Melville (was RE: [thechat] LotR)

Erika Meyer emeyer at
Tue Jun 5 12:09:00 CDT 2001

>If you want insufferable detail
>(which obviously you don't, heh) try Jules Verne or
>Melville. Yeesh!

Never read Verne or LothR or the Hobbit or much Science Fiction...

But Melville?  I've read "The Confidence Man" and "Moby Dick."

First of all, most 19th century novels are heavy on the detail. 
Reading was one of the few solitary forms of entertainment (no TV, no 

But the detail in "Moby Dick" is hardly pointless... and in any great 
novel is not pointless.  There's a lot of heavy duty symbolism & 
allegory about nature and humanity, and all that stuff happening, and 
you have to dig that for what it is.  I think it's brilliant.

If all you want is action & adventure, & aren't into subtlety and 
multiplicity of meaning, then you aren't going to appreciate chapters 
like "The Whiteness of the Whale" which is all about the multiple 
symbolistic qualities of the color white throughout the world.  Me, 
I'm fascinated by it.

But I'm into that kind of stuff: Jungian mythology and universal 
archetypes and symbolism and all that.

Anyway, Moby Dick, which I think is one the greatest novels of all 
times, was a commercial flop, for the reasons you describe.


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