Saturday, October 22, 2011

Nathaniel Philbrick

From Why Read Moby-Dick? author Nathaniel Philbrick's Q & A with Barbara Chai at the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog:

“Moby-Dick” was written amid the backdrop of slavery in the U.S., yet it still resonates. What lessons can the novel teach us today?

The great lesson I get from “Moby-Dick” is that when the times are bad, when there is great foreboding, there are still ways to go about living. It’s through Ishmael that I find a kind of overall cosmic approach to a meaningful life in this meaningless world. That said, the one of the other lessons we get from “Moby-Dick” is the creepily transitional state of evil. Ahab is clearly on a deranged quest that’s going to lead to the destruction of his ship and the crew save for Ishmael, and yet there are elements about him that are inspirational. You gotta hand it to him, he’s trying to figure out what this world is all about. Yet on the other hand, what he’s doing is just insane. When you look around the world today and whether it’s a Middle Eastern dictator, someone like Gadhafi, where we had this love/hate relationship with him, was he evil? Was he good? It seems to change with the times. I think “Moby-Dick” provides a very disturbing and ultimately useful betrayal of how that all works.

So we can draw comparisons between Ahab and Gadhafi?

I think Ahab is one of those iconic figures that will compared to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue