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.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Anders Breivik's manifesto is like... what?!?

Listening to my never-miss podcast of On the Media tonight as Brooke Gladstone interviewed Dartmouth professor of English, Jeff Sharlet... The professor is one of the few who went to the trouble to read the entire 1500-page "manifesto" of the accused mass murderer Anders Breivik.  He also frequently writes about religion.  Sharlet describes Breivik's screed as
...a 1500-page story of the development of the mind of a killer, and he's not the same person at the end of the story as he is at the beginning.
He compares it to a work of literature, specifically Moby-Dick in that it, too, draws from disparate sources and presents a multitude of "streams" of thought.
The whale for Brevik is Islam, which he sees as vast and menacing and dangerous and beyond comprehension, yet he must keep trying ... drawing in all these sources into this sort of whirlpool of this manifesto in which some of these voices get drowned and become part of his. Now he's talking about poetry, now he's talking about the Knights Templar, and now he's talking about investment strategies to finance your project.
Do we Melvillians need to defend our beloved book here?  If we're discussing only narrative structure, Sharlet might have a point.  However, while Captain Ahab may have been a murderous character, he was a fictional construct of an author who was not a murderer.  Sadly, the same can not be said about the author of the work that has as its central character Anders Breivik.

Listen to the entire interview here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries...

From MDM15 at 2:45 PM, Chapter XIII, Wheelbarrow, read by Larry Chalif in an exotic accent:

It is worth remembering that Sag Harbor on Long Island was a major whaling port in the early 1800's.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Today in History

From The New York Times, on this day in 1915:
LOST SHIP IN A FOG.; Whalers, After Four Days in Open Boats, Reach New Bedford.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Melville's birthday celebrations

if ((you have children) and  
    (you will be near New Bedford on July 31)) then {
you might be interested in "a fun-filled day celebrating Herman Melville's birthday"
} else {
celebrate our man's 192nd birthday, August 1, as you will

Sunday, July 10, 2011

...when Leviathan is the text - 15 (series end?)

(15th in the search for the ideal edition for an MDM)
Since I have undertaken to manhandle this Leviathan, it behooves me to approve myself omnisciently exhaustive in the enterprise; not overlooking the minutest seminal germs in his blood, and spinning him out to the uttermost coil of his bowels.
Chapter CIV, "The Fossil Whale"

Now that we're homeward bound to the next MDM, and having examined the currently available haul of Moby-Dick editions, we can conclude our search for that one edition that is best suited to be your companion for the marathon's long voyage from "Call me ..." to "... another orphan."

I wear the chain I forged in February.
Faithful readers will recall the launch of this quest back in February, when I conflated my post-holiday zeal to conform to the dietary guidelines of the Department of Health & Human Services, with a practical need of all conscientious marathoners. Although the adult beverages ebbed and flowed (two-a-day is a devilishly meager ration!), the literary hunt was pleasantly self-motivating. I'm sure that many of us Melvillians are like William Pettit of The Moby-Dick Collection, and the omnivorous Stevereads—we're bibliomaniacs. We find books to be fascinating objects.

This hunt was also an excuse to explore some fine, old municipal libraries. It turned out to be a learning experience as well. I had unconsciously assumed, along with many marathoners, no doubt, that after being in circulation for over a century and a half, and for much of that time being a "Very Important Book," all editions presented the same text.  In the innocence of my heart!  It took me a month to realize that not until 1988 (thanks to the labors of Hayford, Parker, and Tanselle) was a researched, corrected, standard text published. Not to say that the process of revision has ceased, but at present, the Northwestern-Newberry Moby-Dick is generally accepted as accurate by folks whose business it is to know.

marathon world record holder Paula RadcliffeSo were our criteria refined.

Back in March I fantasized that an ideal marathon tome might be fashioned from the Library of America hardcover 3-pack of Redburn, White-Jacket, and Moby-Dick (Northwestern-Newberry compliant, of course) by excising the  two unnecessary (for the marathon) works, and re-binding the remainder. Soon after, I discovered that Library of America had done just that!

This, for me, is the one.

The Library of America "Paperback Classics" edition (ISBN: 978-1-59853-085-8) was released about a year ago. It can be found new at Amazon for less than $10. As with all of the LOA Melville titles, it presents the Northwestern-Newberry text. At 696 pages, extranea are not excessive—a 17-page Introduction by Professor Edward Said of Columbia University, a 5-page Chronology, and 16 pages of Notes; no illustrations. It appears to be an exact clone of the hardcover edition (the text may be a split-hair larger, measured with calipers), but on different paper stock.

It's cut to nearly the same page size as the hardcover, measuring 5.125" x 8" x 1.25".  It weighs in as the lightest of the N-N compliant editions examined: 22.4 ounces.

The type is as the hardcover, a slightly zaftig, no-nonsense, "10 point Linotron Galliard." (See a sample in Typeface Tally.) The pages are bright white, giving a contrast that should be helpful in the marathon's Graveyard Shift. They are smooth, with less show-through, and feel thicker than the hardcover's. Measuring the 634 pages of Table of Contents plus text, in both the hardcover and this paperback (with my vernier calipers), I calculate the pages to be about 55% thicker. All this yields the key advantage of this edition: its readability.

Margins and gutters are acceptable. Chapters begin on a new page. There are chapter-title headings on the recto pages.

On the debit side of the ledger, there is no mention of acid-free paper. Nor is the glued binding the sturdiest-looking we've seen (time will tell), though it does lie open without a fight. As with the LOA hardcover, my aged eyes miss the plush leading of a beautiful (heavy and valuable) "home reader."

I can live with such shortcomings in a marathon M-D—if I spill coffee on it, if I'm moved to scribble an epiphany in the margin, if some pages come loose after a few years, no great loss. Did Melville shed tears when his pencil was reduced to a nub?  Does Paula Radcliffe fret when her shoes lose their bounce? These things are consumables; oil for the frying of bigger fish! Note to self: buy a backup copy or two before it goes out of print.

If you're heading to MDM16, leave your fancy, gilt-edged, trophy edition at home and bring a functional, working-tool of a book, like this one. Something that will get you from The Pageant all the way through The Final Push to the "FINIS" line.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Halfway to MDM16

Today we are midway between MDMs—halfway to the next Moby-Dick Marathon, MDM16. (That is, if we assume MDM16 will follow the museum's recent pattern of launching the Marathon on the first weekend after New Year's Day.)

Clear the decks and mark your calendar.

Heed the advice of this post—take Monday (1/9/12) off and book a room for the night of the close of the Marathon (1/8/12).  New Bedford and neighboring Fairhaven have a number of hotels and B&Bs. The fine Fairfield Inn & Suites is a three-block walk from the Whaling Museum.

Lemuel and I will keep an eye on the Whaling Museum's website for definitive schedule info.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hawthorne's Birthday!

Hawthorne statue, Salem, MA
Crimminy! Almost missed this...

Today is the 207th birthday of Nathaniel Hawthorne, to whom Melville inscribed Moby-Dick.

Born in Salem, Massachusetts (at 27 Union Street, where there is no historical marker!). He grew up, went to college, married the girl next door (around the corner, really, at 105 Essex Street, where there is a marker), became a big-time writer, was appointed U.S. consul in Liverpool, and was buried in Concord.

Along the way, Melville latched onto him as a mentor. Hershel Parker, in his biography of Melville, 2nd volume, wrote, "By understanding Moby-Dick as a great truth-telling allegory, Hawthorne had proved himself the ideal audience of one."

Thanks and happy birthday, Mr. Hawthorne.

PS - If you're walking around Salem, stroll down Mall Street and look at #16. Years ago when I lived nearby, it had a sign stating that Hawthorne lived there while he was writing The Scarlet Letter.

Whaling and the Revolution

Harpoon Tips
Clifford Ashley, in his indispensable book The Yankee Whaler, describes the effect the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) had on the whaling fleets of Nantucket and New Bedford.

Prior to the start of the war, Britain had no sperm whalers. This changed after the outbreak, when captured American vessels were sent to sea under the British flag. (p. xi)
In 1782 England's Greenland fleet consisted of thirty-eight ships; in 1784, eighty-nine; in 1785 there were one hundred and forty; and in 1790 over two hundred. [...] practically every whaleship in the Nantucket fleet—one hundred and thirty-four out of one hundred and fifty—was captured by the British early in the Revolutionary War, and that every whaleman captured was given the privilege of deciding whether he would continue whaling under the British flag or go to prison. (p.25)
An easy choice, that.
When the Revolutionary War began, New Bedford's fleet numbered between forty and fifty  whalers. During the war, they did not attempt to fish [...] American privateersmen brought many prizes into the harbor during the earlier stages of the war. New Bedford was the only port north of the Chesapeake not in the hands of the British, and there was a rich accumulation of colonial stores of one sort and another.
In September, 1778, Sir Henry Clinton attacked New Bedford by sea, landing 4,500 troops south of the town. Thirty-four of the town's fleet of fifty whalers were burned.

After the war, not all captured whalemen returned to the former colonies. In 1788, the British ship Amelia, crewed by Nantucketers, was the first whaleship to enter the Pacific. In 1791, the Beaver of Nantucket was the first American whaler to round the Horn.

The Rebecca of New Bedford was the first American whaler to "fill ship" in the Pacific. It sailed in 1791 and arrived home February 23, 1793. (p. 38) According to History of Bristol County, Massachusetts (D. Hamilton Hurd, 1883), the Rebecca was the first ship built in New Bedford (!?!), launched in 1785. It was considered "immensely large" at the time. Her master builder was George Claghorn, who afterwards built the Constitution, launched in 1797.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hershel remembers

À propos of nothing, a touching post by Hershel "dean of Melville studies" Parker.  To have been his student back in my university days...

He's working on another book, Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative. Something forward to which we can look!