[lit-ideas] Re: Moby Dick and America

  • From: Eric Yost <mr.eric.yost@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 09 Dec 2008 14:20:06 -0500

Okay I read the piece about _Moby Dick_ and Bush. Not quite what I expected. It combines ignorance of the novel with some missed opportunities for Bush-bashing. Had Stephen Kinzer been a more astute reader, he could have taken his punditry to a higher level.

Consider this paragraph:

"Ahab was a tyrant who combined his business – finding oil – with the blind pursuit of personal vindication. Never was he able to see his plight from any perspective other than his own."

First, it wasn't Ahab's business. He was merely a captain in the employ of Quaker ship owners. Secondly, we don't see "Ahab's perspective" since the story is told through Ishmael. That's part of Melville's point.

And here's where Kinzer missed his best chance to bash Bush. Ahab has his "second-tier" crew hived away below decks until the ship sails. They emerge and take the ship into a new venture, away from mere whaling, and into Ahab's obsession. That "second crew" would be Cheney's national security team re-evaluating intelligence estimates on Iraq. Tsk-tsk.

What would be Europe's paradigmatic novel during this period of the rise of Islamofascism? One classic immediately comes to mind: _Oblomov_ by Goncharov, where we meet an epitome of indecision and triviality.

I can see the movie pitch: _Moby Dick_ meets _Oblomov_ as narrated by Dostoevsky's Underground Man. Sylvester Stallone as Ahab, Sean Penn as Oblomov, Underground Man voiceover by Anthony Hopkins. Halfway through the movie, a postmodern twist as the whole set is blown up, and the cast killed, by al-Qaeda, who resent, in the words of al-Zawahiri, that the US has elected a "house Negro," Queequeg, as President.

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