Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Moby-Dick Big Read, Chapters 20-25

Chapter 24 illustration (untitled) by Ann Hamilton (2002)
Chapters 20-22, "All Astir," "Going Aboard," and "Christmas Day," respectively, finally see Ishmael and Queequeg on the open sea as they begin what they hope will be a successful three-year whaling adventure.  Everything required for the journey is now on board the ship, having been topped off by the little extras personally carried aboard by Captain Bildad's sister, known as Aunt Charity.  Charity owns a share of the ship and its profits and has more than "charity" in mind.  She wants this voyage to be a successful one as much as Ahab and his crew want it.  And so, on a cold and icy Christmas day, the voyage has finally begun.

George Cotkin notes in Dive Deeper that Bulkington, a respected whaler first encountered by Ishmael at the Spouter Inn,  has Chapter 23, "The Lee Shore," to himself.  Admittedly, this is a very short chapter, but because it is the last mention in the book of Bulkington, scholars believe that Melville must have had bigger plans for the character at some stage of plotting Moby-Dick.  Some, in fact, believe that he was to be the book's central character before Melville decided to place Captain Ahab in that role.

Fiona Shaw
Chapters 24 and 25 ("The Advocate" and "Postscript") are interesting because of the spirited defense that Ishmael offers of the history of whaling and the good character of those who pursue that occupation.  Cotkin uses his own notes to these chapters to share history of a different nature: that of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham whose most famous drum solo is part of a song titled "Moby Dick."  As Cotkin says, "Alas, neither Ahab nor Bonham was able to vanquish the demons that haunted them."  I am learning quickly that Dive Deeper is full of such surprises - and not at all the dry read one might, at first glance, expect.

My favorite reader from this group of chapters (and it is a close call because this is an outstanding group) is Irish actress and stage director Fiona Shaw who reads Chapter 25.


  1. I really do intend to read Moby Dick one day, myself. I've stopped by your posts a couple of times so far.

    I just wanted to say here that I saw Fiona Shaw perform the title role in Madea a few years ago with the the Irish National Theatre over at U.C. Berkeley. She was the scariest Madea I ever saw. Her performance was amazing.

    I bet she does a great job with just about any audio book assignment she gets.

  2. The Big Read is a great way to read Moby-Dick, James. I'm reading along with the narrators...some of them read too slow and stumble a bit and that does bother me...plus I'm using that Diving Deeper book for insights I never would have recognized on my own. it is really sinking in and the characters are fast becoming fully fleshed human beings. I'm really enjoying this.

  3. Sam, I just went through and read all of your postings thus far about Moby-Dick. I love your comments and discussions about the Big-Read thing.
    I'm moving through the book at a much faster pace, [than a chapter a day] and I'm now at Ch.86, but I clicked on several of the readings at the official site and it's so neat to hear these various people putting their own accent and emphasis on the dramatic reading.
    It's a great book, and I'm really enjoying it.

  4. Yeah, Cip, the Moby-Dick Big Read is definitely a "project" since it will take over four months to read the book that way - plus I'm simultaneously reading associated chapters in "Dive Deeper." Honestly, it's probably the only way I was ever going to re-read Moby-Dick in this lifetime, so I'm happy that I stumbled upon the Big Read version.