On this day in 1851, Moby Dick was published. I admit to having a fascination/obsession with this book.
I lived in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where Herman Melville once also lived. (He also lived in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where I was born). The parts of the novel that took place on land are set in New Bedford. Just like in the book, there really is a chapel, called the Seaman’s Bethel, with memorials on the wall to the sailors and fishermen lost at sea.
New Bedford hosts a Moby Dick Marathon every January, where the novel is read out loud in 25 hours, on-site at the Whaling Museum and Seaman’s Bethel. I attended three of them, stayed for the duration, and read a couple of chapters out loud. If you stay (a small crew, to be sure), you get your name in the paper, and a free book related to Moby Dick (one year the prize was actually an academic work about the marathon itself).
The holding power of this book astonishes me. The interest from people all over the country who travel for the marathon, the locals who stay up all night once a year to hear it read out loud, the artists who still make fresh artwork based on this story…
There’s another book I love, called On Beauty and Being Just that talks about this phenomenon of loving something beautiful, like a work of art, and replicating it with another work of art to put more beauty into the world.