For people who have read Moby Dick.

Discussion in 'Books' started by worms, Jun 29, 2013.

  1. chaski

    chaski Moderator
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    Yo mama's so dumb that I told her I was reading a book by Homer and she asked if I had anything written by Bart.
     
  2. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
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    Y'all's so dumb you think hermeneutics require Preparation H.
     
  3. guignol

    guignol Moderator
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    Apr 28, 2005
    mermoz-les-boss
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    have you read foucault? don't talk to me about prep H until you're at p. 180 of les mots et les choses.
     
  4. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

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    Go Foucault yourself. I attended his lectures that were later published as L'Hermeneutique du sujet. So, admire my discipline or be prepared to be punished.
     
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  5. guignol

    guignol Moderator
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    Apr 28, 2005
    mermoz-les-boss
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    actually i was just jumping on the chance for a little wordplay. i can't wait until i'm clever enough to understand LMELC. you need some serious background to wade into that and i lost footing the first two times i picked it up. but my level of general culture is still rising, so third time will be the charm!
     
  6. worms

    worms Red Card

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    So you haven't, stop wasting my time then, darling.
     
  7. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

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    Speaking of Preparation H...
     
  8. ImaPuppy

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    Using too many parentheses
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    Moby goes on to become a terrible musician.
     
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  9. Auriaprottu

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    ...

    Your copy?
    If you're a man of your word, it probably is by now...
     
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  10. worms

    worms Red Card

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    If I wiped it on your skin it would. Mamzer.
     
  11. Auriaprottu

    Auriaprottu Member+

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    Fixed.

    There's always work at the post office
     
  12. chaski

    chaski Moderator
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    Or the customs house.
     
  13. guignol

    guignol Moderator
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    Apr 28, 2005
    mermoz-les-boss
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    what? are there no wormhouses?

    btw, that's dicmens, not kelville
     
  14. G-boot

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    Nov 6, 2004
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    You can't really give someone today a hard time for not liking Moby Dick. The author was paid by the word so he intentionally started adding details to the detriment of the actual story. This is not to say that page turners these days are much better. But they have some consideration that the readers can be entertained by other things besides books. Melville wrote in a time when readership was a given so he could risk losing the attention of a reader since staring at a candle in the window was the next best option. Not all art is as great as some claim just because it's old. Call me, bored.
     
  15. guignol

    guignol Moderator
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    Apr 28, 2005
    mermoz-les-boss
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    the only problem with this quite reasonable post is that none of it is true.

    though it was not uncommon for writers to be paid by the word in those days*, it was by no means the case for Moby Dick. and for from having a captive audience, if anything the opposite is true: people who had the time (or even the ability) to read in those days were much rarer. and the dismal failure of this book is proof of that.

    at the beginning of this thread i intended to give my explanation of why the narrative (what of it there is) wanders so much: that sailing and fishing voyages like that of the pequod are made up of long periods of boredom interspersed with sporadic and furious activity. but i had read the book 30 years previously, so i had to admit worms' dig #16 had some merit and re-read the book (for which i have worms' to thank: thanks buddy!).

    that explanation stands, and has fleshed out: not only do the detours convey the tedium that was the whalers' daily lot, but also the obsession they had about whales, and more particularly that of the crew of the pequod for moby dick.

    the fact that melville minimizes and downplays the whaling action he does describe supports this supposition, but does more: it makes the end of the tale come upon us, after much foreboding, with all the precipitation and violence that the men in the boats must have felt.

    but more important than the mere literary device of all this apparent floundering is the certitude it gives that the book is not about whaling at all. it is about much more, and not just about "good" and "evil". too long? it is (i believe) shoter than either the divine comedy or paradise lost. one can even say it is too short to embrace so much. melville himself said, "it is but a draught, nay, the draught of a draught". but it is enough for us to extrapolate the rest. and since we need do that within ourselves, his work is done.

    *dicken's early work for example; paradoxically "pickwick" was probably his very best, and it was only at the end when he was comfortable and could command percentages that his work became indigestible. balzac was generally paid (or at least had deadlines determined) by the page, and it's possible to find in his books whole paragraphs which are simply repeated word-for-word!
     
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  16. guignol

    guignol Moderator
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    mermoz-les-boss
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    oh, and in my opinion (as i've said, i try to read no authors who are not at least 50 years dead) art is not good because it is old; it becomes old because it is good.
     
  17. Val1

    Val1 Member+

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    Well, that's another way of describing the Belloq Hypothesis (Raiders of the Lost Ark: Take a crummy dime store watch, bury it in the sand for 1000 years and it becomes valuable). Sometimes, though, writing is about more than just the story. I fully admit to struggling through Moby Dick, and if it hadn't been Moby Dick (!) I wouldn't have soldiered on to the end. Same with Ulysses. My mom told me half way through that Joyce's intent, well, one of them, was to create a time capsule of Dublin, and that did the trick.

    My son often makes the same argument when it comes to reading Shakespeare. Esp once he was told that as plays, they were meant to be seen. But Shakespeare has value because his grandparents read him, and his parents read him, and you know what, his kids will read Shakespeare too. In the case of Moby Dick, it's one of the most finely crafted novels ever, however boring you and I may have found it. So while it shouldn't be accorded mythic status just because it is old, neither should it be denigrated because post-modern audiences can choose to watch Lost instead.
     
  18. chaski

    chaski Moderator
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    For modern attention spans . . .
    Moby Dick in one minute

     
  19. G-boot

    G-boot Member

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    So you're saying writers were paid by the word, but Melville wasn't. What, was he above that? And reading books was not a favored activity before radio and tv were invented because they were too busy farming for sixteen hours a day. Yeah, okay. That dude wrote during the golden age of book reading. The authors were like celebrities today. People wept when characters died. Families talked of stories over dinner. And all I'm saying is that his detail drone takes all that for granted and that he was paid per word.

    The problem is, everyone wants to nail down the Greatest American Novel and they settled on that. So people today feel like they have to read it and are shamed if they don't like it. Dickens was better. Fitzgerald was better. Why? Because their characters were colorful, which translates into entertainment.

    Most importantly, the exploration of tedium is the exact opposite of being entertained. I don't care if the boredom is being used in contrast to highlight later excitement. I'm trying to escape my boredom by reading a story, not trying to amplify it, whale anatomy textbook style.

    If you wonder why the youth doesn't take to books much these days, it's because of stuffy museum attitudes that pontificate about stories that have lost their luster.

    Truth is, if Moby Dick was pitched to a publisher today, the author would have a difficult time convincing anyone to look at it.
     
  20. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

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    In the 19th century, Writers were paid by the word if their works were serialized in periodicals. That holds true for the likes of Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, etc. . .. Writers were not paid by the word once the work appeared in folio. Then they were paid by royalties based on sales, much like they are today. I don't think Moby-Dick was serialized, bit I could be wrong.

    My first thought is, you have no idea of the terrain contemporary literature. None. If he couldn't sell it to Harper Collins or some other conglomerate front, he could try City Lights, Grove Press, Dalkey Archive, Four Walls Eight Windows, FC2, Back Bay, Counterpoint, Manic D,... And that's just from looking at books in the first box marked "fiction" that I opened (just moved into a new house on Monday).

    My second thought is... Then why do so many companies publish it now? Penguin, Harper-Collins, Northwestern UP, Modern Library, Signet? Of those, only Northwestern isn't a commercial operation.

    When I get unpacked, I'll go with this version, the U of California Press reprint of the Arion Press edition.


    [​IMG]
     
  21. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

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  22. chaski

    chaski Moderator
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    F. Scott could have written the greatest American novel, but instead it lies buried in Rockville, Maryland.

    Harper and Bros. might have been sorry that they did publish it. The book was a flop.
    And some of the critics disliked it as much as you did.

    http://www.melville.org/hmmoby.htm#Contemporary

    "This is an ill-compounded mixture of romance and matter-of-fact. The idea of a connected and collected story has obviously visited and abandoned its writer again and again in the course of composition. The style of his tale is in places disfigured by mad (rather than bad) English; and its catastrophe is hastily, weakly, and obscurely managed....
    ....
    We have little more to say in reprobation or in recommendation of this absurd book.... Mr. Melville has to thank himself only if his horrors and his heroics are flung aside by the general reader, as so much trash belonging to the worst school of Bedlam literature -- since he seems not so much unable to learn as disdainful of learning the craft of an artist.”
    --Henry F. Chorley, in London Athenaeum, October 25 1851


    "In all those portions of this volume which relate directly to the whale ... the interest of the reader will be kept alive, and his attention fully rewarded.... In all the scenes where the whale is the performer or the sufferer, the delineation and action are highly vivid and exciting. In all other aspects, the book is sad stuff, dull and dreary, or ridiculous. Mr. Melville's Quakers are the wretchedest dolts and drivellers, and his Mad Captain ... is a monstrous bore.... His ravings, and the ravings of some of the tributary characters, and the ravings of Mr. Melville himself, meant for eloquent declamation, are such as would justify a writ de lunatico against all the parties."
    --Charleston Southern Quarterly Review, January 1852



    "Mr. Melville is evidently trying to ascertain how far the public will consent to be imposed upon. He is gauging, at once, our gullibilty and our patience. Having written one or two passable extravagancies, he has considered himself privileged to produce as many more as he pleases, increasingly exaggerated and increasingly dull.... In bombast, in caricature, in rhetorical artifice -- generally as clumsy as it is ineffectual -- and in low attempts at humor, each one of his volumes has been an advance among its predecessors.... Mr. Melville never writes naturally. His sentiment is forced, his wit is forced, and his enthusiasm is forced. And in his attempts to display to the utmost extent his powers of "fine writing," he has succeeded, we think, beyond his most sanguine expectations.
    The truth is, Mr. Melville has survived his reputation. If he had been contented with writing one or two books, he might have been famous, but his vanity has destroyed all his chances for immortality, or even of a good name with his own generation. For, in sober truth, Mr. Melville's vanity is immeasurable. He will either be first among the book-making tribe, or he will be nowhere. He will centre all attention upon himself, or he will abandon the field of literature at once. From this morbid self-esteem, coupled with a most unbounded love of notoriety, spring all Mr. Melville's efforts, all his rhetorical contortions, all his declamatory abuse of society, all his inflated sentiment, and all his insinuating licentiousness.
    . . . .
    We have no intention of quoting any passages just now from Moby Dick. The London journals, we understand, "have bestowed upon the work many flattering notices," and we should be loth to combat such high authority. But if there are any of our readers who wish to find examples of bad rhetoric, involved syntax, stilted sentiment and incoherent English, we will take the liberty of recommending to them this precious volume of Mr. Melville's."
    –New York United States Magazine and Democratic Review, January 1852
     
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  23. chaski

    chaski Moderator
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    #48 chaski, Dec 18, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2013
    There is a big market in selling Moby Dick to all of the high school and college students who are forced to read it. ;)
     
  24. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

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    So Melville, Inc., cornered a market. This is how capitalism works.
     
  25. guignol

    guignol Moderator
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    Apr 28, 2005
    mermoz-les-boss
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    i'm not just saying it. this book has been so (over)analyzed in the last 100 years that all the particulars concerning its publication are known.

    well, there are great Huck Finn vs. Moby Dick debates going on, but those who really need to label the GAN are like those who debate pele vs. maradona: people who don't understand anything.

    there are lots of writers I think are better than melville: i have no particular cause to defend where he is concerned*. personally i like a great deal of dickens; pickwick as i said, but not only. but he is rather spotty, and much of his later work (most anything after david copperfield, could even be called tripe; one gets the impression he's pastiching himself, and rather wickedly. as for his characters, i've always wondered at how good his peripheral characters are so marvelous yet the main ones are so weak. who can really care about oliver twist? well, brownlow and grimwig do, and we are only swept along because we care about them. bleak house is a prime example: lignum vitae, hortense, miss flite and a dozen others, these are great creations. but the orphans and their governess? cardboard cutouts and very flimsy ones. but i have a theory about that: dickens did it to allow his readers to step into those cardboard cutouts and see themselves.

    in any case trollope, in the same register, is far superior if you are into english victorian novels (as i am).

    i think i expressed myself poorly here and will answer this when less pressed for time tomorrow.

    unfortunately i hink there's a great deal more to it than this.
    here you are absolutely correct, but it is a harsher indictment of today's publishers than of melville.

    *if you start badmouthing celine for example, i'm afraid i will have to ask you to step outside.
     

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