December 6, 2006

Post Game: Moby-Dick

Post Game: Moby-Dick

After last night’s show I went home and read aloud with the family Melville’s famous and ever-amazing Chapter 42 in Moby-Dick, “The Whiteness of the Whale.” It is indeed a text about man’s war on terror. The T word recurs in three key passages of a short and unforgettable essay on the fetishizing of fear:

… This elusive quality it is, which causes the thought of whiteness, when divorced from more kindly associations, and coupled with any object terrible in itself, to heighten that terror to the furthest bounds.

Herman Melville, Moby- Dick

… Nor, in some things, does the common, hereditary experience of all mankind fail to bear witness to the supernaturalism of this hue. It cannot well be doubted, that the one visible quality in the aspect of the dead which most appals the gazer, is the marble pallor lingering there; as if indeed that pallor were as much like the badge of consternation in the other world, as of mortal trepidation here. And from that pallor of the dead, we borrow the expressive hue of the shroud in which we wrap them. Nor even in our superstitions do we fail to throw the same snowy mantle round our phantoms; all ghosts rising in a milk-white fog- Yea, while these terrors seize us, let us add, that even the king of terrors, when personified by the evangelist, rides on his pallid horse.

Herman Melville, Moby- Dick

… I know that, to the common apprehension, this phenomenon of whiteness is not confessed to be the prime agent in exaggerating the terror of objects otherwise terrible; nor to the unimaginative mind is there aught of terror in those appearances whose awfulness to another mind almost solely consists in this one phenomenon, especially when exhibited under any form at all approaching to muteness or universality.

Herman Melville, Moby -Dick

Read it all here: The Whiteness of the Whale.

As for the technical glitches with Susan Cheever’s phone line, we can’t pass along any explanations, only our own regrets, our engineer’s, and Susan’s. This from this morning’s inbox:

Whatever happened happened quite fast. At first the voices were dim and then dimmer and then almost impossible to hear. I tried just answering when you seemed to be asking a question but then realized that I couldn’t even hear when that was happening. Then it occurred to me that you might not be able to hear me, so I tried to exit gracefully but that may not have worked…

Susan Cheever, in an email to Open Source, December 6, 2006

Needless to say, we’re on the case to fix the problem. At least commenters miriama and David Weinstein seemed to have appreciated Susan’s (all too brief) participation.

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