Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Moby-Dick Big Read, Chapters 10-12

Stephen Fry
The bonding of Queequeg and Ismael continues in Chapter 10 (A Bosom Friend), as the two formalize their new friendship by sharing a smoke on the cannibal's tomahawk pipe.  After a hug, Queequeg declares them to be "married" and insists that Ismael accept half the cash in Queequeg's pockets.  No fool, he, Ismael hesitates only a moment before doing so.

Chapter 10 is read by one of my favorite actors (and writers, as far as that goes), Stephen Fry.  I looked forward to Fry's reading, and my only disappointment is that the chapter, at only four pages, is one of the shorter ones in the book.

Neil Tennant
Chapter 11 (Nightgown) finds our pair of fast friends back in the sack, relaxing side-by-side in the hotel one last time before they begin their great whaling adventure,  George Cotkin, in Dive Deeper, puts forward an interesting theory that the close relationship of the two fictional characters is based on the real life relationship of Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne.  As Cotkin puts it, "Melville fell for  Hawthorne as hard as Ishmael swooned for Queequeg."  Hawthorne's influence on Melville certainly had a positive impact on the style and content of Moby-Dick; without their friendship Moby-Dick may have been a very different novel - one long forgotten by now.

The reader of this chapter is Neil Tennant - but which Neil Tennant?  My hunch is that this is the singer/musician who found fame with The Pet Shop Boys, rather than the South African philosopher/college professor.

Witi Ihimaera
In Chapter 12 (Biographical), Queequeg reveals detail about his life, including how and why he left his home to become a harpooner.  The cannibal expresses  disappointment that the Christian world has failed to live up to his expectations and hopes to learn many useful things that he could bring back to his people to make their lives easier.  Now, instead, he feels "unfit" to claim the "pure and undefiled" throne of his father until he is able to cleanse his soul .  Dive Deeper relates the religious philosophy expressed here by Queequeg to Melville's own misgivings about Christianity.

New Zealand author Witi Ihimaera's Maori accent makes him the perfect reader for this chapter.  Too, Ihimaera, the author of the 1987 novel The Whale Rider (made into a successful movie fifteen years later), is not unfamiliar with whales and the whaling culture.

(It is not too late to experience the Big Read for yourself.  The website links directly to iTunes where the series can be subscribed to for automatic downloading of each daily reading for your later enjoyment.)

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