It can reach upwards of 60 feet long, weighs 50 tons and can cut a ship in half like a pair of shears; its name is “Moby Dick” and fans and artists are still celebrating its author Herman Melville some 160 years later.
“Melville and Americanness,” is the title of a June 29 presentation at the University of East Anglia (outside London) by famed Professor Robert S. Levine of the University of Maryland that’s now become yet another destination for “Yanks” visiting London for the Summer Olympics. Because “Moby Dick” is considered one of the great American novels of all time, and a treasure of world literature, “The Melville Society” – at melvillesociety.org - thinks fans of the book need more than one year to celebrate the book’s 160th anniversary that began last year when artist Matt Kish and others honored Melville for first publishing this landmark book titled “Moby-Dick;” or, “The Whale” in 1851. In addition, it was also announced on this anniversary that a new species of extinct giant sperm whale, “Livyatan melvillei” was named in honor of Melville by the paleontologists who discovered the fossil of a “giant sea monster,” as explained in a BBC News report titled “Sea monster whale fossil unearthed.”
As for a real Moby Dick: a giant albino sperm whale?
Well, the legend that was born some 160 years ago still survives in this modern age with The Oregon County Register newspaper, out of Santa Ana, California, reporting last spring that “a large pod of sperm whales, rarely seen in Southern California waters, chugged their way past Santa Catalina Island, but lingered long enough for scientists to capture striking images.
In turn, the newspaper interviewed Danny Salas, owner of Harbor Breeze Cruises in Long Beach who said: “It was one of the rarest sights we’ve ever seen. It was fantastic – like seeing the Loch Ness Monster,” added Salas who served as a sort of “Captain Ahab” when captaining a whale-watching boat “with about 100 passengers” that encountered the huge white “Moby-Dick” sperm whales “14 miles off Long Beach Harbor.”
In addition, the newspaper reported added how these “14 whales appeared to be resting;” while it also noted how sperm whales can grow to more than 60 feet in length.
At the same time, whale watchers here along the Oregon coast often joke about one day seeing a “Moby-Dick” sized albino sperm whale that still brings fright to the hearts and minds of those who are still fascinated by these giants of the deep that can do lots of damage if they wanted to.
Celebrating Moby Dick’s author in 2012
The Melville Society, based in West Point, New York, states that “membership is open to all” who love and appreciate Melville’s “Moby Dick.”
Also, The Melville Society explains - what high school and college students have often wondered about this great work of American literature - via the character “Ishmael.” According to the Society’s history of experts who’ve studied Melville’s masterpiece, the name Ishmael “has come to symbolize orphans, exiles and social outcasts.”
For instance, in the opening paragraph of Moby-Dick, “Ishmael tells the reader that he has turned to the sea out of a feeling of alienation from human society.” In the Book of Genesis, for example, Ishmael is the son born to Abraham who later exiles Ishmael into the desert (Genesis 21:10).
Also, the Society notes how Moby-Dick is now read as a text that reflects the power struggles of a world concerned to uphold democracy, and of a country seeking an identity for itself within that world.
The Melville Society Archive is housed at the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Research Library where it states “significant works from this collection are also on display; while also featuring the “Melville Society Cultural Project” that also presents special summer events including the popular “Moby-Dick Marathon.”
Artist captures Moby-Dick as he sees it
At the same time, Matt Kish’s new book, titled “Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page” aims to set out on an epic voyage of his own as an artist celebrating the 160th anniversary of the original publication of Moby-Dick. In turn, the book’s publisher “Tin House Books,” based in Portland, Oregon, also states in marketing on back of this 550 plus page art and literature book how “Kish began illustrating Herman Melville’s classic, creating an image a day over the next 18 months based on text selected from every page of the 552-Signet Classics paperback edition.”
The publisher goes on to explain how “Kish is “completely self-taught,” and he “refused to set any boundaries for the artwork and employed a deliberately low-tech approach in response to the increasing popularity of born-digital art and literature.”
Also, the publisher explains how Kish “used found pages torn from old, discarded books, as well as a variety of mediums, including ballpoint pen, marker, paint, crayon, ink and watercolor. By layering images on top of existing words and images, Kish has crafted a visual masterpiece that echoes the layers of meaning in Melville’s narrative.”
For instance, when Kish features this quote from Melville’s Moby-Dick, on page 155, he accompanies it with an acrylic paint and ink work of art on “found paper” showing the massive albino white Moby-Dick whale fighting to surface; while juxtaposing Melville’s words also from page 155 of the original book with the words: “Captain Ahab,” said Tashtego, “that white whale must be the same that some call Moby Dick.”
Then, on page 160 of both Kish’s art book he uses markers “on found paper” to illustrate in bright modern colors and design, the drunken men who pursue Moby-Dick, with Melville’s words also from page 160 stating: “Drink, ye harpooners! Drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful whaleboat’s bow – Death to Moby Dick! God hunts us all, if we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death!”
The death of Herman Melville
While this novel “Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville – about the adventures of a wondering sailor named Ishmael – is legend, and up there with other novels of the day; including Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” The Melville Society explains that this “great American novel” still needs to be marketed in 2012 due, in part, to the sad fact that many Americans no longer read books or classic American literature.
For instance, friends say this bugged the late Eugene author Ken Kesey so much that toward the end of his life, "Ken spent time reading his favorite book, 'Moby-Dick' to elementary and middle school youth in local schools. “What Ken was all about in his later years as a grandfather was the importance of reading,” says Eugene local Bob Herberg who told Huliq during a recent interview recalling how “parent permission slips were sent home for us to okay Ken Kesey reading Moby Dick to students. It wasn't so much Moby-Dick's reputation, but Ken's as a Sixties type that some parents might not have approved of."
Melville died at his home in New York City early on the morning of September 28, 1891, age 72. The doctor listed "cardiac dilation" on the death certificate, states Melville’s biography that’s featured on The Melville Society website that also explains that Melville “was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York.”
The Society also points to “a common story” that says in Melville’s New York Times obituary – that called him “Henry Melville” – how he was “unknown and unappreciated at his time of death.”
Image source of “Moby-Dick,” the great albino sperm whale from an illustration approved by Herman Melville from his book of the same name that is being celebrated this year with an event outside London on June 29, and by The Melville Society at the famed New Bedford Whaling Museum where “Moby-Dick” still lives in the hearts and minds of fans the world over. Photo courtesy Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moby-Dick
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