And Now for a Much Deserved Moment of Insanity

After finishing with Fitzhugh, I'm going to need a bath. I chose a return to the waters of Melville for Moby Dick. I know the reading list doesn't quite make sense, but believe or not, it's all still tied to slavery, the Civil War and a bound society.

Anyway I downloaded Moby Dick today (for free!) and re-read the opening paragraph. Somehow, some way, I forgot the beauty of the opening paragraph:

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago -- never mind how long precisely -- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off -- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

This is the greatest paragraph in any work of fiction, at any point, in all of history. And not just human history, but galactic and extra-terrestrial history too. 

It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation.

Melville disrupts Romulans! 

Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul..

Melville blinds Uatu!

Whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet...

Melville is brief with Galactus, and leaves him nameless! 

Whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off

Melville eats Klingons like part of a complete breakfast!!

Melville! Melville! Melville!!!!

Do not come to me with your drab and sorry works which I have not read. Melville desecrates their temples, steals their horses, and howls among the lamentation!

Do not come to me with your lectures on the tyranny of Dead, Straight White Male Writers. They're great! I love them all! Even Henry James's boring-ass!! 

This is my substitute for pistol and ball...

Damn right. Melville! Melville! Melville!!!!
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In