The 2021 MDM is just days away. Let's get MDM24 (Jan. 3-5, 2020) into the historical record now.
January 2020. We crowded into the Whaling Museum to share another Moby-Dick Marathon. In the innocence of our hearts! (This year's MDM25 will have some folks reading from the museum, but most will stream their reading from home. With luck and discipline, the 2022 MDM will be a joyful, in-the-flesh reunion.) [Update, 1/10/21: All the 2021 readings were recorded before MDM25, most at the reader's home, then edited by the Museum into ten (long) streaming videos.]
MDM24 unfurled along the lines of previous years. Attendance seemed slightly down from 2019's banner year, but I can find no reports. Ten-time Dutch reader, Tjitske Zwerver, commented on the number of new faces. Were they lured to the reading by the recent bicentennial of Melville's birth, or was it the not-frigid weather and complete absence of snow?
It was good to see the regulars—people I know only from repeated MDMs. Barbara from Pittsfield was about to retire from her law office job to become a volunteer at the Berkshire Athenaeum, helping to organize Hershel Parker's archive of Melville material(!); "dozens of boxes." [See here & here.] Jessica Kent passed on a link to her Harvard Master's thesis, "That Unfailing Comfort Is, It's All Predestinated": Ishmael's Calvinist Journey in Moby-Dick. Much appreciated (even if the contemplation of Calvinism makes me despair for humanity).
New at MDM24:
- A photobooth (free) for a souvenir strip of snapshots.
- A Voyage Passport. Every four hours you collect a stamp at reader check-in. If you finish the MDM with all six stamps, you are awarded a very generous gift bag. (Much more humane than the previous "stay awake for the full 25 hours" criterion.)
The museum dedicated the 2020 MDM to David Blanchette of West Wareham, who died October 19, 2019. His artwork is recognizable on marathon buttons and signage. He was author and illustrator of children's books, including Xico. (Follow the link; you'll recognize his drawing style.)
Edward Camara Jr. of Mattapoisett died November 17, 2019. He was honored on the Reader Program as "a stalwart supporter of this event, who missed only one Marathon between 1997 and 2019."
Stump the Scholars, with emcee Capt. Michael Taylor (substituting for Michael Dyer), and scholars from Teaching Melville: Timothy Marr (UNC), Jennifer Baker (NYU), Christopher Sten (George Washington U.), Robert K. Wallace (U. of Kentucky), Mary K. Bercaw Edwards (U. of Conn. & Mystic Seaport), and Jeff Markman (New Trier H.S., substituting for Wyn Kelley).
Among other things, we learned that after the 1866 fire in the Seamen's Bethel, the pews were reoriented to face away from the street, and the current blunt steeple was added, replacing a bird-watching stand(?)!
A familiar face opened Loomings: Jared Bowen, Executive Arts Editor at WGBH. He set a suitably reverential tone with, "Call. Me. Ishmael." Marathoners applauded his fine reading.
...Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States...
New Bedford's mayor customarily reads The Street, Chapter 6. Mayor Jon Mitchell did the honors.
Once more unto the Bethel, dear friends, once more ...for Chapters 7-9.
While the action was away in the Bethel, there was time to admire the "set design" by Michael Lapides, Director of Digital Initiatives. Note the glow in the faux fireplace, the objects on the mantel and table, the whaling print, the lamp on the desk,... I'll bet it looked great on the video stream. (Sadly, the video has disappeared from YouTube. "Google is not in the preservation business.")
This year, readers had a choice of armchair or lectern.
Chat with Melville Scholars (seen here just breaking up) —
These "chats" grow larger every year, and with good reason. Lots of grist here, seeded by members of the Melville Society. What will the focus of M-D be for the 21st century? Melville as "memorialist" of the whaling industry. Ahab is to M-D as Dr. Frankenstein is to his monster. Was Ahab based on Charles Wilkes?
On to The Town Ho's Story as the crowd wanes.
Well into the marathon's Graveyard Shift.
The readers continue while Watch Officers confer on the line-up.
Early risers drift in while Pip jumps from the boat (Chapter 93).
Beautiful sunny day.
Momentum starts to build.
Momentum starts to build.
The second Chat with Melville Scholars —
Recommended books: Ahab's Rolling Sea, Richard J. King; Trying Leviathan, D. Graham Burnett; Toni Morrison's essay on Melville in The Source of Self-Regard.
M-D Chapter 61 changes Ishmael's view of the whale. Lemuel Shaw as surrogate father to Melville, and some connection to Captain Vere in Billy Budd. Melville got books from the Boston Athenaeum through Shaw. Was M. "high on something" when he wrote Tartarus of Maids?