Posted by Juliet Linderman
Hey there, Dick Watchers. We interrupt your regularly scheduled Vol. 1 Brooklyn programming to bring you this announcement: Herman Melville died today. I mean, he died today, 119 years ago. But still, all you whale lovers, Dick enthusiasts, Herman-o-philes and Melvillians out there, let’s all take a minute to remember our very own patron saint of the sea.
As most of you probably know, when it was published in 1851, Moby Dick was not met with critical praise. In fact, nobody liked it very much at all. But, like the story of Melville’s own Ahab and his descent into madness, misery and obsession, the process of writing Moby Dick, in many respects, transformed Herman Melville into a different man. Of his tome, he wrote in a letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne (special thanks and props to Philip Hoare and his absolutely brilliant book, The Whale, for these tidbits of knowledge): “I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as the lamb.” What a weird thing to say. But he was right: Moby Dick was so cutting edge, so blasphemous in so many ways, so daring and despairing and devilish and above all else, true to the inevitable darkness that lurks inside every human being, it’s no wonder the world wasn’t ready for it. It is, in every sense, an impossible book: Impossibly long, impossibly slow, impossibly disjointed, impossibly verbose. But in fact, the sum of its parts—profoundly strange, often cryptic and always hauntingly beautiful—is something that is able to encapsulate the whole world within it, and nothing at all. It is the ultimate paradox: the whale is nothing, and the whale is everything.
I could wax poetic about Moby Dick all day, but unfortunately I have a day job to get back to.
To you, Herman Melville: Rest in Peace, dude. I’m unfathomably grateful for your existence.