The New Bedford Whaling Museum's Moby-Dick Marathon is an annual non-stop reading of Herman Melville's literary masterpiece. The multi-day program of entertaining activities and events is presented every January. Admission to the Marathon is free.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Should one stay or should one go...

Jan. 9, 2009, 1:08 AMThis was my third New Bedford MDM, and the first time I permitted myself to skip out for a beer on Saturday afternoon and to leave before the closing chapters instead of fighting sleep to the "FINIS" line.

Sure it's a bit of a survival stunt to stay with the reading for the entire 25 hours. David Dowling ("Chasing the White Whale") compares the experience to running a road marathon. Unlike road racing, there's no way to train oneself to make "the punishment" less grueling. (...or is there? That's a subject for another post.)

If you commit yourself to the entire event, there are times when it feels like a depression-era dance marathon ("The blood would run out of their shoes," my mother recalled), with the knowledge that there are no cash prizes. And can anyone stay awake, much less concentrate on pithy prose for 25 straight hours? Still, as for the pack-filler at your local road marathon, there is some reward in terms of self-improvement, or "life experience", or bragging rights. (ROFL We should live in such a world.) Then there are moments when you feel like a member of a fading order of priests/priestesses, vainly attempting to preserve "The Word" yet another year against the tide of multi-tasking zombies. "We few, we happy few..." he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, ...

Oh yeah, there's also the book. It ain't a "Classic" for nothing. There are worlds within worlds there. Each reading broadens my appreciation, highlights details I'd missed, and makes me marvel how a single book can affect so many people across so many cultures.

Anyway... not staying for the entire reading left me feeling incomplete, having missed the point, having abandoned my shipmates in their hour of crisis. Next year I'll be in for the whole book, spend less time taking photos, and take a turn at the podium.

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