Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Road To Melville

I've decided to dedicate the next six months to reading Moby Dick. It took me 6 months to read Don Quixote, so I think 6 months should be plenty of time to read Moby Dick.

I am a slow reader. Russell Blackford announced on his facebook page not too long ago that he was going to re-read Moby Dick, and I think he was done with it somewhere in the neighborhood of a week. I am a much simpler man than Russell Blackford.

So far this year, this is what I've read: Hitch-22, Tropic of Cancer, The Map & The Territory, The Elementary Particles, Thomas Jefferson: Author of America, The 48 Laws of Power, Good to Great, American Library's HP Lovecraft compendium, Fear and Loathing On the Campaign Trail: '72, Paul Reiser's 'Familyhood', Big Sur, by Jack Kerouac, and about 2 dozen articles, essays, and studies on the mental health system in the United States. My big project at work currently is to reform that system.

It's appropriate, I think, for someone interested in overhauling America's mental health system to dive into the story of Captain Ahab's mad pursuit of the great white whale. So that is what I'm doing. The title of this post, I hope you noticed, is also an ode to T.C. Boyle's 'The Road To Wellville', which is a book about a quack who created a weird commune for his own particularly quacky approach to general well being. I hope you appreciated the double entendre.

I started to read Moby Dick a little while back, but got distracted. Moby Dick is a book that I've started reading several times, and always get distracted from it. It's so big. So engrained in our culture. It was assigned reading in school. All of these things lessen my enthusiasm.

And there are always shorter books to read. New things, that I've just discovered. For instance, I'm really keen on Michel Houellebecq right now. I've only just begun reading his stuff, and it's really great. It's tempting to dedicate the next couple of months to reading all of his stuff. And if I'm looking for classical wisdom, or something that smells pleasantly musty, there are always my favorite old-timers: Epictetus, Epicurus, Marcus Aurelius, Montaigne...These are guys I can dip back into over and over again.

But there's something unsatisfying about constantly dipping back into a familiar work. I want to read something new, from cover to cover. I've been told in the past that the best time to give up on a book is when you find yourself skipping ahead to see how many pages are left: this doesn't work for me. I hate the feeling of unfinished business. Which is why I am going to finally finish Moby Dick. I'm coming for you too--by the way--Magic Mountain. Don't get too comfortable on that bookshelf.

So that's that. I was feeling that pressure building up in the center of my being that is the result of me not writing for a few days, but that's all cleared up now. I've blown my load, and am feeling a little sleepy. But before I turn in, maybe it's time to do a little fishing?


Lodo Grdzak said...

Such a great book. One of those books that by fleshing out what seems to be a singular topic or narrative, it actually touches on pretty much every topic/theme under the sun. One of my all-time faves forever.

the elegant ape said...

He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage ... If his
chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.

Does it get any f**kin better?