Monday, November 19, 2007

Moby Dick and the Vegetarian

Chapter 65: The Whale as a Dish
It is not, perhaps, entirely because the whale is so excessively
unctuous that landsmen seem to regard the eating of him with
abhorrence; that appears to result, in some way, from the
consideration before mentioned: i.e. that a man should eat a newly
murdered thing of the sea, and eat it too by its own light. But no
doubt the first man that ever murdered an ox was regarded as a
murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if he had been put on his trial by
oxen, he certainly would have been; and he certainly deserved it if
any murderer does. Go to the meat-market of a Saturday night and see
the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of dead
quadrupeds. Does not that sight take a tooth out of the cannibal's
jaw? Cannibals? who is not a cannibal? I tell you it will be more
tolerable for the Fejee that salted down a lean missionary in his
cellar against a coming famine; it will be more tolerable for that
provident Fejee, I say, in the day of judgment, than for thee,
civilized and enlightened gourmand, who nailest geese to the ground
and feastest on their bloated livers in thy pate-de-foie-gras.
Indeed, who among us is not a cannibal? I have been reading Moby Dick far too slowly--other books keep intervening--but that is not to say I'm not loving it. It is completely mad, but wonderfully so. I am grateful to Project Gutenberg that has made not one, not two, but three versions of Moby Dick available as plain text, so that I can read it on my palm pilot on the bus. It also makes it mighty easy for blogging.

There are a number of places in Moby Dick where I have been struck by the modern seeming sensibility, wrapped up in elaborate 19th century prose. Certainly the opinion above would not be out of place in an East Vancouver coffee shop, phrased slightly differently. It is also the only time I have seen unctuous used in its literal sense. My that's a nice word, with all those u's.


javier hernandez miyares said...

that piece of melville is an unctuous mouthful. i like it.

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