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Moby Dick - Chapter IX

I recently connected with my Latin and German professor from when I was 11, and he was 28. An email exchange ensued discussing literature in a multitude of languages. I told him I could not read Moby Dick.

He responded:

Zu Moby Dick: Da ist zweifellos so manches, was für den Leser nur schwer verdaulich ist. Aber nicht wenige Stellen sind wunderbar. Besonders schön Kapitel 9 „The Sermon“! Jeder einzelne Satz ist ein Genuß! Beispiel: “In this world, shipmates, Sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without a passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers.“ Oder: “Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness!”

Ah, so I pulled the trusty old book off the shelf, thumbed through the yellowed pages, found chapter IX and started reading.

Coffee, Moby Dick and world class prose on a Saturday morning, after coming home from a long work trip back east last night – it does not get any better than this.

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I can’t read Moby Dick!

When I saw that there was going to be a movie about Moby Dick, I remembered the old book that has been in one of the boxes in the garage for 40 years. I found the book.

Moby Dick

I opened the cover and I found a dedication from one of my best friends in high school. It turns out, he had given me the book as a Christmas present on Christmas Day 1976, the first time we saw each other after graduating a year and a half before. I had forgotten that this dedication existed.

Dedication to Moby Dick

I redacted his name for his privacy. There was a book mark in page 145, but I remembered nothing, so I thought I’d better start from the beginning.

The pages were yellowed, and the print too small for my now old eyes, so I did what I often do these days with old books: I bought it again on my Kindle. Then I started reading.

I worked at it. And worked at it. I continued on to page 204 out of 549 or 38%, when I finally stopped. Reading Moby Dick is hard work, and I didn’t enjoy the story, or the writing style. That happens to me a lot. See my comments about Ulysses, here, here and here. I am now adding Moby Dick to this illustrious list.

There are far too many books yet to read, and there is so much more sand now in the bottom part of the hourglass of my life compared to what’s left in the top, so the hours are getting more valuable with every page I turn.

I love the physical book that is called Moby Dick; it is a trusted friend that has been with me a lifetime. I cherish the friendship of the one who gave it to me on Christmas Day 1976. I will always keep the hardcopy, so one day, my son might want to read it.

I remain honored to be compared to Queequeg, in the classic that is Moby Dick.

And here I stop.

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