I’ve finally been well enough to do a little reading, which has been nice. I asked the good folks on Reddit for a fast moving horror novel to get me into the groove, and they obliged with a book called “Ghoul” which I will likely write about as soon as later this week. I’ve been doing a little thinking about criticism, and what makes something ‘good’ which is a topic which I do believe has literally made some people insane.
The Moby Dick re-read continued this week, a bit slower paced. We’re on chapter 30 “The Pipe”— Melville has outlined the personalities of Stubb and Starbuck, and Ahab has spoken, calling Stubb a dog. The narrator has complained about the profession of whaling not getting its due.
This week, I watched the 1956 film version of the book; notable for a wildly bombastic score and Gregory Peck’s performance as Ahab. It’s mostly an adventure movie; a lot of spectacle and special effects. I’m sort of reminded of adaptations of bible stories, where someone will make a two hour film about say, Noah’s Ark and the Flood, which is made up of three chapters or so in Genesis, and is around 2,000 words. It’s not a story of any great length, and the plot points in it are not really the important thing– it’s about God’s relationship to his creation more than it’s about a guy and a presumably very smelly boat.
The ‘core story’ of Moby Dick isn’t a story of any great length, either. If you distill it down to ‘just the action’, you have a smallish novella. As a film, though, those plot points make for a decent enough adventure. But a film adaptation is never going to get the substance of the book, as the book’s substance doesn’t lend itself to filming. The movie does feature a wonderful adaptation of the sermon, apparently done in one take by Orson Welles, which is impressive in and of itself.
I also watched “Möbius Dick”, an episode of Futurama which very loosely adapts Melville’s story; it contains a bunch of ‘huh’ references, including Saint Elmo’s fire, and someone falling out of the crow’s nest, both things which are in the 1956 movie. It also contains an ‘it’s’ vs ‘its’ joke, which is a unique delight for me, given my having to pay constant attention to it when writing, and editing. It also contains a Jonah and the Whale retelling, however brief. Mostly, it focuses on obsession, which the script repeats like 20,000 times. I wanted to like it more than I actually did, which tidily sums up a lot of later episodes of Futurama for me.
The fundamental adaptability of Moby Dick is interesting, to be certain, but the inability of the work to be be anything but a book is what keeps me interested in talking about it. More as I spend extra time at sea.
What I am reading
“The Waves”— Back into this one after a sickness induced break.
“Moby Dick”— see above.
“Cunning Folk”— a horror novel about a family moving into a spooky house. It’s drawing some comparisons in my head to “Burnt Offerings” but these are probably unfair, and the story has proven to be different enough thus far.
“Ghoul”— this took me only a few short hours, I think this will be the subject of this week’s long form entry.