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fanuzzir
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Moby Dick: On Dry Land, Chapters 1-27

[ Edited ]
These chapters, 1-27, are some of the most comic and richly observed social tableaus in the entire novel. If he had just kept his novel to these opening scenes on land, he still would have had a masterpiece. The meeting with Queequeg, the minister's sermon, the introduction to the characters; all are priceless pieces of wry, satirical prose.

Message Edited by fanuzzir on 12-10-200610:55 PM

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Choisya
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Re: Moby Dick: On Dry Land

I have seldom read an more enthralling beginning to a book and as I was reading I thought 'even if I can't cope with the parts about killing the whale, I will have read a wonderful book'. What struck me about the hilarious meeting with Qeequeg was how tolerant Melville (the Narrator) was of someone from a strange ethnic minority at a time when extreme racial prejudice was the norm: '...but the truth is, these savages have an innate sense of delicacy, say what you will, it is marvellous how essentially polite they are, I pay this particular compliment to Queequeg, because he treated me with so much civility and consideration, while I was guilty of great rudeness, staring at him from the bed...my curiosity getting the better of my breeding.' He makes many such understanding and appreciative remarks about Queegueg. Melville's travels as a young man in the 'South Seas' clearly made him very broadminded, although with such motley crews aboard ships, perhaps most sailors were (are?) more broadminded than their compatriot landlubbers?

The description of the pulpit in the seaman's Chapel, with its rope ladder was fascinating and I wondered if it was a description of a real one in Nantucket? As for Father Mapple's sermon - it is a tremendous short story in its own right and must be one of the finest re-tellings of the Biblical Jonah and the Whale in all of literature.

The 'priceless pieces of wry, satirical prose' are indeed remarkable and I found myself laughing aloud in bed at Melville's wit - much to the consternation of my cats!




fanuzzir wrote:
These chapters, 1-27, are some of the most comic and richly observed social tableaus in the entire novel. If he had just kept his novel to these opening scenes on land, he still would have had a masterpiece. The meeting with Queequeg, the minister's sermon, the introduction to the characters; all are priceless pieces of wry, satirical prose.


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book-nut
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Re: Moby Dick: On Dry Land

I found this book very entertaining to read, brilliant in fact. (So far, I'm only on Chapter 6, but I'm glad we're studying this book. I always wanted to read it.) Some good points were made in the posting above ~ I suppose, because Melville was himself a sailor, he had that "tolerance" you spoke of toward other races. If you consider, sailors would have had to develop that tolerance, since a sailor would always be visiting other countries and living among many different races and cultures. Living in big-city America today is somewhat the same thing.

I found myself with many of the same thoughts while reading about the church. I'm going to do a little research and see if it exists myself! While reading the book, I found myself wanting to visit Nantucket. My ancestors are from the general New England area, so I've always wanted to visit that part of the country! Been everywhere else, the western United States, the midwest, born in West Virginia, and currently living in the southern United States - even been to Europe - but somehow I just never made it further north than Pennsylvania. Reading this book has me thinking maybe I need to plan a trip!
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Laurel
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Finding Father Mapple

Here's a starting point for your journey, Book-nut:

http://www.rixsan.com/nbvisit/attract/bethel1.htm



fanuzzir wrote:
These chapters, 1-27, are some of the most comic and richly observed social tableaus in the entire novel. If he had just kept his novel to these opening scenes on land, he still would have had a masterpiece. The meeting with Queequeg, the minister's sermon, the introduction to the characters; all are priceless pieces of wry, satirical prose.

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Choisya
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Re: Finding Father Mapple



Laurel wrote:
Here's a starting point for your journey, Book-nut:




Thanks Laurel. What a disappointment to learn that there was no such pulpit as described in Moby Dick but that they built one in response to tourists coming to see the Chapel after the film was made! Life is stranger than fiction indeed!
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Laurel
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Re: Finding Father Mapple

I think it's wonderful that the blueprint in Melville's mind became a three-dimensional reality.



Choisya wrote:


Laurel wrote:
Here's a starting point for your journey, Book-nut:




Thanks Laurel. What a disappointment to learn that there was no such pulpit as described in Moby Dick but that they built one in response to tourists coming to see the Chapel after the film was made! Life is stranger than fiction indeed!



"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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fanuzzir
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Re: Moby Dick: On Dry Land

Great point about Queeqeg and the nature of "savagery"--Melville became a virtual anthoropologist of native cultures of Polynesia, and as a result had not just a cultural relativist argument to make but a hostile position toward American nationalism as a force of imperialism in the world. Melville was one of the first to see the future of the United States as an imperial power.
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Choisya
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Re: Moby Dick: Melville the anti-imperialist

[ Edited ]
I do not want to dominate this board Fanuzzir but cannot let your excellent Chapter headings and comments go to waste: I understand that Melville was one of the first Americans to compare slavery with the colonialisation of America's expansionism and to compare this to European imperialism; an apt comparison IMO. My Notes say that Typee contains an 'exploration of the consequences and ideological implications of capitalism and imperialism and is a powerful critique of European behaviour in the South Seas' so I will read that book also. Other comments I have seen suggest that Melville attempted to change attitudes by adopting a different form of 'travel writing' than that which had been the norm hitherto, that is to adopt a more critical stand against the exploitation he saw in his own travels. Many other books of the time had been written from an 'evangelical' point of view, particularly those written by missionaries, and they eulogised the effects of colonialisation on the 'natives'. Melville attempted a more realistic approach and deplored the destruction of native cultures. So far I see that enlightened approach in his writing about Queequeg, the Polynesian?, Tashtego, the negro, and Dagoo, the Native American?, and no doubt there is more to come. I find I am reading the book slowly so as to savour the beautiful language.



fanuzzir wrote:
Great point about Queeqeg and the nature of "savagery"--Melville became a virtual anthoropologist of native cultures of Polynesia, and as a result had not just a cultural relativist argument to make but a hostile position toward American nationalism as a force of imperialism in the world. Melville was one of the first to see the future of the United States as an imperial power.

Message Edited by Choisya on 12-10-200611:29 AM

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book-nut
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Re: Finding Father Mapple



Laurel wrote:
Here's a starting point for your journey, Book-nut:

http://www.rixsan.com/nbvisit/attract/bethel1.htm



fanuzzir wrote:
These chapters, 1-27, are some of the most comic and richly observed social tableaus in the entire novel. If he had just kept his novel to these opening scenes on land, he still would have had a masterpiece. The meeting with Queequeg, the minister's sermon, the introduction to the characters; all are priceless pieces of wry, satirical prose.






Thanks Laurel! I can see I'll be planning another trip pretty soon! :-)
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fanuzzir
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Re: Moby Dick: Ishmael meets Queequeg

I hope I can enlist you all in an extended discussion of the most striking chapters of this first section, the comic encounter of Ishmael with his new roommate. It is funny, it is self-mocking, it is profoundly reflective on the white imagination, and it is not half as erotic as I thought it to be. The most delicate subjects and wrenching encounters are pulled off with such a jaunty tone. What are your favorite moments? I like Queequeg and his harpoon.
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fanuzzir
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Re: Moby Dick: On Dry Land

My first impressions of the first six chapters: the narrative voice is so immediate and vivid; it pulls you in and takes you on a personal tour. Everything, even the philosophy of the first chapter, seems like the chatty talk of a self-taught drifter who's eager to show you what he knows. That means he shows you the ropes and lets you in on his secrets while letting you have a laugh at his inter-racial encounter. I guess I found everything Melville said couched in the character of Ishmael, whom I'm really beginning to like as a knock around friend, not a portentious philosopher. Anyone else?
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Re: Moby Dick: Ishmael meets Queequeg - homo-eroticism.

I loved the homo-erotic description in Chapter 4 'The Counterpane' of the Narrator waking to find 'Queequeg's pagan arm thrown around me...and then I lay only alive to the comical predicament. For though I tried to move his arm - unlock his bridegroom clasp - yet, sleeping as he was, he still hugged me tight as though naught but death should part us twain...[I] suddenly felt a slight scratch...Throwing aside the counterpane, there lay the tomahawk sleeping by the savage's side as if it were a hatchet-faced baby. A pretty pickle, thought I, here in a strange house in the broad day, with a cannibal and a tomahawk!...At length by dint of much wriggling and loud and incessant expostulations upon the unbecomingness of his hugging a fellow male in that matrimonial sort of style....he drew back his arm...sat up in bed, stiff as a pike-staff/, looking at me, and rubbing his eyes as if he did not altogether remember how I came to be there, though a dim consciousness of knowing something about me seemed slowly dawning over him.' There follows the Narrator's description of him watching Queequeg getting dressed 'minus his trousers', 'my curiosity getting the better of my breeding...a man like Queequeg you don't see every day, he and his ways were well worth unusual regarding.'

I wonder how that passage was regarded in Melville's day because today it would surely be analysed for its homosexual implications? I also wondered whether the words as though naught but death should part us twain were foreshadowing something?



fanuzzir wrote:
I hope I can enlist you all in an extended discussion of the most striking chapters of this first section, the comic encounter of Ishmael with his new roommate. It is funny, it is self-mocking, it is profoundly reflective on the white imagination, and it is not half as erotic as I thought it to be. The most delicate subjects and wrenching encounters are pulled off with such a jaunty tone. What are your favorite moments? I like Queequeg and his harpoon.


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fanuzzir
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Re: Moby Dick: Ishmael meets Queequeg - homo-eroticism.

Those are mighty suggestive words from Melville. Oddly enough, working class men were much more free with their sexuality than middle class, who tended to route their lifestyles into married, property-owning, church-going lives. As Whitman shows, there was a manly culture of affection and bodily display among the laboring class--there were sex acts but not sexual identities. One's affiliation with the trade came first. There's actually a long scholarly discussion on how the word "homosexual" became a category for dividing behaviours that were in fact quite intertwined. (The Edwardian married man visiting the docks of London kind of thing . . .)
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Re: Moby Dick: On Dry Land

"the chatty talk of a self-taught drifter who's eager to show you what he knows." I like that, Bob. Seeing this new world through the eyes of an unemployed vagabond schoolteacher makes the preparation for our voyage really charming. (I mean Ishmael, not anyone here present.)



fanuzzir wrote:
My first impressions of the first six chapters: the narrative voice is so immediate and vivid; it pulls you in and takes you on a personal tour. Everything, even the philosophy of the first chapter, seems like the chatty talk of a self-taught drifter who's eager to show you what he knows. That means he shows you the ropes and lets you in on his secrets while letting you have a laugh at his inter-racial encounter. I guess I found everything Melville said couched in the character of Ishmael, whom I'm really beginning to like as a knock around friend, not a portentious philosopher. Anyone else?


"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Choisya
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Re: Moby Dick: Ishmael meets Queequeg - homo-eroticism.

I notice my italics got out of hand there - I meant 'stiff as a pike staff' and 'knowing something about me' to be ilaticised, not the whole last paragraph!

When women's lives were more restricted and they stayed at home or had separate gatherings - withdrew to the drawing room whilst the men smoked etc - our men were more like the Muslims of today and had a much more male oriented culture. This led to the sort of camaraderie we now only see in the army but I guess it has always existed in the close confines of ships, submarines etc. And yes, I remember seeing many more male torsos on display than there are nowadays, especially after WWII when there was a cult of sportsmanship amongst the working class. I notice that sleevless 'vests' are now coming back into fashion so that men can display their 'pecs' - in my day they weren't going to the gym but lifting weights and throwing dumb bells about in their bedrooms, in imitation of Charles Atlas:smileyhappy::smileyhappy:

http://www.sandowplus.co.uk/Competition/Atlas/atlasindex.htm






fanuzzir wrote:
Those are mighty suggestive words from Melville. Oddly enough, working class men were much more free with their sexuality than middle class, who tended to route their lifestyles into married, property-owning, church-going lives. As Whitman shows, there was a manly culture of affection and bodily display among the laboring class--there were sex acts but not sexual identities. One's affiliation with the trade came first. There's actually a long scholarly discussion on how the word "homosexual" became a category for dividing behaviours that were in fact quite intertwined. (The Edwardian married man visiting the docks of London kind of thing . . .)


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fanuzzir
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Re: Moby Dick: Ishmael meets Queequeg - homo-eroticism.

You know what happens when you mix italics with a pike staff!
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fanuzzir
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Re: Moby Dick: Ishmael meets Queequeg - homo-eroticism.

There is a fascinating study here of male bodily display. It's clear that whalers liked the buff, as do so many of men and women today. Is is the same in the UK? The working class ethos you mentioned has filtered into the urban professional workout culture, though those people have great workout clothes! $100 for sweats?
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Choisya
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Re: Moby Dick: Ishmael meets Queequeg - homo-eroticism.

Yes, Like Charles Atlas, I think it is a worldwide phenomenon. I recently had a young Indian lodger on a work assignment from Bangalore and his young body was something to die for, cutaway vests and all:smileyhappy::smileyhappy: He was from the middle class (his father was a civil servant) and went to the gym daily.




fanuzzir wrote:
There is a fascinating study here of male bodily display. It's clear that whalers liked the buff, as do so many of men and women today. Is is the same in the UK? The working class ethos you mentioned has filtered into the urban professional workout culture, though those people have great workout clothes! $100 for sweats?


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Laurel
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Reading Questions

Here are some reading questions, for people who like such things.

http://www.wsu.edu/%7Ecampbelld/amlit/mddq.htm
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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What's the official start date?

Several posts talk about books not having arrived yet, and the 26th being the start date. Discussions are obviously underway though. Are these eager group members, or is the 26th canceled? If the group started weeks ago, I don't want to join now. I just started reading Moby Dick yesterday. If it's still scheduled to start on the 26th, though, I'll come back and join then.
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