I started Moby-Dick or, The Whale probably ten years ago. I can see it sitting in our Vancouver housing co-op on the very cheapest available Ikea bedside table that we painted blue in Kitchener the same time we painted the Sally Ann dresser whose knobs have now been replaced with string. Read about two hundred pages. Was surprised at the humour of Ishmael’s voice in the early chapters. I had started the book other times and not noticed. Then it migrated to the lower level of the bedside table, which is the home of partly read books that I intend to finish one day. Then it went back to the bookshelf, the further-back holding cell for books I’ll someday read. Then we moved to the three bedroom unit in the co-op. Then to Kelowna. Then back from Kelowna. Then back onto the bedside table (Ikea mid-range model now, looks like actual wood). When I passed the 300 page mark and realized almost nothing had happened, I made a resolution to read one chapter a night. They are short chapters. A hundred pages later, I thought a daily recap of each chapter would be bloggy. So I started to summarize each chapter as I read them, but I didn’t go back to the beginning, I was too lazy. I started where I was, at Chapter 59. Now, even more time has passed, and it is time to go back to the beginning, and so here I go.
It begins not with “Call me Ishmael,” as we all knew or know or thought we knew, but with “Etymology (Supplied by a Late Consumptive Usher to a Grammar School),” who quotes from Hakluyt (an old-time writer-up of famous voyages) and then gives us etymologies of Whale from Webster’s and Richardson’s dictionaries. Webster’s claims Swedish and Danish roots, Richardson’s Dutch and German, but both agree there’s a meaning of rolling or wallowing.