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.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"and there is no new thing under the sun"

Chuck Palahniuk, the purveyor of "transgressive fiction" known for Fight Club, published in 2005 a collection of interconnected short stories entitled Haunted.  The collection's showpiece (if you will) is "Guts."  In "Guts" the narrator's bowels are pulled out by the suction pump at the bottom of a swimming pool, and he saves himself from drowning by chewing through his intestine.  According to Wikipedia, the story exerted such power that, at public readings, many listeners fainted:
While on his 2003 tour to promote his novel Diary, Palahniuk read "Guts" to his audiences. It was reported that over 35 people fainted while listening to the readings. On his tour to promote Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories in the summer of 2004, he read the story to audiences again, bringing the total amount of fainters up to 53, and later up to 60, while on tour to promote the softcover edition of Diary. The last fainting occurred on May 28, 2007, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, where five people fainted, one of which occurred when a man was trying to leave the auditorium, which resulting in him falling and hitting his head on the door.
Perhaps something about "Guts" seems familiar.  Can't put your finger on it?  Permit me to help:
[U]pon Stubb setting the anchor-watch after his supper was concluded; and when, accordingly, Queequeg and a forecastle seaman came on deck, no small excitement was created among the sharks; for immediately suspending the cutting stages over the side, and lowering three lanterns, so that they cast long gleams of light over the turbid sea, these two mariners, darting their long whaling-spades, kept up an incessant murdering of the sharks, by striking the keen steel deep into their skulls, seemingly their only vital part. But in the foamy confusion of their mixed and struggling hosts, the marksmen could not always hit their mark; and this brought about new revelations of the incredible ferocity of the foe. They viciously snapped, not only at each other's disembowelments, but like flexible bows, bent round, and bit their own; till those entrails seemed swallowed over and over again by the same mouth, to be oppositely voided by the gaping wound. Nor was this all. It was unsafe to meddle with the corpses and ghosts of these creatures. A sort of generic or Pantheistic vitality seemed to lurk in their very joints and bones, after what might be called the individual life had departed. Killed and hoisted on deck for the sake of his skin, one of these sharks almost took poor Queequeg's hand off, when he tried to shut down the dead lid of his murderous jaw.
 (from Ch. LXVI, "The Shark Massacre".)  As far as I am aware, no listener has ever fainted at the Moby-Dick Marathon.  Melville fans are made of stern stuff.

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