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Thu, 24 Jan 2008

Moby Dick, or, The Tediousness

I've just had another go at reading Moby Dick. I've given up again. The following section, very near the beginning, in which the author describes an inn, is why:

It was a queer sort of place--a gable-ended old house, one side palsied as it were, and leaning over sadly. It stood on a sharp bleak corner, where that tempestuous wind Euroclydon kept up a worse howling than ever it did about poor Paul's tossed craft. Euroclydon, nevertheless, is a mighty pleasant zephyr to any one in-doors, with his feet on the hob quietly toasting for bed. "In judging of that tempestuous wind called Euroclydon," says an old writer--of whose works I possess the only copy extant--"it maketh a marvellous difference, whether thou lookest out at it from a glass window where the frost is all on the outside, or whether thou observest it from that sashless window, where the frost is on both sides, and of which the wight Death is the only glazier." True enough, thought I, as this passage occurred to my mind--old black-letter, thou reasonest well. Yes, these eyes are windows, and this body of mine is the house. What a pity they didn't stop up the chinks and the crannies though, and thrust in a little lint here and there. But it's too late to make any improvements now. The universe is finished; the copestone is on, and the chips were carted off a million years ago. Poor Lazarus there, chattering his teeth against the curbstone for his pillow, and shaking off his tatters with his shiverings, he might plug up both ears with rags, and put a corn-cob into his mouth, and yet that would not keep out the tempestuous Euroclydon. Euroclydon! says old Dives, in his red silken wrapper--(he had a redder one afterwards) pooh, pooh! What a fine frosty night; how Orion glitters; what northern lights! Let them talk of their oriental summer climes of everlasting conservatories; give me the privilege of making my own summer with my own coals.

But what thinks Lazarus? Can he warm his blue hands by holding them up to the grand northern lights? Would not Lazarus rather be in Sumatra than here? Would he not far rather lay him down lengthwise along the line of the equator; yea, ye gods! go down to the fiery pit itself, in order to keep out this frost?

Now, that Lazarus should lie stranded there on the curbstone before the door of Dives, this is more wonderful than that an iceberg should be moored to one of the Moluccas. Yet Dives himself, he too lives like a Czar in an ice palace made of frozen sighs, and being a president of a temperance society, he only drinks the tepid tears of orphans.

This sort of tediously obscure waffling, done solely to show off what a wonderfully well-educated man the writer is, is why I avoid most Victorian writing like the plague.

Posted at 13:36 by David Cantrell
keywords: books | culture
Permalink | 4 Comments

Weren't most Victorian novels serialised and the authors were paid by the word? If such is the case that explains the pain one must go through trying to get through a paragraph.

I prefer the earlier whimsical writings of Jane Austen.

Posted by Mary on Fri, 25 Jan 2008 at 16:28:00


I *totally* AGREE! Te-di-ous!

Switch to the "Old Man and the Sea". Almost as bad.

Posted by Linda Tria on Sat, 2 Feb 2008 at 13:07:45


He didn't made such long descriptions to show that such things as education or social rank, money were important to him as an author, but by exaggerated descriptions he wanted to make more visible problems and things important for this society and even more for the society of his times - that material things were most important to them. If it werent 'tedious' it wouldn't has this negative allusion. This race for money and fame cannot be described as glorious - it is the warning against 'great magnificient whale' of capitalism not hymn to praise it. This 'fame' is 'gloomy' and and with the seal of always tragic ended fate. There must be a lot of 'tedious' details to show us that analysing unimportant details we miss the outline which show the whole and real shape of the thing or problem... At least it seems so to me ;) I'm sorry for the mistakes but I only wanted to give hint of my idea no matter in what words and not taking into account the unavoidable for me mistakes.

Posted by Ewa on Sun, 3 Feb 2008 at 08:02:23


Wrongosity sir, Climactic Wrongosity. In fact, Melville is screwing with you. Tis' true. Consider that not two pages previous he puts his a-going whaling, a small thing, right between the US presidential election and the British Wars in Affghanistan (sic). he's screwing with you. Read Melville as a sarcastic bastard, the beginning of the American Drop Out lit and you've got him. I know this is two years out of date, but oh well.....

Posted by Jack MC on Thu, 9 Jul 2009 at 21:01:14


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