Saturday, November 04, 2006

Moby Dick

For those who bother to check profiles, you'd realise that Moby Dick by Herman Melville is high on my list of all-time favourite novels. So much more than an adventure story (indeed, it is easily condensed into less than hundred pages if you just want the guts of the action), it is both an encyclopaedia of everything about whales and whaling (Did you realise that in the mid-19thC whaling contributed something like 1/4 of US GDP? Or that 19thC American whaling vessels killed around 15,000 right whales each year?), as well as a philosophical reflection upon many of today's issues: American identity in an age of agressive expansion (the US had recently annexed more land from Mexico when Melville sat down to write), battles over (whale) oil, racism, conflicts over truth and meaning, and more and more. I could write essays on it (and did).

Anyway, last night I saw a one man performance/interpretation of Moby Dick on stage by John Bell. Bell is Australia's leading Shakespearean actor and director and has been obsessed with this project for years. It was magnificent. Unfortunately, it's only on for a very short time (might have now already finished), but if this production pops up anywhere near you (it ran in Tasmania a year or two ago), don't miss it. Or better yet, read the book. You'll be surprised, but not disappointed.

To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.

- Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 104.

For fifteen points, name the (ex-)whaling station from which this picture was taken. Hint: Australian.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Moby Dick has been on my 'must-read' list for a very long time. I do now have a copy though - so I might just read it next year....

Christopher said...

Moby Dick was recently on my must read list, now it is on the the shelf and the 'must finish'list (to my shame)
So far it has been extraordinary. Reading about whaling "heroes" who killed 15 whales in a day is quite alien this side of the IWC ban on commerical whaling.

I am not sure of the pic, but I will take a "harpoon" in the dark (ho ho ha ha) and say Albany, only because it is one of the few Australian whaling ports I know of.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I read Moby Dick as a 14 or 15 year old, and much probably went over my head... perhaps time to revisit it. (And I'm fairly certain it was an 'abridged' edition...)

byron said...

Christopher - good try but not Albany. And there's so much more to Moby Dick than killing whales! Indeed, I suspect that reading it would probably make most people more likely to be supportive of the IWC's ban.

Drew and Rev Sam - it really is worth it. Really.

byron said...

New pic, Christopher. What happened to your old one? I liked it. This one is good, but hard to see when so small.

Christopher said...

Yeah, I thought that with the old pic people weren't taking my comments seriously enough. So I thought that a lame old man on a rocking chair with a shotgun by his side would carry across the appropriate force and seriousness that I intend to convey in my comments ;)
But I think that the old man's days are numbered as the face of my comments. You are right too small.

-bw said...

Is it Davidson Whaling Station (Near Eden)?

byron said...

Bec - good try. Right coast, wrong state.

-bw said...

hmmm, question is: am I allowed a second chance guess?!

byron said...

Sure - guess away. First in, best guessed is my opinion. At least until someone starts abusing it...

-bw said...

well in that case...
my only other guess (as it is the only other whaling station i know of in Australia) is:
Tangalooma on Moreton Island

also, I must confess to crying when I read Mody Dick!

byron said...

Bec - fifteen points! Tangalooma on Moreton Island just off Brisbane is correct.

byron said...

You're well on your way to catching Marty K.

byron said...

There's still 155 unclaimed points on offer.

-bw said...

i wonder whether college would accept them toward my GPA?!

Aaron G said...

MC Lars’s song “Ahab” is a rap version of Moby Dick.

michael jensen said...

I can lay claim to have read Moby Dick IN ONE SITTING.

It was a dark and stormy night, a Sunday. I was 20. I got home from church, put on my dressing gown and curled up in and armchair. I woke up there the next morning.

One of the truly revolutionary experiences of my life.

That and 'The Sun Also Rises' made me a man if such I am.

andrewE said...

Michael, that is amazing. I have been reading Moby Dick for three years (off and on). It is wonderfully worth finishing though (Christopher).

Interestingly, Tim Winton lists The Sun also Rises and Moby Dick in his favourite few novels, alongside the Sound and the Fury and The Violent Bear it Away (O'Connor).

lachlan b said...

I think Tim Winton's book Shallows owes much to Moby Dick.

byron said...

Bec - I imagine Marty K would be pleased if they did.

MPJ - it shows. You always were one to consume two sermons in an evening.

AndrewE - Sound and the Fury could have been included too, although the opening section is one of the most difficult pieces of prose I've come across (outside of certain philosophers). Not because it is so dense, but because it is so (apparently) incoherent. If you hadn't guessed from the title, it is 'a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury' (Macbeth V.v), whether or not it signifies anything I'll leave up to others.

Lachlan - in what way(s)? (this may be obvious, but I haven't read the Winton)

byron said...

Aaron - I'll have to look out for it. Are there lyrics on the web?

lachlan b said...

It's about the end of Whaling of the WA coast. A local girl who falls in with the 'activists'. There are some great characters- a sort of evil developer/council figure who keeps growing new sets of teeth (like a shark) but who is sterile! Also a pressie minister whose church who sees his church gradually taken over by the developer- and eventually takes solemn but drastic action!