Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Honoring his bicentenary …

… Smelling sweet in our dust by Christoph Irmscher | The New Criterion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This is not, to be sure, the version of Melville most of us remember from high school or college classes, not the dark-timbred author of Moby-Dick or “Benito Cereno.” But while there’s a world of difference between a white kitten (“Blanche”) and a white whale, it’s not far-fetched to say that Melville’s light-hearted Montaigne poem also explores one of his most cherished themes: the much-needed demotion of the human point of view from its position of unearned superiority. Think of Starbuck in Moby-Dick, the Pequod’s first mate, who, unable and unwilling to challenge his unhinged captain, on the third day of chasing the whale suddenly sees what Ahab can’t or won’t, namely that Moby Dick has no interest in humans, that all he wants is to be left alone: “Moby Dick seeks thee not.”

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