Sunday, March 1, 2015

Read Out Loud: Moby Dick, Chapters 28-31

I've been reading Moby Dick for my kids, as a bedtime story. Not every chapter -- just the ones that I feel that I can make dramatic for them. This is a recording of chapters 28-31, which feature the characters of Ahab, Stubb, Flask, and the mysterious dream-merman. I have a few introductory comments in this audio file -- if you find that part uninteresting, skip ahead to 7:30. The whole file is a bit over 31 minutes long.

There is an error at 27:03 -- a repeated phrase where I failed to edit out a second take. I will fix that as soon as I can.

What's the point of this? Moby Dick has a certain reputation, partially deserved, as a heavy and discursive book -- but it is also very beautifully written, and very funny. I want to try to present evidence of that.

Really, Moby Dick is several books in one, in several different styles, all of them subtle, satirical, and self-referential, often breaking the fourth wall, and often revelatory of the quick mind and long experience of the narrator, Ishmael. Some of the chapters are hilariously funny and weird. In particular I think Stubb is every bit as funny and touching a comic sidekick as Shakespeare's comic sidekicks like Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing. Ahab even seems to speak in blank verse, or something close to it. He doesn't have very many lines in these chapters, but Stubb does.

I'm not quite sure where to go from here. I could read the whole novel, but that's been done before, and I'm more interested in the chapters with dialogue and action. I could attempt to turn the book into some kind of radio drama, but that's a big, big project and I think I would want a collaborator to work on that. And, of course, I'm not sure if there is actually any way to earn any money on such a project. What do you think?

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