Saturday, June 24, 2006

"Moby Dick" is a fun book for the first 100 pages, before Ahab enters the scene.

The narrator and Queequeg are young and in love and lust and enjoying enjoying the port town with each other.

The narrator starts the book saying "Call me Ishmael" which doesn't mean that's his name, even inside the reality of the book, but it's the only name we have.

Ishmael at the very start of the book is very done with New York City, with cities and too many people, too many rules, not enough straight forward physical activity.

So he goes north to Nantucket to catch a ship to work on, something he's done before.

He gets to the inn where guys share rooms and beds to help to innkeeper make more money and accomadate everyone. He gets to the inn at night and wakes up in the morning next to Queequeg, with Queequeg's arm thrown around him

Works for him.

It means what common sense says it means, and I needed to read a book at a Different Light gay bookstore, to have my common sense kick in on that one.

They are different in that Queequeg is much more highly skilled--he has profit center skill. He's a harpooner. Ishmael has enough skill to be a sailor like a lot of other guys.

They are different in that Queequeg is Polynesian and Ishmael is USA white guy. He thinks he's being liberal about Queequeg because he's less racist than lots of guys would be. Actually he's condescending. He never thinks of the possibility that Queequeg might be condescending toward him in his own way, and racist.

This might or might not have equalled out in some way in the physical relationship, but since the book doesn't talk about the physical relationship we don't know. (Well, it talks about the fact that Ishmael wakes up being held by Queequeg, but that's all it says about physicality--a lot for the 19th century.)

But condescension and differences aside, and included, they like each other a lot. The vibe is "to be in good old Nantucket with good old you--what could be better?"

But they openly enjoyable dig up other until they get jobs on a whaler with Ahab as captain. Ahab is going to war against a particular whale, and both men hired disappear as individuals for the rest of the book. I really miss them.

The book as a whole is about a destructive lunatics bad mood and how it plays out. God knows destructive bad moods play a book part in human affairs, but so does, "You are so cute." It's an important vibe and one of the things that keeps us from totally doing in each other and all forms of life.

It would be tricky to do a whole big long book about a love story when you can't say it's a love story. So Melville didn't. Before going on the ship, Ishmael knows and tells in the first person things he would reasonably know. After getting on the ship, the narrator, who is supposed to still be Ishmael, gets inside the minds of the first, second, and third mate and such things that wouldn't be given to him as a lowly seaman. The narrator is barely an individual on the scene--only the loony captain and his confused top officers are ongoing individuals.

But I want to know if the fact that Queequeg was more important and board and was paid more money because he was a harpoonist affected the Queequeg/Ishmael relationship. The omniscient narrator who is supposed to be Ishmael but doesn't feel like him anymore establishes clearly that the majority of the crew is non-white--Pacific Islanders, Africans, Asians, a whole world crew. Ahab and the 3 mates of middle management are white.

How does that play out?

For one thing, that means this book is about white people leading non-white people to certain doom in the service of one particular white lunatic. But it's like Ishmael and Melville don't notice that that's what it's about. And everyone dies but Ishmael, which means Queequeg dies. I dissent from that same old thing. The non-white person dies. The gay couple is broken up by the death of one.

I want Ishmael and Queequeg to choose a different ship, come back eventually with a bunch of dough (much more for Queequog) and have some more fun. "You are so cute"--it matters as much as vicious lunacy. More, or we'd all already be dead or the whole human process would have been over before we got our turn at the I hate you/I relish choice.