Friday, May 23, 2014

The Thinnest of Air

I'm out of town today, back east to celebrate some milestones, but I thought that was no reason not to entertain you.

I revised the journalist story a bit on Wednesday and sent it out on Thursday. Scary. But I was at the point where I no longer knew if what I was doing was making it worse or better, so out it went.

I'm reading Moby-Dick. Reading one Big Book about every year seems to work well for me - Infinite Jest in 2012, Ulysses in 2013, now the great white whale in 2014. (Middlemarch in 2015?) I'm about 200 pages in, and I have to say, it's a completely different reading experience than I thought it would be. Mid-19th century American literature feels hopelessly quaint to me in style (sorry), but aside from that, and the feeling that a good half of this could really be trimmed down by a determined editor, it's...delightful. The voice is so merry. The text is crazy quotable. Even the stuff that seems excessive adds to the sense that this is an entertainment rather than a chore. I've tried three times now to read The Woman in White and I never got past the first two chapters because I was bored silly by the sentences. I expected to force my way into Moby-Dick just like that, but no. My thoughts meander back to it, and whether I can get in a couple of chapters, when I have other things I should be doing.

Of course, I'm writing this before my plane flight on Thursday, during which I probably read a good deal more of it, so by now maybe I've given up in frustration after all (or, depending on whether we were delayed, finished the danged thing). I also brought, on my Nook, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (DFW), Tenth of December (Saunders), Veronica (Gaitskill), and Blood Meridian (McCarthy). I'm telling you this less to show off and more so you can laugh at the hubris and ambition I display whilst shoved into a sardine can going 500 miles an hour, smelling the unfortunate emissions of my fellow sardines, burning, burning, burning to get out and take a fresh breath.

I hate to fly.

Anyhow, Moby-Dick. Thumbs, so far, up. If you have the time and space to set aside for the book - because the style is old-fashioned, and I find it somewhat hard to pay attention to if something else is going on - I recommend it. As long as you remember that the racial attitudes suit the time and we didn't know then that we'd run out of whales. Here's a quote.
Yes, there is death in this business of whaling--a speechlessly quick chaotic bundling of a man into Eternity. But what then? Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air. 

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