The Silent, Subtle, Ever-Present Perils of Life

Each of the last few summers, in an effort to make my yardwork less tedious, I have chosen one “classic” piece of literature- one that I have never read or one that I made a poor attempt to read in high school – and download the audio version as a diversion from pulling seedlings and weeds from the mulch or cleaning out the vegetable garden. (I usually use Lit2Go, a free series of audiobook classics available from iTunes U, but there a number of other download sites that feature free classic works.)

First, Ethan Frome. Then, Heart of Darkness. Last summer, it was Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, a book I missed in high school due to a teacher change early in a semester. This summer, I have decided to revisit Melville’s Moby Dick. I was required to read it in my junior year of high school and, although I loved the language, I was much more interested at the time in other pursuits. ( Feel free to insert your own high school interests here…) I felt it deserved a second chance.

I was right.

I was so enamored with Chapter Four yesterday (entitled The Counterpane) that I listened to it twice. (It also inspired a new poem, which I think has potential.) And although Melville’s tendencies toward tangential storytelling make him frustrating to read (Billy Budd, Sailor is similar), the level of detail and the sheer joy that is evident in his language easily make up for that, especially while listening.

Consider the sounds in the title of this post – the alliteration and the rhythm  sing on the tongue when read aloud. There are so many instances of this in the novel, places where the beauty of the word trumps the plot or the symbolism. I think I will enjoy my weeding this summer very much!


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