29 August, 2010

travel reading

It took me a few months - okay, 10 - but I finally finished reading Moby Dick. Actually, if you count the fact that I started reading it in high school but never got past meeting the noble savage, it's been years! But this book is just so epic that I really had to be ready for it. There are people who have made careers analyzing this novel, so I don't even know where to begin, but I certainly did enjoy it. I can't imagine a more honest depiction of insane obsession.

Aside from the legendary plot and the remarkable character development, Melville includes so many thought-provoking one-liners. The fact that he was basically self-educated just makes it that much more impressive. Here's an example, spoken by Starbuck:
"'Here some one thrusts these cards into these old hands of mine; swears that I must play them and no others.' And damn me, Ahab, but thou actest right; live in the game, and die it!"
Wow, right? Here's another one. I think it might be the most beautiful of the book:
"Bethink thee of the albatross, whence come those clouds of spiritual wonderment and pale dread, in which that white phantom sails in all imaginations? Not Coleridge first threw that spell; but God's great, unflattering laureate, Nature."

 I read a good chunk of the novel while I was in Cape Cod this summer. One of my absolute favorite things to do when I travel is to read a book somehow related to the place I am in. For example, last summer I read Don Quixote in Spain and Berlin Alexanderplatz in Germany. I discovered what a pleasure this is when I read Milan Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being  (which I highly recommend) while in the Czech Republic. His description of the cemeteries gave me a whole new outlook on the cemetery we visited; suddenly it was a place full of beauty and life, by way of faded flowers and flickering candles.

Let me know if you know of any good books that take place in Chicago, and give it a try the next time you take a trip.

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