Book Review: Moby Dick

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Chapter 1. Call Me Daniel

Call me Daniel. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little money in my bank account, and nothing particular to interest me in the world of mortals, I thought I would pick up a classic book and see a little bit of the literary world. It is a habit I have of chasing away adulthood and the drudgery of office life. Whenever I find myself involuntarily thinking about ditching town or becoming a beach bum; whenever the temptation to live in a Winnebago by the sea grips my soul; whenever I have the temptation to smack some smug coal-suited individual for his money barbarism, it's high time for another literary adventure. This is my substitute for a gambling addiction or alcoholism -- fine gentlemanly pursuits for some weary at heart, but not for me. With a cynical yet philosophical flourish, others go into the business world, I quietly start a new literary adventure, a new book review. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards words and literary adventures as me.

Chapter 2. On the Dignity of Book Reviewers

On behalf of the dignity of book reviewing, I would advance only the facts. But after employing the facts to their best effect, what reviewer would not be tempted, when such enabled with a not unreasonable surmise, to use conjecture to further their cause.

It is well known that in the celebration of classic authors there is a process of ego-massaging that has become quite popular. The typical novice book reviewer might consult the cellar of his imagination, looking for well-oiled phrases of modesty ("Now, I don't have a grounding in the classics..." "Well, I'm no English major but..." "It's not like I'm the most knowledgeable person, but...") These salted and seasoned phrases, anointing as they do a book review, sugaring a negative comment or downplaying a good one, as the sugar-coating of such medicines are often done to help the passage of a pill from the mouth to the stomach, help to maintain the dignity of the profession and the reputation of the reviewer.

But the question remains, does a dead man or woman's ego need any massaging? And are book reviewers really so dignified as their seasoned prose would make them seem?

Having no facts at my disposal and nothing but conjecture, I surmise that many of those who use these well-oiled phrases ("Well, I'm no English major but...") might actually be English majors, may actually believe themselves giants comparable to the long-dead "Greats", and may, in fact, find greater joy in abandoning their dignity from time to time when taking up the noble-yet-vulgar art of the book review.

Such a reviewer might say: "I am an English major AND the long, ponderous prose often left me brain-dead for hours at a time. The book should be subtitled: BRAIN DAMAGE FOR READERS."

I am not such a reviewer, but let me give some vulgar praise not meant to massage any egos. My apologies in advance if the praise is lightly salted: "After living cheaply on the thrift of modern prose, I enjoyed the long, ponderous writing the way someone might enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet. And like an all-you-can-eat buffet, it often gave me diarrhea."

Chapter 3. Chasing the Literary Masterpiece

"Do you know the literary masterpiece, reader? Have you seen it? If you skinned your eyes twice daily to sharpen their focus, would you be able to see clearly a literary masterpiece in a sea of vulgar paperbacks? Are you game for the chase? Are you game to wade through detail after detail...the boring details of nineteenth-century whaling that make schoolchildren eat their desks and scorn their teachers, put M80s in their mailboxes out of spite or flaming bags of dog manure on their porches? Are you game for the game of hunting the great literary masterpiece?...Well, I am, reader. Aye, aye! and I'll chase literature round Good Hope, and round the horn, and round the Norway maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give it up. And this is what ye have shipped for, reader! to chase that fabled story on both sides of land, and over all sides of the earth, till it spouts golden prose. What say ye, reader? Will ye sharpen your eyes, hone your wit, hold fast to your pages, and have your bookmarks on ready? Are you brave enough to weather the rough pages of a thousand useless details to find that literary masterpiece? Are you game for the chase?"

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