Moby Dick: Chapters 41-50

Chapter 41: For it was not so much his uncommon bulk that so much distinguished him from other sperm whales, but, as was elsewhere thrown out – a peculiar snow-white wrinkled forehead, and a high, pyramidical white hump. These were his prominent features: the tokens whereby, even in the limitless, uncharted seas, he revealed his identity, at a long distance, to those who knew him.

Chapter 42: …he (the mariner) feels a silent, superstitious dread: the shrouded phantom of the whitened waters is horrible to him as a real ghost; in vain the lead assures him he is still off sounding; heart and helm they both go down, he never rests till blue water is under him again.

Chapter 43: ‘Say what ye will, shipmate; I’ve sharp ears.’

‘Aye, you are the chap, ain’t ye, that heard the hum of the Quakeress’s knitting-needles fifty miles at sea from Nantucket; you’re the chap.’

Chapter 44: Besides, when making a passage from one feeding-ground to another, the sperm whales, guided by some infallible instinct – say, rather, secret intelligence from the Deity – mostly swim in veins, as they are called, continuing their way along a given ocean-line with such undeviating exactitude that no ship ever sailed her course, by any chart, with one tithe of such marvelous precision.

Chapter 45: For God’s sake, be economical with your lamps and candles! Not a gallon you burn, but at least one drop of man’s blood was spilled for it.

Chapter 46: Had they been strictly held to their one final and romantic object (giving chase to Moby Dick) – that final and romantic object, too many would have turned from in disgust. I will not strip these men, thought Ahab, of all hopes of cash – aye, cash.

Chapter 47: The sperm whale blows as a clock ticks, with the same undeviating and reliable uniformity. And thereby whalemen distinguish this fish from other tribes of his genus.

Chapter 48: The air around suddenly vibrated and tingled, as it were, like the air over intensely heated plates of iron. Beneath this atmospheric waving and curling, and partially beneath a thin layer of water, also, the whales were swimming.

Chapter 49: There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.

Chapter 50: ‘Who would have thought it, Flask!’cried Stubb; ‘if I had but one leg you would not catch me in a boat, unless maybe to stop the plug-hole with my timber toe. Oh! He’s a wonderful old man!’

And, there’s one other quote from Chapter 48 that I am pondering:

There, then, he sat, holding up that imbecile candle in the heart of that almighty forlornness. There, then, he sat, the sign and symbol of a man without faith, hopelessly holding up hope in the midst of despair.

I believe, with all my heart, that we ought to hold up hope in the midst of despair. But, is he “hopelessly holding up hope” because he is a man without faith? I suggest that is the case, for it is only from faith that I am able to continue in hope.

Moby Dick (Chapters 31-40)

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Chapter 31: ‘Mast-head, there! Look sharp, all of ye! There are whales hereabouts! If ye see a white one, split your lungs for him!’

Chapter 32: Next: how shall we define the whale, by his obvious externals, so as conspicuously to label him for all time to come? To be short, then, a whale is a spouting fish with a horizontal tail.There you have him. However contracted, that definition is the result of expanded meditation.

Chaphter 33: Nevertheless, as upon the good conduct of the harpooneers the success of a whaling voyage largely depends, and since in the American Fishery he is not only an important officer in the boat, but under certain circumstances (night watches on a whaling gourd) the command of the ship’s deck is also his…

Chapter 34: Over the ivory-inlaid table, Ahab presided like a mute, maned sea-lion on the white coral-beach, surrounded by his warlike but still deferential cubs.

Chapter 35: The three mast-heads are kept manned from sunrise to sunset; the seamen taking their regular turns (as at the helm), and relieving each other every two hours. In the serene weather of the tropics it is exceedingly pleasant, the mast-head; nay, to a dreamy meditative man it is delightful.

Chapter 36: “Whosoever of ye raises me a white-headed whale with a wrinkled brow and a crooked jaw; whosoever of ye raises me that white-headed whale, with three holes punctured in his starboard fluke – look ye, whosoever of ye raises me that same white whale, he shall have this gold ounce, my boys!”

Chapter 37: The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run…Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!

Chapter 38: Will I, nill I, the ineffable thing has tied me to him; tows me with a cable I have no knife to cut. Horrible old man! Who’s over him, he cries; aye, he would be a democrat to all above; look how he lords it over all below!

Chapter 39: Because a laugh’s the wisest, easiest answer to all that’s queer…

Chapter 40: Oh, thou big white God aloft there somewhere in yon darkness, have mercy on this small black boy down here; preserve him from all men that have no bowels to feel fear!

Look at Chapter 38: “…tows me with a cable I have no knife to cut.” That phrase has jumped out in my reading! What cables are towing me? Sugar, for one thing, which seems as innocuous as a whale in the sea, and yet I seem unable to sever it completely. And surely, there are things which try as I might, I cannot cut away (judgement, perfectionism, a critical spirit).

Moby Dick (Chapters 21-30)

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While reading Moby Dick, I have been selecting a quote which seems particularly pertinent to each chapter, in the hopes that at the conclusion I will have a collective summary of all the important bits. A summary, I hope, that will help tie it all together in my mind. I am posting them in groups of 10, so as not to be overwhelming to any of us, and so here are the quotes from Chapters 21-30:

Chapter 21: It was now clear sunrise. Soon the crew came on board in twos and threes: the riggers bestirred themselves; the mates were actively engaged; and several of the shore people were busy in bringing various last things on board. Meanwhile Captain Ahab remained invisibly enshrined within his cabin.

Chapter 22: ‘God bless ye, and have ye in His holy keeping, men,’ murmured old Bildad, almost incoherently. ‘I hope ye’ll have fine weather now, so that Captain Ahab may soon by moving among ye – a pleasant sun is all he needs, and ye’ll have plenty of them in the tropic voyage ye go. Be careful in the hung, ye mates. Don’t stave the boats needlessly, ye harpooneers; a good white cedar plank is raised full three per cent within the year.’

Chapter 23: But in that gale, the port, the land, is that ship’s direst jeopardy; she must fly all hospitality; one touch of land, though it but graze the keel, would make her shudder through and through.

Chapter 24: …many a veteran who has freely marched up to a battery, would quickly recoil at the apparition of the sperm whale’s vast tail, fanning into eddies the air over his head. For what are the comprehensible terrors of man compared with the interlinked terrors and wonders of God!

Chapter 25: But the only thing to be considered here, is this – what kind of oil is used at coronations? Certainly it cannot be olive oil, nor macassar oil, nor castor oil, nor bear’s oil, nor train oil, nor cod-liver oil. What then can it possibly be, but the sperm oil in its unmanufactured, in polluted state, the sweetest of all oils?

Chapter 26: Looking into his (Starbuck’s) eyes, you seemed to see there the yet lingering images of those thousandfold perils he had calmly confronted through life.

Chapter 27: What, perhaps, with other things, made Stubb such an easy-going, unseating man, so cheerily trudging off with the burden of life in a world full of grave peddlers, all bowed to the ground with their packs; what helped to bring about that almost impious good-humor of his; that thing must have been his pipe.

Chapter 28: More than once did he (Ahab) put forth the faint blossom of a look, which, in any other man, would have soon flowered out in a smile.

Chapter 29: Old age is always wakeful; as if, the longer linked with life, the less man has to do with aught that looks like death.

Chapter 30: How could one look at Ahab then, seated on that tripod of bones, without bethinking him of the royalty it symbolized? For a Khan of the plank, and a king of the sea, and a great lord of Leviathans was Ahab.

 

I can’t imagine ever being bored by this novel. I have heard it is lengthy, and tiresome beyond compare, but I have yet to reach those parts.

Bye, bye August.

If you lived in the town where I live, you would think Halloween is tomorrow. Every where you look there is Pumpkin Spice soap, Pumpkin Spice coffee, and Pumpkin Spice candles. I like autumn, I have even set out a few autumnal things myself. But, let’s not rush the seasons of our lives by so quickly.

You may have noticed the template, and header, has changed. I don’t know how long I’ll keep this painting by John Singer Sargent (Repose, from 1911), but I like her contemplative look. I like the way she lays against the back of the sofa, considering. It seems to fit this time in my life, of not officially teaching any more, but certainly of laying back a little.

I have become a children’s leader for BSF (Bible Study Fellowship International), and I will teach the 4 and 5 year olds this year. It is a big change, as I am most familiar with public school ways and 8 or 9 year olds. But, I ask myself, “What is the use of having advanced degrees in education and not using them?” What better purpose than to teach the little ones about faith? We are studying the book of Acts this year, and the theme is Unstoppable. It seems a most worthy theme to focus on.

I didn’t finish 20 Books of Summer. In fact, I haven’t finished a book in who knows when. Berta Isla by Javier Marias? Abandoned half-way through, just as I did with One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Moby Dick has been temporarily laid aside for Franklin and Wilson by Joe Meacham for book club. I feel my reading is in great disarray, but I eagerly look forward to the books in my sidebar for review, and two titles recommended by one of my dearest friends: The Mistress of The Ritz by Melanie Benjamin and The Age of Light by Whitney Sharer.

And now, what are you reading? What is filling the last few days of August, and what are you looking forward to in September? The light is changing, and there is much to anticipate. (Such as Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury on audio with my friend, Carol.)

This Poison Will Remain by Fred Vargas; a review for Women In Translation Month and a Give-away

The rumors all over the internet, after five bites in three weeks and three fatalities -all old men- are starting to make people come up with theories and spreading panic. The police hierarchy doesn’t like panic, because it could lead to violence.

Recluse spiders are named just that because they are prone to hide away. How is it, then, that three deaths have occurred apparently from recluse spider bites? Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg and his team work to uncover the reason behind these deaths which mounted to ten total, with six in the last month; exactly how and why are they occurring?

Like all beloved detectives, from Inspector Gamache in Louise Penny’s series, to Robert Parker’s Spenser, Adamsberg is brilliant and quirky and fascinating to read about. His team of lieutenants and commandants have their own peccadilloes, which he must manage, from Froissy knowing she is under the eye of a Peeping Tom in her apartment, to Danglard who is undermining every decision Adamsberg makes.

Fleetingly, Adamsberg thought that life in his squad was very complicated. Had he been too lax? Allowing Voisenet to litter his desk with magazines about fish, allowing the cat to dictate its own territory, allowing Mercedes to take a nap on the cushions whenever he needed to, allowing Froissy to fill her cupboards with food rations as if in wartime, allowing Mordent to indulge his love of fairy tales, Danglard to wallow in his encyclopedic erudition, and Noel to persevere in his sexism and homophobia? And allowing his own mind to be open to every wind.

Yet, they persist in trying to ascertain the reason why recluse spider venom has been used to kill, and how that can be when a recluse spider’s venom is flesh eating, but not always deadly.

You needed at least forty-four venom glands to kill a medium-sized adult man, so you had to find the impossible number of 132 spiders, then get them to spit out their venom. And how on earth did you do that?

Could the motive be revenge against a gang of youths from La Misericorde orphanage, now grown up, who were notoriously cruel by putting recluse spiders into others children’s beds and clothing? Could the meaning of “recluse” be expanded beyond that of applying to spiders in order to solve the case? I read eagerly to the conclusion, fascinated by the intricate web woven within this mystery to its brilliant and unexpected end.

Fred Vargas writes an intriguing story of an unusual nature, a welcome respite from the typical American murder mystery of The Woman In…or The Girl On…(fill in the blank). She is “a #1 bestselling author in France, Italy, and Germany. She is the winner of four International Dagger Awards from the Crime Writers’ Association and is the first author to achieve such an honor. In 2018, Vargas won the Princess of Asturias Award for letters.” ~Penguin

Penguin has offered a give-away of This Poison Will Remain (U.S. only, please). If you would like to enter to win a copy of this book, to be published August 20, 2019, please leave a comment below. I will choose a winner one week from today.

THE WINNER of a copy of The Poison Will Remain is KAY! I will contact you for your address, Kay, and thank you all for entering.

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.

Paris in July, at the last moment: Manet and Modern Beauty at The Art Institute of Chicago

On this, the last day of July, my mother, niece and I went to Chicago to see the Manet exhibit at the Art Institute. It was a truly spectacular day to be in the city as you can see from these pictures of Millennium Park:

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But, the Manet exhibit was really special. Combined with the gorgeous paintings were artifacts from the fashion of his time, such as these:

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And there were drawings and handwriting on notes and envelopes which charmed me:

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This is a picture of his watercolor set, a tin box with two brushes and dried watercolor pans:

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And here are some of my favorite paintings:

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(The audio said that this picture above depicts “the loneliness of urban modernity”.)

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The plaque by this last painting struck me as being quite lovely. It says this:

Mandarins appear frequently in Manet’s final works. According to Antonin Proust, the collector who bought the picture sent Manet a crate of mandarins from Marseille as a kind of gentlemanly exchange. Manet reportedly told Proust, “When I go out, I take lots of mandarins. I fill my pockets with them and give them to the local children who come begging. They’d probably prefer money, but I prefer to give them a share in something I enjoy. The pleasure of this world! Well they’re made of things that mean little to some people but a lot to others.”

In the nick of time, I have an entry for Tamara’s Paris in July event . There were no books for me, after all, but the art of Edouard Manet, combined with this gorgeous day in Chicago, were more than enough celebration for me.

 

 

One Hundred Years of Solitude, for Spanish Lit Month, for Stu’s read-along

20190731_064801It’s almost a mystical experience, to read One Hundred Years of Solitude. Exaggeration abounds, and emotions take on physical qualities like this:

…the persistence of Amaranta, whose melancholy made the noise of a boiling pot. (p. 216)

Seemingly endless streams of sons are named Aureliano, or Arcadio, until I become thoroughly confused, giving up on their specific heritage and simply reading for what I wanted to know: the meaning of the title.

Melquídas, an ancient gypsy who visits the Buendía family through its many generations, refuses to translate his manuscripts, the letters of which “looked like clothes hung out to dry on a line, and they looked more like musical notation than writing.”

“No one must know their meaning until he has reached one hundred years of age,” he explained.  (p. 201)

The novel contains war, and firing squads, gold coins and illegitimate children. There are explanations for religion and political parties which seem as if they could apply to America today.

The Conservatives, on the other hand, who had received their power directly from God, proposed the establishment of public order and family morality. They were the defenders of Christ, of the principle of authority, and were not prepared to permit the country to be broken down into autonomous entities. (p. 104)

But.

It has become so tedious to continue. I feel I am treading water, getting no where, and sinking deeper. The story has lost its magical quality for me as I become mired in its opacity, and I cannot go any longer with no clear story line…nothing happening but more sons of the same name being born.

More than three-quarters of the way through, I’m laying it down. Sorry, Stu, I tried. And I look forward to your thoughts on a book so many people love more than I can.

Google is pressing me to renew my domain, while I am busy cycling. Coloring. And, reading.

My favorite new pace is “slow.” That way I can hear the late summer insects singing as I ride through their domain, trying to identify the wildflowers whizzing by. I’ve got Queen Anne’s Lace, lilies, thistles, and Brown-eyed Susans, but those pink ones? I haven’t a clue. And, it doesn’t matter.

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When I color in Johanna Basford’s books, this one is Magical Jungle, I can make them any color I wish. You might think I’m a bit old for coloring, but I think not. School supplies are out now, at the best price they’ll be all year, and I recommend getting yourself a pack of Crayola colored pencils for under $7.00 and having a party.

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August is time for Brona’s read-along of Moby Dick, a few chapters a week as I recall. So, there’s that to read on the plane to a family wedding in Virginia next week.

Meanwhile, I keep deleting the most tiresome texts from Google threatening the banishment of my blog if I don’t renew my domain by August 3. I feel a little like John Belushi in Animal House: “Great, 13 years of blogging down the drain,” with two pencils protruding from my nostrils. And yet, if they take it away, I’ll be [dolcebellezza2.wordpress.com]. Would you still come visit me then? If I promise to return the favor?