Did you ever read a book in your teens or twenties for school and then run into it later in life and think, “Wow, I hated this book in high school/college, but now I love it”? Moby Dick is that book for a lot of people. They give it to 16 year olds and expect them to give a flying about this nutty guy who goes to sea because he’s bored and cranky, and also to care about his affectionate and heavily tattooed roommate and about some weird kid who falls off a boat and becomes damaged and eerie, all while these people stab whales and tie rigging and say, “Yessir!” to the monomaniacal, verse spewing amputee who captains the ship. Starbuck is the only normal one and he is just as boring as he is on Battlestar Gallactica (the first one, kiddos — it was a sad, polyester-ridden time).
So yeah, I get it. You may be reluctant to pick up Moby Dick again, but give it a try! It is a beautiful rendering of the human condition, filled with poetry and love for the the physical world. It’s a can’t-look-away plunge into what happens when a person feels that world has betrayed them. It’s lyrical and haunting and revelatory and has a terrific plot and will change the way you look at everything.
That said, I here offer a brief benediction:
By the power vested in me by 20 years of bookselling, You Do Not Have To Read the parts About Cutting Up The Whale or the parts About How To Tie Knots For Sails And Whatnot. There will not be a quiz. Just skip ahead. Amen.