This is an odd post, but it may explain posts to follow–not that I know exactly what those next posts will wind up saying,
or confessing to the world,
or accomplishing in any sense,
Insular Tahiti Girl lives in repose.
We are not an ambitious individual.
But here is what happened, and, bear with me, those of my dear readers who have already had to listen to my apoplectic rantings on this subject, I found this used copy of Moby-Dick. Of course, that’s not hard to do, especially given that the first place I go in any used book store is over to the “Literature/Fiction: M’s.”
I delight in finding the most marked up copies of Melville’s great work. On this most recent outing I acquired a copy which at one time belonged, apparently to L. Davenport as the permanent black magic marker along the edge declares.
When I was around eight I was walking around my grandparent’s yard with a box over my head. Not unlike this:
Apparently it runs in families. This was my daughter just last week. . .At any rate, my little brother, being playful and probably about four at the time (and thus with a much looser grasp on physics than he has today) thought it would be funny to give me a shove.
Why do we do that? We see something–a sibling, usually, looking so present, so completely in possession of their surrounding space that we feel this compulsion to dislodge them. But I digress. . .
So, little brother gives a healthy slam shove to the box front and I hit the ground. Knocked the breath out of me, lying there in the dark of that box, unable to inhale–a surreal moment for a child. At any rate, the box was pulled from me and when I did inhale I began to cry, perhaps because it hurt, or, more likely because I saw my brother’s face as the anger flew down on him from the surrounding adults. My grandmother scooped an arm around me and whispered urgently : “You go lie down on the davenport!”
Let me repeat, urgently. . . I remember thinking “Now is not the time to ask :
. . .What ‘s a davenport?”
At my daughter’s first grade parent teacher conference last week the teacher says my girl loves to use ellipses.
Again. . .runs in the family.
Back to my story, which is really just a tangent (Who needs an editor? I do!), I walked into the house and curled up on the couch which seemed to meet with everyone’s approval which is the story of how I came to know the meaning of the word “davenport.”
Or perhaps better shown as:
I decided I must own this particular copy the minute I flipped it open and saw, highlighted in green, from Chapter 135: (The Chase- Third Day):
Were I the wind, I’d blow no more on such a wicked, miserable world; I’d crawl somewhere to a cave, and slink there, and yet, ’tis a noble and heroic thing, the wind! who ever conquered it?
I don’t think I ever gave pause for that line–all the times I have read this book. So, thank you, Davenport (or Davenport’s teacher).
But Davenport was not the source of my wrath. The very next copy I picked off the shelf (you never know how many Moby-Dicks you may buy in one day. . .) it was that which “done me in” (bit the bowl right off the spoon, so to speak)
There, across the vast majority of the chapters between 3 and 133, sweeping black pencil marks screamed
. . .in so many unspoken words.
My bible, eviscerated by a hand which was fed, no doubt, with orders–marched along by some droning teacher’s voice that routinely introduces this American Masterpiece with :
” then just skip the next 130 chapters. . .”
I realize that Moby-Dick is assigned to high-school students,
and I realize, that when teaches do this they often will instruct students to “skip” certain chapters.
I realize that I myself pick and sort and take pieces of the book willy-nilly to ponder out of context.
This is sacrilege.
This floored me.
(Literally, I collapsed onto the floor–the bookstore is staffed, thank god the sorts of folks just off beat enough to choose a career in the field of used books, so it’s like undressing on the cafeteria table in the asylum to pass out with disgust in the fiction isle of such places.)
So. I feel an urgent need to DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS–
violation of my beloved Moby-Dick.
you are saying–
This was your point all along and it took you HOW LONG TO GET TO IT?
Well, may I quote Melville? — from the following excised (perpetually excised–oh they love to skip Cetology–that is to be expected) Chapter 32:
God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught – nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!
You see, Melville had issues getting to the point. Issues with time. People say he needed a good editor. Thank god the Harper Brothers didn’t think so.
In seeking closure to my rant, I want to take a mere four of the (gazillion) black-marked chapters and give you,
from each of those four,
my favorite quote.
Is this, in a sense, running a marker through the rest of the chapter–am I not simply exacerbating the error of over selective reading?
Think of it more as a highlight, an opening, an invitation to read more. . .
And, should you not choose to do that, know I may very well expound upon them all over the next week. But for now the chapters and their quotes: (I took the photos with my phone in the bookstore–no, I did not purchase this copy).
And thus, though surrounded by circle upon circle of consternations and affrights, did these inscrutable creatures at the centre freely and fearlessly indulge in all peaceful concernments; yea, serenely revelled in dalliance and delight. But even so, amid the tornadoed Atlantic of my being, do I myself still for ever centrally disport in mute calm; and while ponderous planets of unwaning woe revolve round me, deep down and deep inland there i still bathe me in eternal mildness of joy.
Chapter 87, The Grand Armada
What was America in 1492 but a loose-fish, in which Columbus struck the Spanish standard by way of waifing it for his royal master and mistress? What was Poland to the Czar? What Greece to the Turk? What India to England? What at last will Mexico be to the United States? All Loose-Fish.
What are the Rights of Man and the Liberties of the World but Loose-Fish? What all men’s minds and opinions but Loose-Fish? What is the principle of religious belief in them but a Loose-Fish? What to the ostentatious smuggling verbalists are the thoughts of thinkers but Loose-Fish? What is the great globe itself but a Loose-Fish? And what are you, reader, but a Loose-Fish and a Fast-Fish, too?
Chapter 89, Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish
The weaver-god, he weaves; and by that weaving is he deafened, that he hears no mortal voice; and by that humming, we, too, who look on the loom are deafened; and only when we escape it shall we hear the thousand voices that speak through it.
Ah, mortal! then, be heedful; for so, in all this din of the great world’s loom, thy subtlest thinkings may be overheard afar.
Chapter 12, a Bower in the Arascides
Would to God these blessed calms would last. But the mingled, mingling threads of life are woven by warp and woof: calms crossed by storms, a storm for every calm. There is no steady unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through fixed gradations, and at the last one pause: – through infancy’s unconscious spell, boyhood’s thoughtless faith, adolescence’ doubt (the common doom), then scepticism, then disbelief, resting at last in manhood’s pondering repose of If.
Chapter 114 The Gilder
Let me wrap this up with one more piece of media–a tribute to all the book slicing bad teachers out there: