Both ends of the line are exposed; the lower end terminating in an eye-splice or loop coming up from the bottom against the side of the tub, and hanging over its edge completely disengaged from everything. This arrangement of the lower end is necessary on two accounts. First: In order to facilitate the fastening to it of an additional line from a neighboring boat, in case the stricken whale should sound so deep as to threaten to carry off the entire line originally attached to the harpoon. In these instances, the whale of course is shifted like a mug of ale, as it were, from the one boat to the other; though the first boat always hovers at hand to assist its consort. Second: This arrangement is indispensible for common safety's sake; for were the lower end of the line in any way attached to the boat, and were the whale then to run the line out to the end almost in a single, smoking minute as he sometimes does, he would not stop there, for the doomed boat would infallibly be dragged down after him into the profundity of the sea; and in that case no town-crier would ever find her again. Before lowering the boat for the chase, the upper end of the line is taken aft from the tub, and passing round the loggerhead there, is again carried forward the entire length of the boat, resting crosswise upon the loom or handle of every man's oar, so that it jogs against his wrist in rowing; and also passing between the men, as they alternately sit at the opposing gunwales, to the leaded chocks or grooves in the extreme pointed prow of the boat, where a wooden pin or skewer the size of a common quill, prevents it from slipping out. From the chocks it hangs in a slight festoon over the bows, and is then passed inside the boat again; and some ten or twenty fathoms (called box-line) being coiled upon the box in the bows, it continues its way to the gunwale still a little further aft, and is then attached to the short-warp - the rope which is immediately connected with the harpoon; but previous to that connexion, the short-warp goes through sundry mystifications too tedious to detail.
i tried. but any book with that passage, and thousands of passages just like it, can never get five stars from me. and probably not even four. not because i think it is shitty writing, but because when i was growing up, i was told that girls just wanna have fun, and that was not giving me any fun at all.
everyone said, "nooo, karen, you were eighteen when you read this the first time, and you just didn't give it your all - you are bound to love it now, with your years of accumulated knowledge and experience."
and that sounded valid to me, and it's like when i turned thirty, and i decided to try all the foods i had thought were "from the devil" and see if i liked them now that i was old. i thought that revisiting this book might have the same results and discoveries. but this book remains like olives to me, and not like rice pudding, which, have you tried it? is quite good.
but no. turns out that when i was eighteen, i was already fully-formed.
and it's not that i don't understand it - i get the biblical allusions, i understand the bitter humor of fast fish loose fish, i am aware of the foreshadowing and symbolism - i went to school, i learned my theory and my close-reading, but there are passages, like the one above, that i could not see the glory in. all i could see was the dull.
and the bitch of it is that it started out fine - good, even. i was really getting into the description of the docks and the nantuckters, and it was giving me good new-england-y feelings. and then came that first chapter about whale-anatomy, and i was laughing, remembering encountering it during my first reading and being really angry that this chapter was jaggedly cutting in on the action. and, honestly, it was really good at the end, too. but the whole middle of this book is pretty much a wash. a sea of boredom with occasionally interesting icebergs.
at the beginning, he claims that no one has ever written the definitive book about whales and whaling, so - kudos on that, because this is pretty damn definitive. it's just no fun. maybe i would like it better if it had been about sharks?? i like sharks.
i know you wouldn't know it to look at me, but i don't have a problem with challenging books. i prefer a well-told story, sure, and i am mostly just a pleasure-reader, not one that needs to be all snooty-pants about everything i read, but i've done the proust thing, and while he can be wordy at times (hahaahah) his words will, eventually, move me, i understand them, and i appreciate being submerged into his character's thought-soup. viginia woolf - dense writing, but it is gorgeous writing that shines a light into the corners of human experience and is astonishing, breathtaking. thomas hardy has pages and pages of descriptive nature-writing, but manages to make it matter.
i just wasn't feeling that here. the chapter on the way we perceive white animals, the whale through various artistic representations, rigging, four different chapters on whale anatomy; it's just too much description, not enough story; it seemed all digressive interlude.
and you would think that a book so full of semen and dick and men holding hands while squeezing sperm and grinning at each other would have been enough, but i remain unconverted, and sad of it.
maybe if i had read this one, it would have been different:
oh, no, i have opened the GIS-door:
i am only including this one because i totally have that shark stuffie:
maybe i am just a frivolous person, unable to appreciate the descriptive bludgeoning of one man's quest to detail every inch of the giant whale. or maybe all y'all are wrong and deluded.