Okay, I’m closing in on page 300 of Moby Dick and I have yet to encounter a real, live whale. Of course there was that very interesting chapter on Cetology, and a lot of talk about a big, white whale, but no actual whales. When I get around to it, I’m going to get a book out on whales so I can compare Ishmael’s description of whales to real descriptions of whales. Anyway, there are at least a few folks who have put Moby Dick down as the one book that would be boring enough to allow Granny Next to pass on. True, it is definitely a cure for insomnia and I have fallen asleep reading it many times (which is why I’m still on page 300), but there are also some really interesting parts. Ahab for example is a great character – not at all likable, but great nonetheless. Never have I heard the word monomania used so many times. If I had to sum up the book in one word, that is what I would use. The passages that talk about Ahab’s insanity or obsession with Moby Dick are really quite good. I particularly liked this passage:
Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler form. Ahab’s full lunacy subsided not, but deepeningly contracted….But, as in his narrow-flowing monomania, not one jot of Ahab’s broad madness had been left behind; so in that broad madness, not one jot of his great natural intellect had perished. That before living agent, now became a living instrument. If such a furious trope may stand, his special lunacy stormed his general sanity, and carried it, and turned all its concentrated cannon upon its own mad mark; so that far from having lost his strength, Ahab, to that one end, did now possess a thousand fold more potency than ever he had sanely brought to bear upon any one reasonable object.