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, December 2, 2014

So that's where it went!

As noted back in 2011, Melville's "travel desk" was auctioned for $34,160 to an unnamed buyer. Now we know where it went.

An article in yesterday's New York Times, Sendak’s Estate: Debating Where the Things Go, mentions in passing some of the objects in Mr. Sendak's collection: works by Blake, Rembrandt, and Goya, as well as some Melville first editions and his traveling writing desk!

For more on the Sendak-Melville connection, see this post (and the comment).

Sunday, November 30, 2014

New York Times editorial critical of Japan's Whaling

From NYT editorial, Japan is Back in the Hunt for Whales, Nov. 29:
Claiming purely “scientific” motives, Japan’s political leaders are cynically planning to resume whale hunting in the Southern Ocean, despite the International Court of Justice finding that the Japanese government regularly violated its obligations under the international ban against commercial whaling off Antarctica.
Read the entire article, with links.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Readers, get ready!

Reader sign-up for MDM19 opens in one week.
According to the Marathon page on the Whaling Museum website:
Beginning at midnight [Eastern time] on Tuesday, November 11, interested individuals may email or call to request a 7 to 10 minute reading slot.
New this year, a sponsorship scheme. "Selected readers" will be "challenged to gather sponsors to support their participation in the Moby-Dick Marathon. In return, sponsored readers become eligible for prizes based on the level of support they generate." As we've said before, the MDM is always evolving.

Note that if you're at the MDM during the "Graveyard Shift," and if the weather is bad, you usually have a good shot at the podium as a standby reader.

Lemuel's series, How to Be a Good MDM Reader, might be of interest.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Latest News from the Feejees - 9

photo by Bill Ebbesen

What's on Bruce's night stand?

Moby-Dick, of course! From an interview in yesterday's New York Times:
I just finished “Moby-Dick,” which scared me off for a long time due to the hype of its difficulty. I found it to be a beautiful boy’s adventure story and not that difficult to read. ...
Make sense who may.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

NYC's Moby-Dick Marathon, Nov. 14-16

As previously noted, New York City has its own fledgling MDM. The second biennial "marathon-style" reading of M-D is coming to three Manhattan locations over the weekend of November 14-16 (marking the anniversary of the U.S. publication of Moby-Dick, 11/14/1851). Details are at

The list of readers includes big-city cats in publishing and entertainment: Nathaniel Philbrick, Matt Kish, Paul Bresnick, Virginia Heffernan, Touré, Joshua Ferris, Tiphanie Yanique, ...

The 2012 NYC MDM was well received, although different in character from our MDM. If you've been to both, post a Comment here.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Halfway to MDM19

At midnight tonight we'll be midway between MDMs—halfway to the next Moby-Dick Marathon, MDM19. (That is, if we assume MDM19 will follow the museum's 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 post-MDM Monday off, and book a room for the night of the close of the Marathon (1/4/14).  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. You'll spot some luminaries of Melville studies at breakfast there.

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

Update, 10/2/14 — The Whaling Museum's site confirms that MDM19 will be held on Jan. 2-4, 2015.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Latest News from the Feejees - 8

Ron Howard 2011 Shankbone 3
In his talk yesterday at the Morgan Homecoming, Fred Calabretta of Mystic Seaport mentioned that Ron Howard is completing a film of In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick's retelling of the the sinking of whaleship Essex ("#1 Best Seller in Ship History" on Amazon). This has been public knowledge for a couple of years, but it was news to this blog. has a page with all the info. The U.S. release date is 13 March 2015. With direction by Ron Howard, it's sure to be a polished production that will put the posteriors in the seats, as they say. Will this high-profile film attract a crush of folks to MDM20 in January, 2016? I'm sure the wheels of preparation are in motion at the Whaling Museum.

Slightly related: A film version of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods is scheduled for release in 2015/16. The Appalachian Long-Distance Hiker's Association is already discussing ways to aid/educate the clueless hordes that will hit the trail in the years following.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The New Bedford Homecoming of the Charles W. Morgan

Here's a quick rundown on (some of) today's events surrounding the return of whaleship Charles W. Morgan, newly restored, to New Bedford. The Morgan is "the only surviving wooden whaling ship from the 19th century American fleet." Built in New Bedford, and launched on July 21, 1841, she has been in Mystic Seaport since 1941. A multi-year restoration made the Morgan once again sea-worthy. She sailed into New Bedford harbor to be the centerpiece of a week of activities. Get down there and check it out! (Leave your backpack in the car. They're not permitted.)

Today was a chance to hear presentations from some of the Melville scholars we normally see only at the MDM. As always, these folks make me realize I have a lot of reading to do. Still, when Tim Marr opened his talk asking the audience, "How many of you couldn't finish Moby-Dick the first time you read it?", the scholars were the first to raise their hands!

I took pages of notes at these presentations, but what sticks in my mind is Dr. Marr quoting Stephen Colbert who asked, "Is Moby-Dick a metaphor for the struggle of trying to read Moby-Dick?" (Who was it said, "When one of a work's themes is the work itself, another of its themes is art."?)

The week's displays and events are the combined efforts of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Mystic Seaport, the Nantucket Historical Association, and the Melville Society. That's some major fire-power, and they've done it up royally.

Like a trade show, there are lots of booths to visit inside the hall.

An area is curtained-off for the scholar presentations.

Outside, you can visit the schooner Ernestina. I've only ever seen her covered with snow, on my way to the MDM.

You can crew a whaleboat and row out for a waterline view of the Morgan. Our boatsteerer was a member of a local rowing club, well able to instruct the green crew.

Back on land, it is worth waiting in line for a chance to snake through the restored Charles W. Morgan.

According to Wikipedia, these flags spell "J B P N." What am I missing?

The dark brown areas in the diagrams show original, 1841-vintage bits of the Morgan.

Apparently, "How much is original?" is asked often.

At 4:30, it's time to deflate the whale.

The city is much more inviting on these warm summer evenings than in the January wind and ice of an MDM.

After dinner, Robert K. Wallace opened The Art of Seeing Whales exhibition at the Whaling Museum. Take your time here—the juxtapositions are deliberate.

Was anyone else put off by all the humorless, armed police stalking the area? [no photo here]

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bloomsday 2014

Once again, if you enjoy a "literature marathon" and you live near Worcester, MA, try the Bloomsday (June 16) reading of Ulysses (portions of), staged by the Worcester County Poetry Association. Mark your calendar for 2015.

In contrast to the MDM, it's a small, informal, one-day affair that moves all over downtown Worcester. Plenty of opportunities to be "the reader", and you end up chatting with all the participants. Lovely folks, interesting city, fascinating text.

N.B. - Bloomsday is not their only event. Check their website.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Beckett's 108th

Samuel Beckett, born on this day in 1906.

Stubb's reflection in Chapter XXIX, "Think not, is my eleventh commandment...", is echoed by Beckett in The Unnamable, at the end of a nautical musing:
"I". Who might that be? The galley-man, bound for the Pillars of Hercules, who drops his sweep under cover of night and crawls between the thwarts, towards the rising sun, unseen by the guard, praying for storm? Except that I've stopped praying for anything. [...] And now let us think no more about it, think no more about anything, think no more.

Monday, February 24, 2014

For the dorm room wall...

...a poster of the text of the first 26 chapters of Moby-Dick, artfully spaced to form a thematic silhouette. (The website lets you zoom in for close inspection.)

They also offer a poster of the first eight chapters of Ulysses.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Charles W. Morgan coming to New Bedford!

The schedule is public — The restored Charles W. Morgan ("the last wooden whaleship in the world") will sail into New Bedford this June, and stay for the 4th of July and the New Bedford Folk Festival.

That's June 28 through July 6. Save the dates.

Road Trip: Frederick Douglass Read-A-Thon

Just back from the 14th Annual Frederick Douglass Read-A-Thon—a public through-reading of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, sponsored by the New Bedford Historical Society.

This year, the reading moved to the First Unitarian Church, on Eighth Street in New Bedford. This is a beautiful church, built in 1838. We were told that Frederick Douglass' first paying job in New Bedford was at this very church, shoveling coal for the minister's wife!

The sanctuary could have seated three or four times the number of folks who showed up. Where was everyone? This would be a great afternoon with your middle-school or high-school kids; and if you've never read this historic memoir, all the more reason to come next year. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Frederick Douglass reading Sunday!

The 14th Annual Frederick Douglass Community Read-a-Thon returns to New Bedford this Sunday (Feb. 9, 2014).

This is a great event—moving and inspirational, with a real "community" feel. See previous posts to get the jist of it.

Keep a weather eye on the Historical Society website in case the forecast snows force a postponement.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Jimmy's 132nd

...with it, an abode of bliss.
They halted, looking towards the blunt cape of Bray Head that lay on the water like the snout of a sleeping whale.       - Chapter 1
We can't let this day pass without noting that it's the 132nd birthday of the author of another of those "big, important books," James Joyce.

If you haven't had the pleasure of reading Ulysses, give it a go. This weekly podcast will help you on.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Friday, January 10, 2014

MDM18 "post-mortemising"

Friday afternoon
The eighteenth annual Moby-Dick Marathon (MDM18) was held by the New Bedford Whaling Museum on January 4-5. Because of the mid-week snowstorm, the speaker set for Friday night, librettist Gene Scheer, was re-scheduled for Saturday A.M. In the end, he couldn't get out of NYC, so "Stump the Scholars" was restored to its usual Saturday morning slot.

Saturday, 9:53 A.M. - Bob Rocha rallies the interns
I was disappointed to miss Mr. Scheer's talk. It would be interesting to hear about the decisions he was forced to make in adapting M-D to the contemporary grand-opera [see Comments] opera form. Also, as with Matt Kish's talk at MDM17, an artist's "take" on M-D can deepen one's appreciation in unexpected ways.

On the other hand, "Stump the Scholars" is not to be missed. It's an entertaining lead-in to the actual reading. "Emcee" Michael Dyer (Maritime Curator) keeps things fun, and the scholars have a very high batting average against the audience. Do you remember Stiggs and how he died? They do.

The Clams
The Cods

Team "The Clams" was Mary K. Bercaw Edwards (Univ. of Connecticut), Wyn Kelley (M.I.T.), Jennifer Baker (NYU). "The Cods" were Chris Sten (George Washington U.), Robert Wallace (Univ. of Kentucky), Tim Marr (Univ. of North Carolina). Great fun.

Tonnie & Tjitske
Then it was off to the "Lagoda room" for the main event. The reporter from WBSM radio somehow found Dutch Melvillians Tonnie & Tjitske—back for their 5th consecutive MDM.

Pia Durkin
This year's reading kicked off with the MDM's first female Ishmael, Dr. Pia Durkin, Superintendent of New Bedford Public Schools. A local woman standing next to me said that Durkin was "controversial." If you're from New Bedford, you know all about that.

Each MDM has a slightly different character. This year's seemed to be less "reverential," maybe because we were all relieved to have made it through the blizzard. Much of the early-Saturday and late-Sunday audience seemed to be there not to share a cherished book, but to observe the spectacle. Maybe not. ...But I wasn't the only one to notice that the crowd noise on Saturday afternoon was over the limit. (Those teenage interns just don't have the air of authority of the grizzled docents!)

A lot of readers were no-shows, doubtless because of the snows. Bob Rocha scoured the "sleeping balcony" in the wee hours to recruit readers. This year, repeat turns at the podium were for the asking.

Sunday, 3:48 A.M.

Joel and Havarah from KingPost Productions spent most of the marathon in the break room, explaining their just-released Moby Dick strategy card game. Nice folks, patiently answering questions they surely had heard hundreds of times before. Each card has a quote from M-D, so for the uninitiated it could be an entrée into the book; and the artwork is captivating. As in the novel, players hunt whales and confront Moby-Dick. The last player to survive his attacks can say "Call me Ishmael!" (Interestingly, Gene Scheer's libretto likewise uses "Call me Ishmael" as its final line.)

Havarah & Joel explain the game

Finally, the sun rose, the crowd swelled, and it was over for another year. Mark your calendar for MDM19: January 3, 2015.

Watch the museum website—the restored Charles W. Morgan arrives in New Bedford in June. The scholars will be back for a "Melville event."

Stowing Down & Clearing Up

P.S. -
        Where was Jennifer Nersesian of the National Historical Park? (One of my favorite readers.)
        Where was Peter Whittemore? [Best wishes to you, Peter.]
        Why did James Russell, President & CEO of the Whaling Museum, close the Epilogue with "The End" instead of "FINIS"?
        The Celtic Coffee House across from the museum is gone, replaced by Tia Maria's (BYOB), but good Guinness can be had at a new pub on Union St., where the Catwalk used to be.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Light Dawns on MDM18

Dawn rises behind the Double Bank, 6:43 A.M.

The stalwarts will soon be overwhelmed, 6:43 A.M.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


A day to mark with a white stone.

MDM18 is streaming NOW!

If you can't make it to the Marathon, watch the video stream, live until the reading ends, about 1 P.M., Sunday, Jan. 5.

If you love this annual event, the Whaling Museum has made it easy to support the Moby-Dick Marathon using your credit card.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Snows Scotch Scheer's Show

Librettist Gene Scheer is stuck in NYC, so "Stump the Scholars" is back to its traditional spot in the program: 10 A.M. Saturday.

See the revised schedule on the Whaling Museum site.

It's great to be back!

"Loomings" locations, part 2

Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward.      - Chapter I, Loomings
Continuing a look at some of the locations mentioned in the first chapter of Moby-Dick. (See part 1.)

Coenties Slip — a surprising family connection
Coenties Slip, 1876 (original stereo view)

Coenties Slip area, 1841
Coenties Slip was a significant feature on the waterfront, cutting inland nearly two blocks. Sometime in the late 1800's it was filled in. Later, Front Street in this area was obliterated by office towers. Today Coenties Slip is largely covered by the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park, with a heliport at what was the slip's mouth.

View Larger Map
Coenties Slip today, looking south across Water St. toward the river

The name "Coenties" has a history. You won't find it in any telephone directory, U.S. or Dutch. It is a contraction of the Dutch "Coenraedt en Antje"—Coenraedt and Antje. Coenraedt Ten Eyck (alternately Conraet, Coenraet) was born in Germany in 1617, and worked in Amsterdam as a shoemaker's helper. He married Maria Boele; their first child, Jacob C., was born in 1645. The family immigrated to New Amsterdam around 1651. Sometime later, Coenraedt married Antje (no last name found), and "worked as a tanner and shoemaker near his home [...] on his sizable property on what [became] Coenties Slip." (

Now follow me down the generations, using information from the New York State Museum website.
  1. Coenraedt's son, Jacob C., followed his dad into the shoemaker's trade, moved to Albany, and married Geertje Coeymans, the daughter of Albany-area "landholder." Their children "married well, prospered, and established the Ten Eyck family in Albany and in the upper Hudson region." Their first son, Coenradt, was born in 1678.
  2. Coenradt trained as a silversmith, worked in Albany and New York City, married Gerritje Van Schaick, and had ten children. Their first child, Jacob C., was born in 1705.
  3. This 1705 Jacob married Catharina Cuyler. They had son Abraham in 1743.
  4. Abraham married Anna Lansing, and had son Jacob A. in 1772.
  5. Jacob A. Ten Eyck married a certain Magdalena Gansevoort at the Albany Dutch church in April 1795. (Yes, that Gansevoort!)
Magdalena Gansevoort was the daughter of "Albany mainstay" Leonard Gansevoort. Leonard had a brother, Peter, "the hero of Fort Stanwix." Peter had a daughter, Maria Gansevoort—mother of our man, Herman Melville!

In short: Herman's first cousin once removed (Magdalena) was the wife of the great-great-great-grandson (Jacob A.) of the couple who gave Coenties Slip its name [step-GGGgrandson of Antje].

I wonder if Herman or his mother was aware of this distant connection to what was, during the time the Melvill family lived in lower Manhattan, a prominent local enterprise. (They moved to Albany when Herman was eleven years old.) The fact is too insignificant to be included in any of the Melville biographies I have at hand.

The final post in this series will look at the Whitehall in the quote above—Herman's nod to his mother's family?

(Note: The full map of 1841 Manhattan can be found at this outstanding Boston Public Library site.)

Blizzard Bashes MDM18

The Friday night talk has been moved to Saturday at 10 A.M., replacing "Stump the Scholars."

See the revised MDM schedule on the Whaling Museum website.

Huntington Ave., Boston