*This entry will contain some discussion of sexual abuse; if that’s something you don’t wish to read about, or are not in a place to deal with, I’m going to encourage you not to engage with it. You can scroll down to the first set of *** to skip that part, or not read at all.
I finished “The Deep” over the weekend, and by the end, I had stopped taking notes, and was was finishing it just to finish it. It went from being a horror novel with an interesting inciting incident to a sort of surreal haunted house narrative with body horror and by the end, a brief touch of cosmic horror. The most interesting part of it was the unrelenting bleakness of it all– nothing good happens to anyone, and the book ends with the strong implication that it’s effectively over for humanity.
Also, the book is the second one this year which has mother/son incest as a plot point. “Ghoul” was the other. In both cases, it’s a sort of background element, used to define something about the character suffering the abuse. In “Ghoul” it’s depicted as a shameful, hidden thing; the character suffering it tearfully confesses it to his friend. In “The Deep” it’s used toward the end of the novel, in an attempt to humanize a character who through most of the book has shown a profound indifference to both his humanity and the humanity of the world at large. I’m not certain it works. The mother has already been portrayed as horrible, abusive, really little more than a monster. But it’s there.
And honestly, it’s a little odd that this has been a plot point in two books I’ve read this year. It’s a very heavy topic, one that I’m uncomfortable weighing in on to any great degree. In general, I’m not in favor of it being used in the manner it was in either one of these books; I thought “Ghoul” handled it better, and I barely reflected on it, then “The Deep” used it and… It’s just something that’s, to me, feels a little too heavy to be used as ‘spice’ for the story. I’m not saying no one should ever write about it; I am saying that it needs to be handled extremely carefully. And I think, with my extreme lack of expertise, I will leave it at that.
Up to chapter 50 in Moby Dick. We’ve gotten our first actual whale hunt, which ends in failure, roughly at the halfway point. The hunt is ruined by a squall. The short chapter “The Hyena” which follows, gets a surprising amount of beauty in, of all things, writing a will:
“It may seem strange that of all men sailors should be tinkering at their last wills and testaments, but there are no people in the world more fond of that diversion. This was the fourth time in my nautical life that I had done the same thing. After the ceremony was concluded upon the present occasion, I felt all the easier; a stone was rolled away from my heart. Besides, all the days I should now live would be as good as the days that Lazarus lived after his resurrection; a supplementary clean gain of so many months or weeks as the case might be. I survived myself; my death and burial were locked up in my chest.”
Also of note, it’s one of the chapters that to me, feels like it’s from “Ishmael’s” perspective. As I’ve mentioned in the past, “Ishmael” and who or what he is shifts around; this feels genuinely ‘him’. It’s one of the strange elements of Moby Dick that the shortest of the chapters are frequently the ones with the deepest parts of the narrative. There’s a humanity here; and while the book is often dissected down into it’s constituent themes, it does contain memorable characters as well.
Like a fair number of book nerds, I’ve used Goodreads for ages to ‘track my reading’– I barely used any of the social functions, and so on. It was more a reminder of stuff I’ve read. Since I’ve been keeping this blog, my notes and the like have done the same, but I still enjoy ‘the statistics’ that Goodreads provided. A recent redesign however, has been really meh, and as of late I noticed it stopped doing the one thing that kept me there, which was automatically recording books I read on kindle, so I have moved to Storygraph; which has a little more of an interesting recommendation engine, and will keep track of pages read and all that other stuff just as well. You can find me there, if inclined.
What I’m reading:
“You Can’t Win”– as of this writing, I’ve read two paragraphs, so I’m not entirely sure if I like it or not.
“Moby Dick”– the call of the wretched sea, slowly.