Moby Dick Readalong Part the First

Okay, if you’re new to readalong posts, they’re full of spoilers.   As this is only the first section, chapters 1-20, the spoilers shouldn’t be too spoilery.   This readalong is hosted by Roof Beam Reader.  Many thanks to him, as I’m already further along in M-D then I’ve gotten before.   You’ve probably heard much the same things about Moby Dick that I have.   Classic, long, fascinating, but with long boring whaling chapters,  boring with long, boring whaling chapters, a story of obsession, whaling, and the opening line:  Call me Ishmael.  I have no idea why that’s a great opening line, but it is.   Something in the name.   Call me Fred just doesn’t have the same ring.

But one thing I don’t think I ever heard about Moby Dick is that it is funny.   Not laff riot or Tina Fey funny, but Ishmael is a great narrator and his wry observations are highly entertaining.   He’s also a more evolved person than millions around today.  I never had to read Moby Dick in school, and that’s in a way good as reading things in school frequently ruins them for people, but a whole lot of people could do with reading at least the first part of this book.   

Some of my favorite lines:

and especially whenever my hypos get
such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to
prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically
knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea
as soon as I can.

But BEING
PAID,--what will compare with it? The urbane activity with which a man
receives money is really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly
believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account
can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves
to perdition!
Ignorance is the parent of fear, and being completely nonplussed and
confounded about the stranger, I confess I was now as much afraid of him
as if it was the devil himself who had thus broken into my room at
the dead of night.

But
THAT was certainly very coolly done by him, and every one knows that in
most people's estimation, to do anything coolly is to do it genteelly.
"Fiery pit! fiery pit! ye insult me, man; past all natural bearing, ye
insult me. It's an all-fired outrage to tell any human creature that
he's bound to hell.

Heaven have mercy on us all--Presbyterians and Pagans
alike--for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and
sadly need mending.

Betty, go to Snarles the Painter, and tell
him to paint me a sign, with--"no suicides permitted here, and no
smoking in the parlor;"--might as well kill both birds at once.



Ishmael and Queequeg's friendship, which develops rapidly after Ishmael gets over his initial fears,is charming. Queequeg's insistence upon Ishmael choosing the ship when they get to Nantucket seems unfortunate. Ishmael knows nothing of whaling, but even without that I think he really should have given more consideration to those other ships. I'd be happier knowing they had things wrong with
them more alarming than the behavior of Captain Ahab whom we haven't even met yet. He's not sick, but he's not well either. Really? You want to be at sea for three years with the man in charge
described in this fashion? Ishmael does have some misgivings, but he ignores them and I suppose he has to as otherwise, we wouldn't have this story, but still, I'd feel better if he went to the
other ships and either they wouldn't take him, or they were horribly disorganized or some reason the Pequod seems the best of the lot even with an iffy captain. But they are about to leave at last
and I suppose soon we'll get to the boring bits. So far it's not been dull at all. One last
quote:

for I cherish the greatest respect towards everybody's religious obligations,
never mind how comical
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