The Compulsive Reader: Classics Corner: Eating Whale

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Classics Corner: Eating Whale

There are many things to ponder over the hours and hours and hours it takes to read Moby-Dick, but strangely enough the things I think about are not how Moby-Dick is less of a novel and more of an in-depth look at whaling and what it meant for the US in the 19th century, how it is about the nature of vengeance or whatever, or about the issues of man and nature and how they're connected.

Instead, I can't stop thinking about how reading Moby-Dick is like eating a whale. That and the obvious sexual innuendos, but, ahem, you don't really need me to explain those for you.

At first you a presented with this giant whale of a book. It's huge. It's dense. It doesn't look like a lot of fun. It's so large, it's overwhelming, and you think, "Nah, maybe I'll just skip it."

But you gotta do. You just have to start.

So at first, it's not too bad. You decide to start with the tail it's smaller than the head, and it seems doable. And for a little while you're like, "Hey, this isn't bad at all! Look at me, I'm eating whale!"

And then the whale starts to get a little thicker, and your pace slows a little. You're not quite as sure as you once were. You realize whales are HUGE. And you're tired. What you really want to do is go outside in the sun, or go watch the new episode of Suits in air conditioning. But you can't give in.

A little before you're halfway there, you might feel like you're at your breaking point. You'll call your best friend and tell her that you're really sick of whale, and can you just ditch it and go to the beach? And she'll tell you to suck it up and keep going, but it's okay because soon your roles will be reversed and you can be the one screeching at her to NOT GIVE UP.

And then...you'll hit the halfway mark. And it feels AMAZING. Look at all you've eaten! One half of the giant whale is completely gone, and the second half no longer looks as daunting as it did earlier. You totally got this.

Your progress might be slowed a little when the halfway euphoria wears off, but you just keep eating whale. And before you know it, you're about to hit another milestone--the 2/3 mark! And it's rough, but you're prepared to five in and go for the most challenging part.


Okay, that'll be the end of what is probably the grossest metaphor for reading literature ever.

Somewhere in my dark moments, I did ponder the flow of the narrative, and how frustrated I was that Melville can't really tell you anything without showing you snippets of a scene and injecting them with random bits of history and other philosophical asides. I contemplated charting the flow of these chapters, but there are 185 of them, and I was busy eating whale, so I made this pie chart to send to HB instead:

See, every time I try to think about this book in a mature way, I get distracted by the ridiculous. Story of my life.

Until next time...


Anonymous said...

I love being distracted by the silly stuff I read into a book. And I have a feeling you really would have gone crazy with this whale if you didn't let yourself get distracted a little.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I hit the part about watching Suits in an air-conditioned room and got distracted into doing just that...

Unknown said...

Ummm... I really shouldn't have read that while eating lunch.

Mary Preston said...

That was so funny. I will NEVER think of MOBY DICK in the same way ever again after reading these posts.