When I was in high school, thanks to being a foreign exchange student, I got to skip my alma mater’s traditional junior year English class devoted to American Lit. While I loved getting the atypical American teenage exposure to Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal — “L’Invitation au Voyage” is easily one of the most beautiful poems I’ve ever listened to . The rhythm in the original French is amazing — I missed out on some of the great behemoths of American writing, like Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.
Clocking in at 135 chapters, Moby Dick is a massive undertaking. I would be intimidated by it even without the Vachette and her dominance of my waking hours. However, thanks to the Boston Globe, I am now aware of another way to experience Ahab, Ishmael, and the Whale: The Moby Dick Big Read.
The MDBR is not the only way to listen to Moby Dick. The New Bedford Whaling Museum sponsors an annual Moby-Dick Marathon, where the book is read out loud from beginning to end live. The entire reading takes 25 hours. I admit this event awakens my literary tourist curiosity, but again thanks to the Vachette, there is no way I could stay awake 25 hours in a row, especially to listen to a novel that does not have the most action-packed reputation. So I’m glad the MBDR exists. Mr. Mad Cow and I can set our own listening pace and finally take on the big whale.
(Illustration by A. Burnham Shute – Moby-Dick edition – C. H. Simonds Co)