Friday, November 11, 2011

Revision, first steps; Philbrick's Moby-Dick

How long since I'd read this opening to the draft of my story-in-progress, "Unearthed"? How long ago did I write it? It's wonderfully unfamiliar. It needs work, but there's a lot to work with, as well. Interesting. "My words are cicadas." Hm.

Why Read Moby-Dick?, Nathaniel Philbrick
After reading Philbrick's book, you don't necessarily need to read Melville's novel. I read two-thirds of the book, a few years ago, before running aground on yet another digression in the narrative. Philbrick's book, wildly overpriced at $25 (it's about as long as a good-sized short story), visits many of the book's finest moments, lines I underlined when I made my own foray into the text. There's also interesting material about Melville's pushy relationship with shy Hawthorne. Less good are the attempts to force the book to make statements about the way America is heading toward the catastrophe of the Civil War; these line readings don't seem to fit, and, even if the argument felt more solid, it's clunkily done in this small space, with sudden shifts of intent in a tiny chapter's final paragraph. This seems more like an essay to have run in The Atlantic, and I can't imagine what audience would buy it. But you ought to get it from the library and fly through it.

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