intense sensations

America’s revenge on Britain

Posted on: January 19, 2013

Moby-DickMoby-Dick by Herman Melville
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I suppose lacking the voluminous literary heritage of England, Americans tend to latch onto any big book as a possible contender for the Great American Novel that they are always desperately seeking. It helps its chances if the book is also indigestible. That way the Brits are unlikely to read it and challenge its literary supremacy.

Hence, I suppose, the lasting appeal of Moby Dick. Who is going to read it in this day and age? Its supremacy is assured for all time.

I like to plunge into its yawning depths and immerse myself in the great shroud of its frothing prose as an antidote to Twitter. It’s fun to read it in Starbucks, especially now we have freezing fog in London and treacherous ice on the streets. America, what have you given to Britain? You’ve closed all their bookshops thanks to Amazon. You’ve replaced all their pubs with coffee shops. You’ve doomed them to a high street without record shops thanks to Apple and iTunes. You suck up all their spare cash into your great maw and you construct labyrinthine corporate shelters to avoid paying any tax in the UK. It’s genius. What sweet revenge for the all the wrongs inflicted on you by Mad King George.

But you’ve at least given them Moby Dick, a seething epic that teaches them not to go chasing after phantoms and break their necks on a brick wall. Good advice, incidentally, to anyone who feels they ought to read this novel but is put off by its sheer bulk. It is a whale of a book and you chase it down at your peril.

I do wonder where the female characters are. Ishmael clinging to Queequeg’s coffin to avoid a watery doom is about as close as we get to a love story.

But it’s a wicked book. Wicked and wild. I like to think the great white whale is a metaphor for all of us women giving men the run around: the fathomless mask of the unknown but still reasoning vortex at the heart of men’s tragically turbulent universe.


5 Responses to "America’s revenge on Britain"

I re-read Moby Dick a couple of years ago and it has lost none of its brilliance, since I last read it as a teenager and am now on the rundown end of my years! I guess it’s more a tale of male bonding and how tough things were back then, the reason for no female involvement, although the early scene in the lodgings seemed borderline homosexual!
I love your writing Vanessa and have recently started collecting your books on my Kindle. Thanks for keeping me randy as I get older. Brian

Yes, I was a bit surprised when Queequeg got into bed with Ishmael and even more surprised when Ishmael got out of bed to beseech a slippering from his stepmother. But it’s literature, Brian. Who am I to question it? I am only delighted that such a literate reader as yourself finds something to like in my humble works.

Thanks for your reply Vanessa. Don’t belittle your work by calling it humble. You write beautifully and powerful enough in its sensuality to stimulate people sexually, That is admirable, well, it is in my liberated mind anyhow! You have inspired me to write again and it is the writing from personal experiences that has shown the way, as opposed to trying to be a story writer, and they say truth is stranger than fiction! I just read your Lure of the Feminine, Appointment with Pleasure, and it so came close to an experience of my own in a Bangkok Hotel, except the Lady Masseur was a rather large & not very pretty Thai, but she certainly knew what buttons to press, & aroused me to the extent that he would not go down afterwards. She offered to come to my room to finish the job & I accepted, which was a very weird ending. They say Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but when aroused like that I love everybody. It is a part of my personality that I see beauty in people where others do not, maybe I just love people? I just read “Earthly Powers” by Anthony Burgess, it is an old book, that must have shocked at the time and is very Gay but a wonderful story, that must also have included personal experiences. Can I run some of my writing by you in future?
Thanks again, Brian

I also like Earthly Powers, though I haven’t read it all. I bought my copy second hand and it doesn’t smell very nice. I was planning to review it on my blog some time back but it was one of the ones that got away. Glen Duncan credited that book as an inspiration for his prose style in The Last Werewolf, which I did review. Earthly Powers has been out of print for some time but I’m glad to say that Europa Editions have revived it. I’m not sure if their edition is out yet. I need to check. I am going to champion Europa Editions this year. They are publishing a lot of books I want to read. They also published Viola Di Grado’s book that I reviewed earlier this month. That’s what brought them to my attention. By all means run your writing by me. My email address is on my “About” page. Thanks for your kind words about my writing.

Lovely post.

I love the idea of having an antidote to Twitter, although I am not sure Moby Dick is the right one for me.

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