Seventh grade. I wasn't a stellar performer at that time.
It was Mrs. Conley's seventh grade Challenge class at Hubert H. Humphrey Middle School. I had already been kicked out of the Challenge math and science classes because I couldn't hack it. Any two C's in a row and you got demoted to the regular classes. Luckily, my language arts and social studies ability was of at least B caliber.
It took me forever to read a book back then. It still does today, although I know how to power through them. Mrs. Conley had this list we had to choose from of the classics of literature in order to do solo book reports. I had chosen several short ones already, like The Time Machine, about 100 pages. Did you ever try to read a classic in seventh grade? It was hard, man. (And now I have a Masters degree in English so apparently I got better.)
She made me choose a longer one. I didn't want to. I told her it would be tough for me. She never cared. She's the one that called me incorrigible and moved on. I remember her yelling at me several times for asking questions, like the pronunciation of Djibouti. She hated me, and I hated her.
So I had to choose a longer book. Somehow I fell upon Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Graciously, she told me I didn't have to read the chapters on whaling because they didn't pertain to the exact plot of the book.
I never finished it. I tried, and I think I wound up about 40-50 pages into the massive tome. I didn't even go find the bloody Cliffs Notes.
When it came time to take her little test on the book, I got many wrong. Some of my answers were pruposefully ambiguous. When she asked, "What happened to Captain Ahab at the end?" I logically and rightfully wrote, "He died." She had to then verbally ask, "How did he die?" I didn't know and didn't care. In a tone that easily betrayed the fact that I never read it, I answered, "He drowned?" (Which he did, but we won't get into that right now.) She failed me on it.
She thought I was a slacker and set up appointments for me to see the counselor.
Moby Dick has been the bane of my existence. I still have never read it to this day. I have done reports on the damn thing and gotten away with it by reading Cliffs Notes and literary critcism. I know what it's about and the themes involved. I could just never read it.
As the holder of a M.A. degree now in English, I can't stand myself any more for not ever having read this work. I have tried several times and read maybe two chapters. Moby Dick is my personal Moby Dick, the albatross around my neck, to paraphrase Coleridge.
Well, I want to free that albatross.
I want to read Moby Dick. I want to get rid of this self-shame that I feel whenever I hear of it. I want to prove to myself that I can read it. That's what this blog is for.
This is my homework station. Every week, I must read one chapter, minimum of just one chapter and write about it here. I will also look up Sparknotes on that chapter and discuss it here.
No one may ever see this site. That's okay. This is for me. I honestly didn't think anyone would ever see my other blogs, The Butcher Shop at both http://mjb0123.blogspot.com and http://thebutchershop.ambrosiadigicomics.com . However, growing up, I was never able to keep a journal or a diary. Never. I would start and then never get back to it. Nevertheless, I have been able to keep a blog for almost two years now. I think it has something to do with the feel of publishing that makes it right for me. I am writing for an audience, even though I don't know who exactly that audience is, and taking care of it before I hit "submit." It feels like an accomplishment, like a newspaper in a way. Even if no one reads it, they could read it, and that's the difference.
I took the text file of Moby Dick off of Gutenberg. The text file, plain text, is still 1.18 MB. There are 135 chapters, some of them very short.
I can do this. I will do this.
I'm off to read Chapter One and the Sparknotes on Moby Dick.