Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Autumn Of Dick - Week 5

Autumn of Dick is going up a little late this week. These weren't the most exciting chapters in the book, though, thankfully, there wasn't a chapter as tedious as last week's 'The Whiteness of the Whale.' Nonetheless, the chapters in which Melville brings up descriptions of encounters with sea monsters from the Bible and ancient history, and speculates on the reasons why each of these historical or literary sea monsters was probably actually a sperm whale. Needless to say, those chapters don't exactly fly by.

The big development this week was that the Pequod spots a school of whales, its first since setting sail. Ahab had previously taken a gold doubloon and nailed it to the mast, as a reward to the first man who spots a whale. Once the school of whales is spotted, five Asian men emerge from Captain Ahab's quarters to try to harpoon the whales. Ahab sneaked them on board without letting Starbuck, Bildad or Peleg know, and their emergence, dark and wraith-like, spooks everybody on the ship. Clearly, these are the shadowy characters who Ishmael and Queequeg thought they saw through the fog, boarding the Pequod on Christmas Eve. The evidence that Ahab is dangerous and obsessed, concerned with vengence moreso than the safety of his crew, or maintaining traditional lines of authority aboard the ship.

What do you think of the novel so far, and the direction in which it is headed? I think that chapters where something actually happens are fascinating - compelling characters, lots of nautical detail, lots of different types of conflicts, and an impressive narrative drive. But so many chapters are so dry and digressive that the book too frequently loses its momentum. Your thoughts?

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