30 August, 2008

of whales, grammar, and eavesdropping

Sitting down with a good book and the task of a three-page explication is a deeply enjoyable practice to me. Today I need to operate on the whiteness chapter in Moby Dick and I can't think of an assignment I'd rather have, reclining here in my bed at home, listening to M. Ward and Joanna Newsom (yes, really). Moby Dick has far surpassed my initial expectations. I read it for the first time when I was 16, which I now realize was too young to appreciate anything from this occasionally exhausting whaling epic. I hated it then, but now I've become something of a quiet fan. Melville is full of poetic surprises; you just have to wade through the minutiae to find them. It's worth it in the end, I believe.

One exemplary passage, stuck in the middle of a narrative from Ishmael about being tied to Queequeg while stabbing at a half-dead whale:

"I saw that this situation of mine was the precise situation of every mortal that breathes; only, in most cases, one way or other, has this Siamese connexion with a plurality of other mortals. If your bankers breaks, you snap; if your apothecary by mistake sends you poison in your pills, you die."

I like this observation and it strikes me as very Woolfian; that we are all tied to one another and thus we will all go down together. It also brings to mind what Alex Kirk was talking about at IV last Thursday, how all of humanity is hard-wired for community. Every facet of the human design is dependent upon relationships: biological, emotional, spiritual. And so the gospel has no function if it is divorced from the context of community.

Taking the News Editing class has revived my inner Grammar and Punctuation Stickler and I must admit I rather like having her back. It's like living with spicy, keen-eyed demons, being perpetually on the hunt for various stylistic peccadillos. The demons make you unpleasant to most everyone, and they are only satiated when they strike upon some poor fool's misplacement of an apostrophe or something of the same kind. I try to keep the vocal unpleasantness down to a low murmur, but I do so adore precision in language.

(Things Overheard Last Week)

The Funniest Question Ever Asked in an English Class
"That's ironic, right?" -- some kid who sits near me in American Novel

Decline of Faith in Modern Medicine
"I'm going to take them, but I know they're not going to do any good. Doctors are stupid, Mom, remember?" -- boy in flannel shirt in Lenoir

Evidently, he hasn't adventured in the Midwest
"Yeah, this was filmed in Illinois." -- Guion, remarking on the mountainous scenery of "Donnie Darko." The film was shot in the San Gabriel Mountains of California.

Really? We go to the same school?
"And then, I was like... Ohmygod, Amy! I lost my cell phone! ... Wait. I'm talking on it right now." -- girl, on her cell phone, walking through Winston.

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