"How now," he soliloquized at last, withdrawing the tube, "this smoking no longer soothes. Oh, my pipe! hard must it go with me if thy charm be gone! Here have I been unconsciously toiling, not pleasuring,—aye, and ignorantly smoking to windward all the while; to windward, and with such nervous whiffs, as if, like the dying whale, my final jets were the strongest and fullest of trouble. What business have I with this pipe? This thing that is meant for sereneness, to send up mild white vapors among mild white hairs, not among torn iron-grey locks like mine. I'll smoke no more—"
Seems fitting to have reached this passage on the third anniversary of quitting smoking. But that's old news. New news: I started reading Moby Dick again for the first time since 11th grade English, when I resentfully skimmed it just enough to pass the reading quizzes.
It's awesome. Really.
It's fairly slow going, even with the help of an online annotation, but the chapters are short and holy shit, the language and the character descriptions and the scope of the thing make it so fun to read. I am indignant that no one ever told me how fun, nor how funny, at least in parts:
"Landlord," said I, going up to him as cool as Mt. Hecla in a snow storm,—"landlord, stop whittling. You and I must understand one another, and that too without delay. I come to your house and want a bed; you tell me you can only give me half a one; that the other half belongs to a certain harpooneer. And about this harpooneer, whom I have not yet seen, you persist in telling me the most mystifying and exasperating stories, tending to beget in me an uncomfortable feeling towards the man who you design for my bedfellow—a sort of connexion, landlord, which is an intimate and confidential one in the highest degree. I now demand of you to speak out and tell me who and what this harpooneer is, and whether I shall be in all respects safe to spend the night with him. And in the first place, you will be so good as to unsay that story about selling his head, which if true I take to be good evidence that this harpooneer is stark mad, and I've no idea of sleeping with a madman; and you, sir, you I mean, landlord, you, sir, by trying to induce me to do so knowingly, would thereby render yourself liable to a criminal prosecution."
"Wall," said the landlord, fetching a long breath, "that's a purty long sarmon for a chap that rips a little now and then. But be easy, be easy, this here harpooneer I have been tellin' you of has just arrived from the south seas, where he bought up a lot of 'balmed New Zealand heads (great curios, you know), and he's sold all on 'em but one, and that one he's trying to sell to-night, cause to-morrow's Sunday, and it would not do to be sellin' human heads about the streets when folks is goin' to churches. He wanted to, last Sunday, but I stopped him just as he was goin' out of the door with four heads strung on a string, for all the airth like a string of inions."
This account cleared up the otherwise unaccountable mystery, and showed that the landlord, after all, had had no idea of fooling me—but at the same time what could I think of a harpooneer who stayed out a Saturday night clean into the holy Sabbath, engaged in such a cannibal business as selling the heads of dead idolators?
"Depend upon it, landlord, that harpooneer is a dangerous man.""He pays reg'lar," was the rejoinder.
Come on, that's pretty damn funny.
On the other hand, I am currently staring down the barrel of the infamous "Cetology" chapter. You know: whales, whales, sperm whales, killer whales, doofus whales, goddamn whales; big whales, little whales, whales whales whales, for like fifteen fucking pages. I reserve the right to change my mind about this whole endeavor after that.