September 15, 2012
Moby-Dick captures stars for reading voyage
From The Guardian:
Magnificent yet daunting, Moby-Dick stands as one of the great classics of American literature, much admired but – sprawling and intimidating – seldom read. Now an unlikely combination of fans including David Cameron, Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry and Simon Callow are set to change that after joining the cast of an ambitious project to record the novel in its entirety. Dreamed up by author Philip Hoare and artist Angela Cockayne, the readings are being broadcast daily online, accompanied by images inspired by the book from contemporary artists including Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley. Swinton kicks off the immense undertaking – 135 chapters over 135 days – taking the novel's iconic opening, "Call me Ishmael", with Fry to read a homoerotic encounter between Ishmael and the tattooed Queequeg and Callow taking "the sermon". Cameron, after much debate, will be reading chapter 30, The Pipe. "The problem for any politician is the coded messages in Moby-Dick," said Hoare. "It's an incredibly political book, and there are entire chapters about the whale's foreskin. The difficulty for No 10 was finding a chapter which was not fraught with messages. I wouldn't say it's an anodyne chapter. No chapter is anodyne, every chapter is freighted with meaning. But it's fairly innocent."
Herman Melville's subversive, digressive masterpiece is narrated by the sailor Ishmael, telling of his voyage on the whaling ship the Pequod. The ship's captain, Ahab, is obsessed with finding the white whale, Moby-Dick, who took his leg, investing him with an "intangible malignity" and pursuing him beyond the bounds of sanity. "Moby-Dick seeks thee not. It is thou, thou, that madly seekest him!" he is told. Unappreciated in Melville's lifetime, the novel is now, according to the American academic and author Jay Parini, a book which "permeates a culture, reinforcing and shaping ideas: ambition, for example, and the drive to conquer nature, the imperial drive, the wish to pursue an ideal to the last degree".
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