A bunch of writers confess what books they haven’t read. I’m sure I’ve told this tale here before, but it’s my ball and bat, so I’ll does what I wants with ‘em. Once at Michael Redhill’s house, I won Michael Ondaatje’s silk shirt by admitting to an incredulous Andre Alexis that I had never smoked a cigarette, been to Spain, or read Proust. Later that night, I sang with M. Ondaatje while Sean Dixon (yes, the one who suggested this link) played banjo. The best part of all this is: I’ve never actually spoken with Michael Ondaatje. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even know who I am.
Alas, Moby-Dick. It’s not that I haven’t tried. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the brilliant use of actual events (the sinking of the whaling ship Essex in 1820 when repeatedly attacked by an 80-ton sperm whale, the mighty Mocha Dick), deft use of ghosts, allegorical doubloons, and symbolic what have you, or Melville’s Great Name Hall of Fame (including Starbuck, Daggoo, Tashtego, and Fedallah). I do appreciate it all … in theory. In practice, I have never gotten past the 100th page. However, unlike some other books I’ve been happy, even gleeful, to give up on (Beowulf, The Faerie Queen), I plan to continue chasing this damned thing until I catch it.
I know an English prof who takes great pleasure in having taught, but never read Moby Dick. (Thanks, Sean)