I was pleasantly surprised by how progressive (for the time) the book seemed at first, but it quickly gives way to Orientalism and whatnot later on. That scene where Ahab's personal crew emerges springs to mind,The whole thing with Pip is pretty racist, but no issue when it was written I suppose.
This bit reminded me of something I read from Vollmann a while back,There was a line I really liked, but it was unfortunately written in this terrible, racist dialect with Melville attempting to sound like an old, black guy. The one about sharks being sharks but if they govern the shark in them then they can become angels as an angel is nothing more than a shark well governed.
I wasn't too bothered by this. Like, it's a bit of an eyebrow raise, but it's all in Ishmael's narration anyway. Maybe that takes the edge off. Likewise the bits with Pip take on this entirely different feel. There's this clumsy racist language being used, but it's not really what draws your attention.I was pleasantly surprised by how progressive (for the time) the book seemed at first, but it quickly gives way to Orientalism and whatnot later on. That scene where Ahab's personal crew emerges springs to mind,
The phantoms, for so they then seemed, were flitting on the other side of the deck, and, with a noiseless celerity, were casting loose the tackles and bands of the boat which swung there. This boat had always been deemed one of the spare boats, though technically called the captain's, on account of its hanging from the starboard quarter. The figure that now stood by its bows was tall and swart, with one white tooth evilly protruding from its steel-like lips. A rumpled Chinese jacket of black cotton funereally invested him, with wide black trowsers of the same dark stuff. But strangely crowning this ebonness was a glistening white plaited turban, the living hair braided and coiled round and round upon his head. Less swart in aspect, the companions of this figure were of that vivid, tiger-yellow complexion peculiar to some of the aboriginal natives of the Manillas;- a race notorious for a certain diabolism of subtilty, and by some honest white mariners supposed to be the paid spies and secret confidential agents on the water of the devil, their lord, whose counting-room they suppose to be elsewhere.
Yeah, an eyebrow raise is how I'd describe it. It was just jarring after the pleasant surprise of Ishmael and Queequeg at the start.I wasn't too bothered by this. Like, it's a bit of an eyebrow raise, but it's all in Ishmael's narration anyway. Maybe that takes the edge off. Likewise the bits with Pip take on this entirely different feel. There's this clumsy racist language being used, but it's not really what draws your attention.
Plus the writing is generally very good, got a good flow to it most of the time. It probably is a bit long like a lot of old novels, but I loved it.
That's a good point. We do read racism towards Queequeg at first, but we get the development of the relationship between the two of them whereas Fedallah and his crew are these distant figures Ishmael has no interaction with.I think it's about Ishmael quite a lot, there's a lot going on with using him as narrator... So maybe the racism is deployed strategically, or he's commenting on it? ie that Ishmael is not racist towards queequeg but he is towards others? That strikes me as something that is very realistic and something you still see in people ie people can be racist towards people they don't like, and conveniently forget their racism if it's someone they like. That happens all the time. Not sure if he's commenting on that exactly, but he could be.
What do you like about it? Does it have a particular angle? My copy has pretty extensive notes from a guy called Harold Beaver, but I haven't been using them much thus far.Don’t know about the Olson book but I would really recommend Leviathan, or The Whale by Philip Hoare as a non fiction companion.
It's supposed to be good, yeah. Apparently it's something more poetic than straight criticism. And nah, it's not hard to get hold of. You can get it new on Amazon for £11.Was someone on here saying that it's really good? I'm sure there's a famous writer, perhaps iain sinclair, who mentions it. Hard to get hold of I think.
There’s a blue plaque by the Playhouse Theatre at the bottom of Northumberland Avenue - I like to think of him mooching along the Thames down there.Oh right. My error. Maybe worth a look.
There's one book of Melville scholarship, maybe the one Jenks mentioned, that my friend read. He said it has an interesting section about how Melville spent some time in London and went for walks in the night, something like that.
The writing has something in common with Dickens, all the thick description and documentary feel.
What do you like about it? Does it have a particular angle? My copy has pretty extensive notes from a guy called Harold Beaver, but I haven't been using them much thus far.
I liked the way he connected his own fascination with whales with Moby Dick and then giving a social/historical context - great bits about whale oil making London the best lit city in the world. Plus there’s lots of pictures and illustrations.