Thursday, June 30, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011
Works of Herman Melville, 1987, Avenel Books, New York
Anton Otto Fischer cover
Only checked out once 11-21-02
Foreward by Philip J. Madans (Brooklyn, New York, 1987)
From front flap: “Among the works scorned by the critics at the time of its publication was Moby Dick. Now clearly recognized as a landmark in American literature, it is one of the most meticulously analyzed and hotly debated novels of all time. At the center of this novel is the one-legged Ahab, captain of a whaling vessel, who obsessively pursues the great white whale that maimed him. In his single-minded quest, Captain Ahab sacrifices the lives of his crewmen, with only one sailor, Ishmael, surviving to recount the tale. In an ironic twist of fate, Ahab is last glimpsed entangled in the harpoon lines once intended to strike down his nemesis, Moby Dick.”
TALK ABOUT GIVING IT ALL AWAY!! If I had read that I never would have gotten tripped up in seventh grade when Ms Conley asked me how Ahab died. (My answer: "He drowned?")
Let's take a look at some of this front-flap BS--"Clearly recognized"? That is what I have to find--I must find the guy(s) who started liking this darn book when even this front flap says it was "scorned" at the time. What makes something go from obscurity to classic?
For instance, I was talking with my wife the other day and the novel Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier came up. That was heralded as this "instant classic." Is it still? I tried teaching it in South Kitsap about 2002 and the kids--and I--hated it. Does it take grudge work to be a classic?
Notice how this front flap even states how Ahab is "at the center of this novel." It was almost secondary to me, the whaling industry being central.
Here's what I really take from this: Imagine you are picking this novel up. You've either heard about it or always meant to read it. You read this flap--okay, sounds intriguing. But then you have to struggle through 100+ pages of hard text before ever getting to any of that!!
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
1950 Random House, Toronto, part of The Modern Library
Intro by Leon Howard, prof of English, The University of California
Taken into our library by a date-stamp JUN 17 ’68.
3-1-77 the above were handwritten. Below were inked by date-stamp
Sticker inside: Points: 46 Lvl: 12.0 (Some kind of late-90s--early 00s reading point system for schoolkids)
From front flap: “ In the little more than one hundred years since Moby Dick was first published, critics have probed its inexhaustible symbolic treasures. The general reader has also found great wealth as he participated in the hunt for the white whale. He encountered an adventure story of magnificent sweep and suspense. From its incomparably effective opening sentence, “Call me Ishmael,” to its dramatic end when the white whale triumphs and all hands, except Ishmael, perish, Melville makes everyone--the reader most of all--share Captain Ahab’s obsessive belief that he alone can destroy the white, evil leviathan. Moby Dick is more than a tale of the pursuit of a monster; it is an allegory of relentless hatred and evil redeemed by man’s indomitable courage.”
Now, my say-so on the above:
Look at the focus of the front flap: Ahab. Yes, it does show how Ishmael "bookends" the novel, but the crux of the matter always revolves around Ahab. Yet he doesn't even come in for such a long time. Yes, you could say the character and his presence hovers in the background.
And talk about giving it away, how the white whale triumphs and nobody lives except Ishmael.
Let's take a long look at the last sentence: "Moby Dick is more than a tale of the pursuit of a monster; it is an allegory of relentless hatred and evil redeemed by man’s indomitable courage.” Where was it ever "redeemed"? Where? Because Ishmael lives to tell the tale? Redeemed, according to Merriam-Webster is "Do something that compensates for poor past performance or behavior." What gets compensated for? Ahab dies in his struggle, his obsessive stalking of a natural beast. Sure, he alone put his hatred for the ills of the world on the whale, but for him to get destroyed by it doesn't compensate for anything.