I will not put Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (published 1851) on my favorite books list because it’s simply not a favorite novel (I shudder at each description of whale blubber). And yet, I must give Moby-Dick a solid five stars out of five for the rich reading experience it provides. I simply loved reading it. Much as other great works in world literature, such as War and Peace and Hamlet or (maybe) even East of Eden, Moby Dick gives innovative depth and breadth to a majestic subject, creating a universal epic of good and evil in the guise of a novel about something that may otherwise seem insignificant.
Moby-Dick is about much more than a whaling ship’s voyage, the biology of a whale, or even an insane whale-ship captain’s revenge on a whale. Reading Moby-Dick is a cultural experience, and the novel itself is a marvel in the detail Melville provides to create a composite picture of the mid-nineteenth century America. In addition, despite the clear setting (it could not be the same story without the whale hunting and whale fact digressions), the story is a universal one: fate versus choice, good versus evil, sanity versus insanity, God versus man. (more…)
If you follow my twitter stream, you may have noticed that in the last few days a few complaint tweets about the never-ending nature of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Well, it ended. This morning I finished the last fifteen pages. My book club discusses it tomorrow night, but I wanted to record my initial impressions on having finished. I’m hoping that our discussions will convince me to try it again….maybe in a decade or so. (more…)
I wanted to join Richard’s Dante readalong this summer, I really did. I decided that, since I loved reading Homer’s The Iliad and was planning on reading Virgil soon, I could read Dante this summer without too much trouble. Why not? I love classic epics.
I read up on the whys behind each translation, I got four different translations from the library, and I compared them. I decided on the Hollander translation, and I began reading. To my surprise, I understood every single word. It was beautiful! To my further surprise, I was bored to death. I had no idea what was going on. Let me rephrase that: due to the extensive notes, I know what is going on. I just cannot care less for it. I see no point.
I have read more than half of Inferno, and I’ve decided I am done for now. I suspect that this is one of those cases in which I’m reading at the wrong time in my life. I’ll try again in a few years. (more…)
And so, I come to the end of Paradise Lost. If you’re still reading it, feel free to leave your thoughts whenever you do finish it. There is no time limit to this project: read at your own pace and join in when you’ve finished.
For myself, I don’t think I “understood” it any better than I did the first time I read it seven years ago. That time, I was discussing it in a classroom. This time, I read it for enjoyment. We have been discussing it online, and I’ve been trying to further discussion through relevant questions and my own comments. I’ve come to a little bit of a discovery, though: everyone reads things in such a unique way that it’s very difficult to create relevant questions and it’s difficult to answer questions about something so huge as Milton’s Paradise Lost, even if you’re the one creating the questions to begin with. I think I need to read it a few more times in my life in order to better “discuss” it in any format.
This post, then, is a bit different. I leave us all with a series of related questions. My thoughts follow the jump.
- What was Paradise Lost about from your perspective? What did it mean to you as you read it?
- Milton says in the beginning that he wrote it to “justify the ways of God to men” (I.26). Did he succeed?
- In the end, what did you take away from Milton’s epic?
How is Paradise Lost coming along for you who are reading along?
I admit that I slowed down a little bit in the last two weeks (hence, there was no Paradise Lost post last week). I got a head cold and I don’t think Milton is best considered on a cloudy brain. But, there is still a week left in the month, and I suspect I’ll still be reading Milton into the first week(s) of June. Once I picked up Milton again recently, I felt I needed to keep going. There seems to be some kind of momentum that comes from reading, and I always enjoy it once I do pick up Paradise Lost.
Discussion questions and thoughts on Books 7-9 after the jump. (more…)