of concernment where I was to eat and sleep meanwhile. It was a very dubious-looking, nay, a very dark and dismal night, bitingly cold and cheerless. I knew no one in the place (New Bedford, Massachusetts).

Chapter 3: Upon entering the place ((The Spouter Inn) I found a number of young seamen gathered about a table, examining by a dim light divers specimens of skrimshander. I sought the landlord, and telling him I desired to be accommodated with a room, received for answer that his house was full – not a bed unoccupied. ‘But avast,’ he added, tapping his forehead,  ‘you hadn’t no objections to sharing a harpooner’s blanket, have ye? I s’pose you are goin’ a whalin’, so you’d better get used to that sort of thing.’

Chapter 4: Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Queequeg’s arm thrown over me in the most loving and affectionate manner…The counterpane was of patchwork, full of odd little parti-colored squares and triangles; and this arm of his tattooed all over with an interminable Cretan labyrinth of a figure, no two parts of which were one precise shade…this same arm of his, I say, looked for all the world like a strip of that same patchwork quilt.

Chapter 5: Queequeg’s greatest admirer could not have cordially justified his bringing his harpoon into breakfast with him, and using it there without ceremony; reaching over the table with it, to the imminent jeopardy of many heads, and grappling the beefsteaks towards him. But that was certainly very coolly done by him, and everyone knows that in most people’s estimation, to do anything coolly is to do it genteelly.

Chapter 6: …in New Bedford, actual cannibals stand chatting at street corners; savages outright; many of whom yet carry on their bones unholy flesh. It makes a stranger stare.

Chapter 7:  In what census of living creatures, the dead of mankind are included…how it is that we still refuse to be comforted for those who we nevertheless maintain are dwelling in unspeakable bliss.

Chapter 8:  Yes, the world’s a ship in its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.

Chapter 9: Woe to him who seeks to pour oil upon the waters when God has brewed them into a gale!

Chapter 10: No more my splintered heart and maddened hand were turned against the wolfish world. This soothing savage (Queequeg) had redeemed it…He seemed to take me quite as naturally and unbiddingly as I to him; and when our smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against mine, clasped me around the waist, and said that henceforth we were married; meaning, in his country’s phrase, that we were bosom friends; he would gladly die for me, if need should be.

Can’t you just see Queequeg’s tattoos? The harpoon with which he first shaves and then spears his beefsteak for breakfast? The church with its pulpit and tombstones and somber foreshadowing of what one feels certain will come? This book has me by the throat, and I love it.

Moby Dick Read-along Plans

moby dick 2I have long been wanting to read Moby Dick, and Brona’s plan seems just about perfect: three to four chapters a week beginning August 1, which is Herman Melville’s 200th birthday. The reading could be followed up with a listening to the chapters on audio at Moby Dick Big Read.

Here is a screenshot of the site, as the name almost sounds…ridiculous:

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So, it’s a plan. I have time to finish Lucky Per which was to be May’s read-along, and locate my leather bound, gilt-edged edition of Moby Dick. Perhaps you will join us as well.