Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dead or alive...

I could argue with someone for hours about the importance of Robocop to the attitudes and functioning of our society, but all the arguments that someone could offer me would never change my opinion that Robocop is a goddamned amazing film.

There are so many elements of it that are just fucking perfect - everything from the sound design to the costumes is more perfect than it has any right to be. The actors are wonderful, the script is great, the music is SO FUCKING RAD, it's got great effects, a fantastic story, and is blackly, wonderfully, funny.

I cackle my way through every viewing of this film, so I guess the satire isn't as subtle as it could be, and am continually floored by the level of detail it reveals about Alex Murphy's Detroit and the very scary place the world has become. Everything from the background screens in the OCP conference rooms and the set design of Sal's drug factory show tiny hints at the way things have changed and the problems the people in the story are facing. It's a dystopia that's built on tiny, vital, changes in the way the world works and, shockingly, it's still too optimistic - in a lot of ways Murphy's Detroit is better than our Detroit and it keeps looking more appealing as time keeps passing. I've got ten examples (everything from gender and race relations to the viability of space travel and approximate fuel prices) that suggest Paul Verhoeven's nightmare might be our dream, but I don't think I have the time to really dig into them.

In fact I don't think that I can talk about Robocop without talking about it for hours so I suppose I'll just have to cut myself short and say, hell yes, I'd buy that for a dollar.

Actions, explosions, and sadness

Die Hard was on TV the other day - we came in right as they realized they'd need some more FBI guys - and when it ended my parents and I decided that we might as well watch Die Hard with a Vengeance, because if you have the opportunity to watch a good Die Hard film you should always take it.

I enjoy the shit out of action movies, particularly 80s and 90s action movies. They were being made so creatively, with such wonderful characters and interesting locations, and all before the tropes we know so well had become quite so tropefied. They're fun, silly, obnoxious, and noisy. It's like being turned into a teenager again for an hour and a half every time you sit down and watch one.

DH3 isn't a great movie (at least it's no Die Hard), but it's fun as hell and has some really strong performances. Bruce Willis is crotchety and delightful as he always is when he slips on the McClaine role; Samuel L. Jackson if FUCKING FANTASTIC as the angry, frustrated, and clearly too clever-for-this-shit Zeus; Jeremy Irons hams it up and seems to have a great time being the over-the-top snarky, sneaky, and shifty Simon. All of them are great and it's fun to watch them play.

I kept being really impressed by the cinematography while I was watching DH3 this time around - the shots of the explosions, crane views of an exploded subway entrance, and well-cut chases are all done in a way that is so competent that it transcends competency and becomes awe-inspiring: the level of tension that is maintained throughout, based on the really impressive visuals, is balanced with such a fine tolerance that you can't help but be sucked in, no matter how many times you've watched Irons whip on a pair of sunglasses or seen Willis shoot out of an overflow pipe.

But I will say that it's hard to watch New York blowing up these days. I miss the time when we could watch a movie like this and not remember anything beyond the movie, I miss not having a real attack on Wall Street hanging in the background of my memory during every scene. It's a different world now than it was when DH3 was made, and looking back is more than a little sad.

     - Alli

Big, long, and totally worth it

So let's get this out of the way right off the bat: Lord of the Rings is amazing and I love it, it's one of my favorite books and when I was eighteen I constructed a tattoo out of the Elvish alphabet that I still love (though I had to sit down and re-translate it after reading the novel this time because I hadn't really looked at it in years). I fucking love this book. It is fucking rad. Now...

That doesn't mean that it's without problems, though. Women are underrepresented and non-whites are only present as antagonists and villains. Because it was written by Tolkien and because he had some very specific intentions for his history of Middle Earth I can largely let that pass by (also if you want to read a bunch of cool stories about women by Tolkien you should check out The Silmarillion). Rereading this time around I was particularly struck by Eowyn's false dichotomy in the narrative she's set up for her life. She really is very one-dimensional and more flawed that I had realized. And Arwen basically doesn't speak in the novel. She's mentioned a couple of times, says very little at a fancy dinner, and that's it. You don't get to know her at all in the book. Goldberry and Tom Bombadil become more perplexing and silly the older I get - they don't make any damn sense. Lobelia Sackville-Baggins comes off looking pretty decent in this reading, though. She was a tough and admirable little hobbit.

There's a ton of stuff that's really good, though. I keep forgetting how much humor there is in the novel - the fellowship speak to each other in exactly the way you'd imagine a bunch of stressed-out people on a road-trip would: there's tension and fear, but also a lot of wise-cracking and absurdity. Treebeard and the Ents are quite funny, in their slowness to anger and roundabout way of speaking. Merry and Pippin are, of course, hilarious, as is Gollum in his own creepy way. And you grow to know and love the characters very quickly - Tolkien wrote them all as interesting, multifaceted people. They're all flawed, from Boromir's weakness before the ring to Legolas's weariness of the world, to Aragorn's fear of claiming his birthright. Except maybe Sam. Sam is pretty much perfect and I'm not sure anyone could convince me otherwise. Any hobbit who could reject the power of the ring to make the whole world a garden for himself is a hobbit made of stern stuff.

And then there are the appendices. I had flipped through them before to track down the linguistic information for my tattoo but I had never read them. I planned to skip them this time around too, but chanced on the story of Arwen and Aragorn (in which some of the pieces the novel was wanting are found) and decided to read through it: I was duly sucked in to reading the additional hundred or so pages that end my single-edition copy of the book because HOLY SHIT there's so much good story in there. I don't know if the appendices weren't finished until later editions or if they were just cut for length or if Tolkien didn't want to take more time in an already long story to tell less important stories, but I wish that at least part of the appendices had ended up in between the pages of the novel instead of tacked on at the end because they really do make it a better book.

I enjoyed reading LotR, as I always do. It will always have it's problems, too, but they're never so large that I can't get over them and put myself back in Rivendell or on the path to Mordor again.

     - Alli

Tolkien, JRR. The Lord of the Rings. Houghton Mifflin. Boston: Massachusetts. 1991. (1954).

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Due process? What's that?

So Justified is over. The show has been an integral part of my family hang-out time for five years now, but it's gone.


I really enjoyed the first season, and this final season is much better than the intervening years have been, but I'm still not sure that I can call it a good show. Part of the major appeal in the early seasons was that it didn't focus too much on a single epic conflict but had a nice battle-of-the-week conflict going from time to time that brought in great character actors and let the mains display more of their personality. That format was largely abandoned by the third season and everything came down to Raylan, Boyd, and Ava. Screw that - I wanted more Tim, Rachel, and Art. The Crowes popped up and nastied around for a season, and that was fun, but watching Raylan and Boyd butt heads got to be a little boring for me without the long, tall, lawman occasionally leaving town to chase down a mob accountant or seize a crime scene for the Marshal Service (not that I think civil asset forfeiture is a good thing, but I'm not going to deny that it's a compelling plot device).

I guess I got bothered because as the seasons passed and characters around Raylan kept accusing him of corruption and behavior unbefitting an officer of the law, and those accusations kept ringing more true to me instead of standing out as unjust libel. Raylan broke into an evidence locker - I don't care that it was to put money back, he shouldn't have broken in. Raylan took his criminal coaldigging buddy to an OK Corral style shootout to kill Boyd's dad. Raylan completely mishandled Ava as a CI and he never should have been working the Crowder case in the first place because he WAS too involved with it - with Ava, with Boyd, and with Harlan as a whole. Justified is a very watchable and entertaining TV show about an old-west style lawman in the modern world; unfortunately that means that Justified is a very watchable and entertaining TV show about someone who doesn't give shit one for due process and that's kind of scary. Raylan IS corrupt. He hides his crimes behind a badge and even if he isn't personally, directly making money off them he sure is using those rule-bending habits to make his life easier. Even the last episode of the last season ends with Raylan concealing his knowledge that an escaped felon is at large and could be apprehended. It's fucking fantastic that Ava appears to have turned over a new leaf, but that doesn't mean he should let her go free; or has he forgotten that she's killed a bunch of people, been a pimp, a thief, and drug dealer? Sure, maybe Ava will never kill again - but then maybe Ava will run into Ellen May and decide to finish her assassination plot to keep the information about her whereabouts from getting out.

So, yeah. The show is over. And it's a lot of fun. But I'm deeply troubled about how much fun it is to watch a man get away with murder just because he's got a fucking badge.

By the way: A note on the title of the show. If you or I, Jo(e) average citizen, said to another person "you have 24 hours to get out of town" then showed up to that person's residence with a gun and threatened them they would ABSOLUTELY (at least in Florida, where the scene was set) have a right to stand their ground and defend themselves but you or I would NOT have the right to threaten them, threaten them some more, and essentially force them into a gunfight. The force of the law would be all on the other person's side, the person who you or I would have harassed and threatened. So Raylan's "Justified" killing was NOT justifiable self-defense, it was premeditated murder against someone who was legitimately defending himself from a corrupt police official. Even terrible people have rights, even drug dealers and murderers, and using a badge to deny someone's rights is a lot of what's currently wrong with the world.

     - Alli

Monday, April 27, 2015

I feel very ambivalent about this and I think that's the point

This book used to belong to my dad, who gave it to his friend Tim, who passed it down to me. There's a sort of oneness of all things and cyclic feeling in that which feels appropriate when I consider how I felt about Siddhartha while I was reading it and now, a couple of weeks after it's had time to percolate in my head.

The book is about one man's attempt to understand his place in the universe - first through religious zealotry, then through abandoning his faith, and then by returning to his faith without the ritual and pre-scripted behavior that he started with. It's one of those books that was HUGE a few decades ago but has largely fallen out of the mainstream now and so feels very representative of one era but out-of-place to modern readers. I totally get why Siddhartha was heavily read in the sixties and seventies, and I totally get why people don't seem to read it as much now - it was a story that needed to be heard then and now we all already know it.

But Siddhartha isn't about its time of publication or the hype that surrounded it, it's about a man trying to figure his shit out. I've got to say that a large part of the plot just wasn't very compelling to me - there were large sections of the novel that felt dull and didactic and like I could have easily skipped them and not changed the outcome of my reading. But I read them anyway because the language was simple and lovely and I appreciated the way that the story was being told even if I didn't much care for the story itself.

All in all Siddhartha is a fine book to read - especially if you're looking for a very basic introduction to Buddhist philosophy - but it's no more worthwhile than other Buddhist texts written by people who were from the places the story was set. The language is very pleasant, and the whole book has a sort of fairytale feel, and can be easily read in the course of an afternoon. If you have a copy and feel inclined, read it. If you don't have a copy and can't be bothered don't read it. The world will keep spinning either way.

     - Alli

Hesse, Hermann. Translated by Hilda Rosner. Siddhartha. New Directions Paperback.
     New York: New York. 1951.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ever on

Good books are repeatable. The best books are endlessly repeatable. I don't have any idea how many times I've read The Hobbit at this point in my life but it wouldn't surprise me at all if that number was above fifty.

This time around the novel was even easier than it's always been - I raced through it and it felt like coming home. I couldn't get Middle Earth out of my head after finishing The Silmarillion and so The Hobbit was the next obvious choice (at least in the chronology of the major Middle Earth books). I can't tell if it's just that Bilbo's story is so much easier to read than the tales of the Elves, or if it really is a very simple book, or if I've just read the book so many times now that I don't really have to focus on the words to get into the story. Honestly I don't think it's any of those things - I think The Hobbit was fun and easy to read this time around because I wasn't scrutinizing it the way that I did last time. The movies are out, they're over, I've seen them all, and I don't have to watch out for things to criticize in any upcoming adaptations so I could just let Hobbiton and Mirkwood and The Lonely Mountain wash over me with nothing hovering inside my thoughts but sheer enjoyment of the story.

The book has the same minor problems that it has always had and will always have simply because it was a product of its time and place - it's not terribly representative of anything but white males - but that's no reason to ignore this wonderful story and appreciate it for what it is. It's funny, it's sweet, it's exciting, and it's full of action, adventure, and really wonderful sentiments about friendship and bravery.

The Hobbit isn't a perfect book - I don't know that perfect books really exist - but to me, at least, it will always be one of the best books, and I will always love coming home to it.

     - Alli

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. Ballantine Books. New York: New York. 1973. (1937).

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Good short stories and bad fans

Last year, when I was hanging out and shepherding drunks at a technical conference, I ended up having a conversation with a dude who had a James Joyce quote tattooed on his arm and my evening went to shit. Now, I'll say again: a dude with a Joyce tattoo made my evening of making sure people didn't puke in a hotel lobby worse than it already was. I was talking about how much I love cyberpunk and SF as a whole, holding the copy of Anathem that I was rereading, and this dude plopped down in the middle of the conversation to drop a criticism about Stephenson (while admitting that he'd only read one of Stephenson's books and saying he didn't think he would find any more depth to the writing if he went further) I admitted that I was enough of a SF nerd that I might be biased and made mention of my Dune tattoo in a self-deprecating sort of way; this cockwad went on to state that he hadn't ever read much SF but loved real literature enough that he'd gotten a Joyce tattoo ("On my arm, where people can see it, because there's no courage in getting your ideology someplace where it will remain hidden," he said, cementing his image in my mind as like, seriously, the worst human being at the party.)

Instead of pulling the "you're just a fake geek girl" on me (which is hard to do when you're at a computer conference that I've attended for the last decade) this taint knocker pulled the "fake lit girl" (which he didn't realize was ALSO not a great plan, considering my BA in Literature). Our conversation proceeded to the point that I told him I was impressed he'd gotten a tattoo by someone who once said "You had an arse full of farts that night, darling, and I fucked them out of you" to show to the world, and that I really liked that someone who literally wrote his manuscripts in crayon was considered such a bastion of western literature. Surprise, surprise, smug mister Joyceypants had never read Joyce's letters.

And here's what's really unfair: I hadn't read any Joyce (except some of his hilarious and explicit letters) at that point because I'd met too many Joyce fanboys who were just like this stupid Buttpimple and figured that if complete assholes liked these books this much I probable wouldn't enjoy them. There are so many people out there who feel like they need to be some kind of GATEKEEPER to keep the PLEBEIAN HORDES away from the VAUNTED AND HONORABLE LITERARY TRADITION by belittling genre fiction and implying that you're just not smart enough to understand the POWER and MAJESTY of the TORMENTED ARTIST.

People who think this way about books: FUCK YOU. Books are for everyone and everyone can like disparate things and value all sorts of writing. And for the record there's nothing wrong with the fact that Joyce enjoyed buttplay or was fixated on shit or that he wrote in crayon (he had severe glaucoma and couldn't see pen or pencil well enough later in life to write with them) but it's great to let a little air out of the kinds of shitheads who think that they're special because they like "real" literature. 

Anyway. I read Dubliners this week and it was fantastic. It was simple and austere and I felt like it did a great job of transporting me to its time and place. I can see why Joyce is lauded for his descriptions and his subjects - there's an underlying tension to all of the stories that seems to speak of a world sick of itself and longing for something that it can't even imagine. And, while I've not read Ulysses, I'd like to make the point that Joyce's writing (at least in Dubliners) was incredibly accessible. There's nothing here that's difficult to understand or arduous to read through, but there's a lot that's funny, sad, and highly relatable. Don't let bullshit gatekeeper fanboys discourage you from participating in good stuff. It's a jerk move for anyone to claim that their consumption of something is better or purer or more meaningful than yours - whether that thing is literature, comic books, video games, or My Little Pony. Everyone has a right to enjoy what they want to and I'm really fucking tired of the "fake fan" mentality that chases people away.

     - Alli

Joyce, James. Dubliners. Wordsworth Classics. Ware: Hertfordshire. 1993. (1914).

Monday, April 13, 2015

I'm not sure why this book is a thing

I have no idea where my copy of The Magical Worlds of the Lord of the Rings (MWLotR for the rest of this post) came from. It's not the kind of book that I would typically buy, it's unlikely that I kidnapped it from my dad's shelves, and I'm not sure who could have given it to me (though I think a gift is the most likely source) but one way or another I have it and I read it.

It's an odd sort of book. I can tell that David Colbert, its author, is a huge Tolkien fan (or at least I would hope so) and is super duper into literature and research. Oddly enough this isn't the kind of book that I would typically read but it really seems like a kind of book that I would write - a fan-made exploration into the literary tradition that lead to the creation of a much-beloved fictional universe.

But that's part of why it's so odd: it seems like the kind of book that can really only appeal to lit geeks while also being simplistic enough that most lit geeks will already know what's in it. Maybe I'm just a very particular kind of weirdo, but I found myself asking "why am I reading this, I already know this," on pretty much every page.

I didn't have to guess that Tolkien was enamored of Finnish - I knew it because ten years ago I read an essay or letter by JRR himself discussing that Finnish inspired Elvish. I didn't have to be told that Aurthurian legends and Beowulf paved the road that Tolkien tried to follow - I would have thought that would be obvious to anyone who's ever read Tolkien, Beowulf, or heard of Excalibur. But then I guess that hardcore Anglo-Saxon scholars don't tend to hang out with Tolkien heads unless they become Anglo-Saxon scholars because they were into Tolkien first.

Honestly I'm pretty fucking perplexed by MWLotR. I understand the book but not its audience. As a best guess I would say it's written for people who like the story of LotR but dislike reading; people who want to know more about the background of Middle Earth but who don't want to do research; or children who lack the vocabulary to read Tolkien but really liked the movies (based on the language this is my strongest contender) and want to read more about them. I'm not sure how many people in the above categories actually exist, but based on the 16 reviews this book has amassed on Amazon since 2002 I'd say not bloody many.

The book is alright-ish. Nothing seems overtly incorrect, the language is simple to understand (and perhaps a bit patronizing), and the illustrations are somewhat shitty. But it's a quick read and good background if you don't want to spend a bunch of time reading Old English poetry and Scandinavian myths but do want to know what inspired Middle Earth. If you've already spent a bunch of time reading Old English poetry and Scandinavian myths (ENGLISH LIT MAJORS FOR LIFE!) then you're probably better off skipping this one or passing it on to a deserving nerdy child.

     - Alli

Colbert, David. The Magical Worlds of the Lord of the Rings. Berkley Books. New York:
     New York. 2002.

Myths mastered at last

I think I was about twelve years old the first time I tried to read The Silmarillion. I failed miserably - maybe ten pages in I fell asleep. For the next few years I used the book as a sleep aid - I kept it by my bed and never got past the music in the darkness before it knocked me out.

I fared a little better at twenty and managed to push through at least until the real story started, then I decided that the book was too boring and put it down again. At twenty-five I managed to get through all but the last thirty pages of the book; I got past the story of the Silmarils but just couldn't keep going so I set the book aside to take a break and didn't pick it up again.

Now, finally, sixteen years after I first started trying to read this damned thing, I've finished The Silmarillion and I fucking loved it. I totally understand why I had trouble reading it through all these years, because it's 300 short pages are about as dense as a neutron star, but I'm really pleased that I finally pushed through and got the damned thing read.

To be 100% honest and transparent, I'm a huge, unwieldy Tolkien geek. My dad read The Hobbit to my sister and I as children and it's the first book that made me want to read. I chose to do a book report at 11 on LoTR because it was way above my grade level but I HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. I kept pushing to try to read The Silmarillion because I'm one of those people who showed up to midnight premiers wearing a cloak and I own a pair of toe socks with hair on top for when I'm feeling particularly nerdy. I read this book because I couldn't let it go. Middle Earth is more my home than most places I've been on actual Earth and I want to know all their is to know about it. If you are NOT at Tolkien geek on a dressing-up-in-public level then I would NOT recommend this book (unless you've got a serious hardon for mythology in general, in which case you should read it and we should hang out because mythology is AWESOME).

The history of the Valar and the Eldar and the Edain is long, complicated, and full of characters who each have three names that are only one letter or syllable removed from the names of their ten siblings (who each also have three names). The Silmarillion is not hard to read because it's depressing, it's hard to read because it has about a thousand characters and most of them have lifespans at least 500 years long. The scenery physically changes so that a castle that existed in an early part of the book was on a mountain range that's under water in the late part of the book (and each place also has 3-7 names that sound incredibly similar to all of the other places around it and the character names). What I'm getting at is that this is not a light, fun, easy read that you can blow through in a couple of hours: it will kick your ass and take your name and confuse you in quite a few places but it is still TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Linguistically the book is fascinating, as a mythology it's terribly impressive, and to Tolkien geeks who want to get to know Middle Earth on a more intimate level it's indispensable. But to casual Tolkien fans who liked the movies and maybe read The Hobbit but had trouble with how much singing everyone did in LoTR, The Silmarillion is probably not going to be worth the effort to read it.

(But you should try anyway because, seriously, it's so good.)

     - Alli

Tolkien, JRR. The Silmarillion. Christopher Tolkien, Editor. Houghton Mifflin. New York:
     New York. 2001. (1977).

Sunday, April 12, 2015

March Video Recap

Hi there, I forgot to post this when I made it but here's my rundown for the books I read last month:

     - Alli

Interstellar is actually pretty stellar

I feel guilty. My husband is not a movie watcher and when Interstellar was out he wanted to see it - we just never made it to the theater. When Mad Max: Fury Road comes out this summer we probably WILL get to see it just because it will be playing everywhere forever. But even though I'll see an explosion-y silly movie in theaters I didn't get to see Interstellar on a big screen, which I now stridently regret.

In spite of my small (15 inch laptop screen small) screen experience the film is staggeringly beautiful. I loved the way that everything was shot and the stunning construction of the worlds that were visited. Earth in the midst of crisis was terrifying and brilliantly presented in a way that felt realistic and much more scary than an unlikely, unrealistic impending asteroid scenario could have been.

A lot of the film reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey in its intense focus on detail. I felt a bit let down that some of the more mundane aspects of training and preparing for a space journey were left out, but since it's a nearly three hour movie I can see why there wasn't a "getting prepped for flight" montage tossed in there when it isn't really needed - but some parts of the story did feel a little rushed as a result.

Throughout the film there is a pervading faith in the strength and hope of humanity that I appreciated and was glad to see - Nolan can be quite dark but, while Interstellar doesn't balk at showing suffering, this movie is much more interested in perseverance than in perversity.

I was delighted to see this movie at last, and I'm sure I'll be delighted to see it in the future. I do have some criticisms of the film but they're all minor and pale in comparison to the moving story, wonderful acting, and luscious presentation of the movie.

     - Alli

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Thar she blows

When I was about 10 years old I was watching an episode of Welcome Freshmen on Nickelodeon. In the episode there was some drama because everyone hated and/or some students hadn't read the assigned chapter of Moby Dick. Because I was the strangest little fifth grader who ever walked the land I finished watching the episode then wandered out into the living room to get a jump on my high school reading list. I was completely convinced (because the TV doesn't lie, obviously) that I'd have to read Moby Dick my freshman year and I knew that my dad had a copy of it on his bookshelf. The really impressive part is I managed to get as far as Queequeg's return to The Spouter before my little-kid brain went "I'm over this shit" and went on to read a Brian Jacques novel instead.

High-five, little Alli. You had completely the wrong idea about a lot of things but I can't deny that you had gumption - and the good sense to stop reading that damned book.

It is now almost twenty years later and I've now finished reading Moby Dick - I can't recommend it.

Here's the really funny thing, though: I actually like Herman Melville. I enjoyed the FUCK out of Billy Budd and Bartelby the Scrivener is one of the best and creepiest pieces of literature that I've ever read. Melville's prose doesn't escape me, or though me for a loop with its density now the way that it did when I was ten, so that wasn't the problem. The problem I had is that this book is messy. And I'm not someone who demands order of a book - I will if-on-a-winter's-night all fucking day long but I can't hang with a book that gets me into two really cool stories right at the beginning, abandons both of those stories for essentially 80% of its word count, and then does nothing with one story and murders the other. Bartelby is fucking great because you get lost and sucked in and scared by this wraith of a man and his unfolding horror. Billy Budd is great because you're drawn in by the conflict and are yourself conflicted and torn by the story and its characters. Moby Dick doesn't have characters, it has caricatures. Ishmael's a Keanu-Reeves-like blank, Queequeg starts with a personality that is promptly abandoned, Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask are never fleshed out, Moby Dick is a fucking whale, and Ahab is a goddamned cartoon. WHALING, not the whalers or the whale, is the main story in this book. And you know what, Melville's brightest moments in this story are when he's cracking little jokes in interminable chapters about mis-categorizing whales. There are a lot of funny one-liners and humorous anecdotes scattered around in the chapters about whaling, but none of those jokes make it worthwhile to read this whole goddamned white whale of a book.


However, there is one great, stellar, stunning, moving moment that stood out to me in an infuriating example of what this book COULD have been and how I could have loved it instead of being frustrated by it.

There's a moment, very near the end of the novel, when Ahab and Starbuck are near the rail of the Pequod. Ahab is beautiful in this moment. The scene is beautiful, the mate is beautiful, the unbroken peace of the ship is beautiful. Things are coming to a head and so you see a glimpse of suffering and kindness and the onrushing light of a new day that might bring either salvation or death and it's fucking fantastic. This one tiny little two-page scene is a great illustration of how powerful Melville could be as a writer, and it's a little irksome to me that instead of writing an epic of whaling with this one tormented man as the focus of a whirling maelstrom of madness Melville chose to write Moby Dick. I was rooting for you, book! I wanted to like you so much and I just couldn't do it, dammit.

Or maybe this is REALLY a book about the hallucinations and madness of Ishmael after being the sole survivor of a freak accident and the unreliability of his narration was rooted more in insanity than in plain shiftiness and HE'S the one with the monomaniacal fixation on whales who's spinning out lies to distract himself from his losses and it really is a much better book than I think.

I don't fucking know, and I'm just really glad not to still be reading it right now.


Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. Amazon Kindle. Seattle: Washington . 1851.