So you telling me Bob Dylan’s read Moby Dick?

From his Nobel Lecture, released yesterday:

We see only the surface of things. We can interpret what lies below any way we see fit. Crewmen walk around on deck listening for mermaids, and sharks and vultures follow the ship. Reading skulls and faces like you read a book. Here’s a face. I’ll put it in front of you. Read it if you can.

Tashtego says that he died and was reborn. His extra days are a gift. He wasn’t saved by Christ, though, he says he was saved by a fellow man and a non-Christian at that. He parodies the resurrection.

When Starbuck tells Ahab that he should let bygones be bygones, the angry captain snaps back, “Speak not to me of blasphemy, man, I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.” Ahab, too, is a poet of eloquence. He says, “The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails whereon my soul is grooved to run.”  Or these lines, “All visible objects are but pasteboard masks.” Quotable poetic phrases that can’t be beat.

So much good stuff in the lecture, but in this last paragraph above he taps against my favorite part of the entire book: that speech, Chapter 36.  (Yo, you there yet, Canelli?)

All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event—in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But ’tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my master, man, is even that fair play. Who’s over me? Truth hath no confines.

This.  This is the shit I like.  You can have all your sensitive stories about loneliness and grieving over lost lovers and whatnot: give me some of those god-fearin’ stories of madness.  “He tasks me; he heaps me” and “Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.”  This, my friends, this is “The Good Shit.”

You there yet, Canelli?  You game for Moby Dick?

7 Comments

  1. Luigus

    Got to Ch. 28 last week and haven’t read a word since.

    Reply
    1. dasfuller (Post author)

      BUT THAT’S WHEN AHAB FINALLY SHOWS UP! WHY ARE YOU STOPPING NOW? *THE* *BOOK* *JUST* *STARTED* FOR YOU.

      Reply
      1. Luigus

        That’s why I set it aside for a bit. I figured I finally got through the prelude. Wasn’t quite ready to settle in for the real shit.

        Reply
        1. dasfuller (Post author)

          What? That’s like saying, “Hey, I just finished the appetizer, and now the chef is bringing out the steak? Stick that shit in a styrofoam box, homie: I want to relish that shit after it’s been sitting in my fridge for two weeks.”

          Reply
          1. Luigus

            I prefer to think of it like this: “Hey, I just finished a workout and I’m not quite ready to have dinner yet. I probably didn’t need the workout to justify the meal, but here we are.”

  2. dasfuller (Post author)

    (Comments only go three deep!)

    But a workout and a meal are two *different* activities. Here we’re talking about *one* book. And you thinking you didn’t need the first 28 chapters is pure fucking folly, my friend. Stop being a little bitch and keep reading!

    Reply
    1. Luigus

      Okay.

      Reply

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