The White Whale

5 03 2007

Many people have favorite authors that are romantic or poetic or political or philosophic. Bronte, Hemingway, Dostoevsky, Pirsig.

Overall, I am a Melville fan.

Herman Melville. Moby Dick. The great documentary before there were documentaries. The one book that I pick up over and over.

When I don’t have the time to read it I love to get the audio version of it from the library. It is even better read aloud. I listened to it when the girls were small and Sophie, at 4 years old, introduced herself to her preschool class by loudly and gruffly exclaiming, “Call me Ishmael.”

I decided to spoil myself a bit and buy the audio version to keep me company on my commute. Eighteen CD’s and I’m almost finished. Again. Already.

Whenever I read or listen to Moby Dick I have the overwhelming urge to narrate my life in Melvillian prose.

Take this weekend, for example. The girls and I had returned from a great night spent at my friend Megan’s at midnight. It was a full moon and the night was balmy compared to the nights we have had lately. I had taken a second trip out to the car after the girls had been tucked in. Something caught my eye.

Maybe it was the slug that caught my eye first. It was a normal Washington State slug – pulling itself along the bottom step – nothing outside of the norm there. But a similar sliminess shimmered about a foot away on the edge of the yard.

Two large earthworms were, shall we say, romantically engaged. I am assuming that they were having earthworm sex – but who is to say there is even such a thing? I thought I had read somewhere that they were able to fertilize themselves….

But I digress. They were obviously enjoying themselves. Their brown skin was flushed red in spots, there was a foamy whiteness surrounding key areas…. they were doing it like they do on the discovery channel.

I sat on the step to observe. (I know! But it was interesting….) And the Melville narrator in my mind started in….

Ah, ye great leviathans of the loam! Ye great moist, undulating creatures of the mould! How ye show your soft bellies to the shimmering of the spring moon. How you squirm and foam your love.

Out of the depths of the earth you crawl your eyeless, limbless bodies to quietly – aye, almost solitarily – perpetuate your great numberless race.

Why, thinks I, do you care for such embraces? Does the moon lend this deed a magic that you could not attain underground? Do you crave the feel of your earth twin’s sticky affection? Is the everlong caress of the earth not enough for you?

How quickly you part from her. Slinking away to the underground like a thief. Ah….you, the dark one retreating to deeper and colder darkness. Hath not the moon warmed your heart?

See? I am mad. My brow is furrowed with the deep and unerring haunt of the white whale….

I can’t stop. Help me.

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6 responses

6 03 2007
Kingfisher

Wow. That was really good. I’m impressed!

And I didnt’ find it strange at all. Nature stuff like that always fascinates me too. I totally understand the grandiose narration that bounces in your head during such times.

Modern English kinda sucks sometimes.

6 03 2007
Ant

Nay, for it amuses me greatly… :o)

I would contribute but I fear I get Melville and Pirate-talk mixed up (avast ye spliced mainbrace an’ all that…)

I started Moby Dick but never got to the end of it. I really should and may just do that when I get home…

6 03 2007
Janie

i really have no right to comment- how could i add to such greatness?! i cannot help you, i would be hurting myself if i helped you stop.

6 03 2007
rennratt

Man, that was good.

My life is narrated by Marge Schott…

If you and I worked together, we would NEVER get anything done. I would insist that you stroll casually around the office, narrating the drama of the lives around us.

6 03 2007
Christine

That was excellent.

And “Call me Ishmael” so much better than the young’uns I watched who would say “Call me Pocahontas”

7 03 2007
trinamick

I have never read Moby Dick, or even attempted it, for that matter. But you have inspired me to give it a try.

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