I’ll be taking a short blogging break to enjoy the coming long weekend, and when I return I should be just about set to start writing about Moby-Dick. I have too much I want to write about. Cutting down to just one week may be difficult. Ah.
Before we get to that, I thought I would recap the first half of my reading through Melville. I read all his novels up to Moby-Dick this past fall and winter. My current reading of Moby-Dick is meant to kick off the rest of the trip, with Pierre the next stop. I already can’t wait to get to it.
I should note that I’m extremely glad to have undertaken this project, as the following books are all doing a lot to inform my current experience and the whole thing is proving rewarding.
- Typee, Melville’s first novel, is a semi-autobiographical story of a sailor stuck on a paradisaical island—full, maybe, of cannibals.
- Even with the writing of Typee and his second novel Omoo, Melville had established what would be his characteristic structure of a great number of short chapters. This structure is a distinctive part of Melville’s style and makes possible his whole method of narration.*
- Melville’s voice runs away with him in Mardi, his third book and something of a crazy masterpiece (emphasis on crazy). He gets into current events and politics as well as some really fun, sharp social satire. And a lot, lot more.
- He returns to the mainstream in Redburn, the story of a young boy’s first trip at sea, as told by his older, more experienced self. This was my least favorite so far.
- White-Jacket, Melville’s last novel before Moby-Dick, felt more like his better self, though still maturing. He’s already thinking about whiteness and his social concerns are crystallizing a bit more.
If all that doesn’t get you excited for more, do visit Infinite Zombies, where they’ve been hosting a group read of Moby-Dick that’s just winding down. (I’m saving up the last bunch of posts until I’m done reading myself and can’t wait to get to them.)
On the above sketch by Thomas Beale, Ishmael says, “His frontispiece, boats attacking Sperm Whales, though no doubt calculated to excite the civil scepticism of some parlor men, is admirably correct and life-like in its general effect.”
*Sweeping claim mine.