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.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The 16th New Bedford Moby-Dick Marathon -- Second Day (Part Two)

Immediately after the "Stump the Scholars!" program, the scholars headed over to the Lagoda Room to conduct a reading of the Extracts that preface Moby-Dick.  This was the first time in the history of the New Bedford MDM that the Extracts have been included in the reading.  In prior years, the Marathon has always skipped the Extracts and begun instead with Chapter I ("Call me Ishmael" etc.) -- something that we and other fans have deplored in the past.

Wyn Kelley reads an extract.
The idea behind this Extracts reading was excellent.  The plan was to begin the Extracts at 11:30 a.m. and get through as many of them as possible before noon.  That way, the Marathon formalities could still commence on schedule at the same time as in every other year, without the necessity of determining precisely how long it would take to read all the Extracts.  The scholars stood around the balcony of the Lagoda Room and took turns reading one extract each, an arrangement that made it easy to separate one extract from another and that spared the readers the trouble of reading the source after each extract. 

Jennifer Baker reads; Mary Bercaw Edwards waits her turn.
There was just one problem, which I don't think anyone could have foreseen:  The audience did not seem to grasp that this was part of the reading of Moby-Dick.  Instead of listening quietly as they do to every other part of the book, the audience members talked over the readers as if Melville were just background noise.  As a result, it was nearly impossible to hear the Extracts.  I don't know whether this happened because most people didn't understand what was going on, or because a small number of talkers caused everyone else to give up and talk too, or because most people just don't like the Extracts.

Whatever the cause, I hope the Museum will continue to include the Extracts in future years.  Perhaps if they began the Extracts reading by having someone ring a bell or blow a bos'n's whistle from the podium, and announce what is about to take place, the audience will be more attentive.

After the Extracts, I went out to grab some lunch and take pictures around town.  Gansevoort stayed on and later attended a sort of round-table discussion with the scholars and other serious fans, something I'm sorry to have missed and expect he will write about in the days to come.

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