22 January 2009

Moby Dick is dead

So I finished Moby Dick a few days ago, and I have to say it's one of the most boring novels I've ever read.  Thank you, Mr. Mehlville, for wasting hours of my time with 19th Century taxonomic descriptions of whales as fish, and anatomical minutiae that adds nothing to the plot.  Seriously, let's look at the table of contents for this book.

Chapter 90:  Arrr, the jawbone of the whale
Chapter 91:  Shiver me timbers, the tail of the whale
Chapter 92:  The color white
Chapter 93:  The blowhole of the whale
Chapter 94:  The sperm of the whale

Gee, thanks for spending dozens of pages talking about the blow-hole on a whale--it's not like I didn't learn about that at Sea World when I was six.  Shouldn't you be saying something more on, say, the human condition by focusing the story on Captain Ahab and his obsession over the whale?  

Oh, and another thing, when referring to the spermaceti, a substance found in the Sperm Whale, for God's sake, don't abbreviate it as "sperm".  Nor should you go on for pages about how much you love sperm, how sweet sperm is, how madly you lust for Mr. Dick, etc.  Really, this has given generations of kids endless amusement at how homo-erotic this novel is--as if the thirty dudes on a ship alone for three years didn't make it enough so.  

"all the morning long, I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules...I was constantly squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally...let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.  Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm forever!"

--An honest-to-God quote from Moby Dick

On a good note, I finally knew the book was at its end when Captain Ahab says the following:  "To the last, I grapple with thee; fromn hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee".  You know how I knew he was going to die when he said this (other than the fact that he says it's his last breath)?  Because Khan said the same damn thing in Star Trek II!  So thanks for ripping off the greatest Star Trek movie in history ever, Herman Mehlville.  

Someone from the Tucker Max Message Board actually made a great point about classic literature in a recent thread:

Newsflash: 90% of what is considered a classic is FUCKING BORING and is irrelevant to modern-day life. Those are the books you mentioned that are forced down people's throats in high school...I think a lot of people who say they like reading this type of book do so because of their desire to be considered an intellectual elite, not because they actually enjoy Tolstoy. I see a lot of my peers reading, but a switch has occurred. I'll sooner see a cover with the name Gladwell or McCarthy on it than Salinger or Hawthorne. Melodrama is gone and it ain't coming back.

2 comments:

Bag Blog said...

There is a reason Melville and Hawthorne are considered American Classic novelists - they were the ONLY American novelists at that time. As a high school Lit teacher, I refused to make my students read such stuff when I hated it myself. Cliff notes were the way to go when learning early American Lit.

Anonymous said...

About feel off my chair after reading that Melville quote! Yes, the 19th Century American writers were incredible verbose and boring. Dostoevsky ("Brothers Karamazov" "Crime & Punishment") is worth reading - at times he too can be a bit verbose but in his case it's worth plodding through b/c his novels have great, intricate plots that kick your ass in the end. Also, Hugo's "Les Miserables," though loooong and full of unneeded passages is also worth it.

If anyone says that Homer is boring they are barbaric morons who should just work at McD's for the rest of their meaningless lives. :-)

Greg in Mexico