Thursday, September 20, 2012
Moby-Dick Big Read, Chapters 3-4
At fifteen pages, Chapter 3, "The Spouter Inn," is one of the longest in Moby-Dick, and I'm willing to bet that it will be the funniest. This is the chapter in which Ishmael finally sees Queequeg face-to-face after much anticipating and worrying about his appearance at the inn until after midnight. It does not help that he is already in bed and only gets a good look at the "cannibal," when Queequeg finally lights a candle while preparing for bed. Panic and terror are the order of the day on the parts of both men.
Chapter 4, "The Counterpane," is Ishmael's rather strange account of waking up next to the cannibal whose arm is "thrown over me in the most loving and affectionate manner. You had almost thought I had been his wife." Diving Deeper devotes two full pages to the "homoerotic intonation of the relationship" between Queequeg and Ishmael - most of it recounting the life story of the first scholar officially to call attention to something readers had been wondering about for years. This scholar, Newton Arvin, one of Truman Capote's sexual partners in the 1940s, lived a rather tragic life during which he fought a losing battle to hide his sexual preferences - and to hold off the depression caused by so much stress and worry about being exposed. Arvin died in 1963 of pancreatic cancer, long after he split with the much younger Capote.
The next few chapters are short ones of two-to-four pages each, so I will soon experience a variety of new readers. I'm hoping for another woman-reader to be added to the mix.