Monday, January 26, 2015

The (Original?) Unreliable Narrator: Ishmael of Moby Dick

Call me suspicious. 

The main evidence of who Ishmael is—and by extension his reliability as a narrator—takes place during the first part of the story where he actually talks about himself and his actions.  After that, he sort of fades into the background.

Ishmael’s relationship with Queequeg seems to me strange, because of Ishmael’s initial reaction. It’s almost as if he’s a greenhorn, with no experience of the sea and in awe of everything around him, especially those of different cultures, rather than someone who has been to sea before—as Ishmael claims. And yet if I disregard Ishmael’s assertion that he has been to sea before and is simply looking for a different ship, then that may explain his complete ignorance to seafaring life, but not his immediate acceptance of Queequeg as a friend and equal in a time when a colored man would be treated as a servant or property.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Classical Cravings

In the winter, some animals go into deep hibernation. For them, the entire world slows down, even down to their heartbeat. And, with sub-zero temperatures, icy roads, flu season, and the general post-holiday blues, I earnestly envy the animals. At this time of year, when the days are supposedly getting shorter but the darkness still wraps around me like a cocoon, there's nothing I'd like more than to curl up by a fire with a plateful of chocolate chip cookies and a good long book.  

Though I can't actually stay home--alas! alack!--I do indulge in the 'good long book' portion of this fantasy. And, if I can't slow down my metabolism like a bear, I can at least read about times that were set in a slower era.  

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Reading Challenge 2014 Summary

In 2013 I completed four reading challenges. In 2014, rather than try to one-up myself and end up reading for quantity rather than quality, I put a ban on my signing up for any reading challenges online. Instead, I self-imposed challenges which will hopefully diminished that behemoth To Be Read pile that swallowed up my nightstand, bed, and pretty much half my room.  

Monday, January 5, 2015

Those Crazy Captains VI: Captain Queeg of "The Caine Mutiny"

Herman Wouk’s masterpiece The Caine Mutiny is a fictitious account of (guess what?) a mutiny aboard a minesweeper U.S.S. Caine in the Pacific during World War II. It could be regarded as war fiction, but really the main conflict of the novel is not so much physical as it is psychological, as one inexperienced “by-the-book” captain attempts to take control and earn the respect of a ragtag and undisciplined crew, only to have everything go horribly,  horribly wrong.

The main character, Willie Keith, and his whole coming-of-age transformation from a high-class, lazy momma’s boy to a self-driven Navyman, is very much like Humphrey van Weyden and Harvey Cheyne Jr. But really, Keith’s journey—and his B-plot romance with the struggling singer May Wynn—is really secondary, almost to the point of being superfluous to the plot. 

Just like Ishmael is the narrator but not the protagonist of Moby-Dick, Keith is the primary perspective, but the main character and driving force of Wouk’s novel must be Captain Phillip Queeg, orbited by the sardonic academic Keefer and the simple and good first officer Maryk. The main question the novel poses the reader is: Is Queeg insane?