Saturday, September 14, 2013

Moby Dick: The Challenge

My daughter recited the first two lines of Moby Dick to me on the way home from school this week. She's determined to read it this year. She's in fifth grade.

A little background here. I tried reading Moby Dick last year. Valiantly trudged through the first 200 or so pages. Then decided that even as a writer, I'd let myself off the hook. There were other books I wanted to read, not had to read to be "serious."

I blogged about it. Received some flak about it. Shrugged and moved on.

But now. My ten-year-old is upstaging me with her determination. Generally, I try to keep my family life out of my blogging life, but I just can't let this slide.

One reason she's reading Moby Dick is because her class at school is participating in a Critic's Circle and each child must propose a book to read and critique once finished. She's almost to the part in the book, which she started in May to my surprise, when Captain Ahab finally makes an appearance.

It doesn't seem to bother her that the book is written in wordy prose and a series of essays. She isn't that concerned whether the plot keeps her interest. She admitted that she doesn't care if she even understands it. She just wants to read it. Maybe that's the element that was missing in my own attempt, not feeling like I needed to be entertained or fully comprehend the subtext.

Truly, I'm flattered that a little of my influence has rubbed off on her. She's an active reader and sees me reading often. Her project to take on Moby Dick is charming and inspiring, and I have no doubt that she'll have more success at reaching the end than I did.

A few days ago, I finished reading out loud to her The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, a book equal in length to Moby Dick, but with a less-daunting intellectual bent. We'd spent about six months reading it off and on at night, and we closed in on the ending a few weeks ago. And what an ending it was! A couple of lines in the last chapters stopped us cold with lumpies in our throats. Maybe she'll share her lumpies from Moby Dick with me, whether it takes her six months or a lifetime to finish.

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore ...

9 comments:

  1. you know how hard it's been for me to steer clear of this one?

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    1. Excruciating.

      Camille says her inspiration to read the book comes from the graphic novel series called Bone. She's read each book in that series, and the main character is obsessed with Moby Dick.

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  2. I remember your first post on Moby Dick. Hahaha. But I'm pretty sure I didn't give you any flack, since reading it was school imposed holiday torture for me. Good for your daughters or being persistent :)

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    1. Yes, you gave me a pass, thank you. It still isn't out of my system. If Camille finishes it, I'll be shamed into it again. ack.

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  3. Don't you walk your dog on occasion? Can't you give the listening I suggested a try? Even those "dry" chapters on the classifying the "fish" make great listening. And don't you know? This book is a meditation on writing; on the ways of expression, on the ways of reading as well. AND, outside of caring for other beings--a capacity for sympathy and empathy--our ONE difference as humans is a particular kind of language-mind. It is in the contemplation of expression that we begin to find our depths. Not in climbing mountains or winning races or making money. This is the whole of Melville--his entire career after Omoo is the work, the WORK, of a man reading his way into being.

    Again, I will recommend the Frank Muller audiobook. It's inexpensive on audible (or was) at 11.95 OR it may well be available via your library system. I will also say I've recently found what I think is a pretty good reading of Walden...another hard book to complete.

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    1. Muller's reading is free with a 30-day trial membership or $13.96 for non-members. However, I would only be listening for one reason.

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    2. The beginning is just that...

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  4. You have one ambitious little lady over there! I do not look forward to the day when my kids start outreading me, but I know it's just a matter of time.

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    1. It's a little scary to think my offspring will do things I have not done, at any age! Thanks for stopping by.

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