Magda's Reviews > The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea

The Whale by Philip Hoare
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's review
Apr 01, 2010

really liked it
Read from April 01 to 11, 2010

They are Linnæan-classified aliens following invisible magnetic fields, seeing through sound and hearing through their bodies, moving through a world we know nothing about. They are animals before the Fall, innocent of sin.

As with everything in whaling, periods of frenetic energy alternated with soporific inaction or numbing drudgery. Time itself was different at sea. Far from land, the levelling ocean flattened out the days to be recreated in nautical dispensations, reordered from noon to noon.

Melville gave the finished copy to Hawthorne that afternoon. In those few seconds, as the book passed from hand to hand, between leaving go and taking hold, all the effort, all the energy of his life was distilled, the summary of his existence to date.

Rising and falling with the changing seasons of ice, they are barometers of an invisible world, spectrally floating within their bounded sea, locked into its cycle.

And somewhere in the fathomless, gathering darkness, sperm whales swim, eternally aware, their loves one waking dream, moving through valleys that run thirty thousand miles along the ocean floor, through lakes that lie stilly in the abyss, separated by temperature like pools of mercy, past jellyfish pulsating as ghostly Victorian brides in ectoplasmic crinolines.
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