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Penelope Schmitt (Wilmington, NC United States)
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Kafka [Import]
Kafka [Import]
4 used & new from CDN$ 21.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "A" for ATMOSPHERE, Feb. 22 2004
This review is from: Kafka [Import] (VHS Tape)
If understanding a writer's mind means that you want to go be in his world, this is your movie. While I am defeated by the impossibility of 'making sense' of what happens here in any real way that involves logical explanation, I believe the film well-represents the scary furnishings inside Franz Kafka's mind. It doesn't move back and forth between dream and reality. Instead, it combines the two seamlessly. Only in one scene, a 'pure' dream, does the film move into color. The rest of the time it is a beautiful, grainy-foggy-textured black and white. Prague is gorgeously captured in the b/w universe. The zither score reminds one of The Third Man, another film about the ruin and corruption of Europe. I especially like that the nightmare localities, particularly the Castle interior, are imagined and furnished as 1919 phenomena. As a tour de force of reliving the interior imaginations that might have haunted a writer like Kafka, it's pretty impressive. But as a connected plot or statement, it's not much account. I'd call it intensely and sensitively atmosphere-of-Kafka, but to murky and nebulous to rise too far above that.

Therese (Bilingual) [Import]
Therese (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Catherine Mouchet
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 179.48
7 used & new from CDN$ 56.14

4.0 out of 5 stars seeing a saint from the outside, Feb. 19 2004
This review is from: Therese (Bilingual) [Import] (DVD)
This intimate, intense little film shows the making of a saint 'from the outside.' When I first saw it, I was so impressed by the portrait of young Therese Martin that I learned all I could about the icon she became to the Roman Catholic World. The after-death publication of her stubby-pencil autobiography "The Story of a Soul" captured the attention of the devout. She rapidly came to be known as 'The Little Flower' or "St. Therese of Lisieux" and was canonized in 1927, becoming co-patroness of France with St. Joan of Arc, and a "doctor of the church". The film shows us this giant figure of the faith as she appeared within the hermitically sealed world of a Carmelite convent-a little girl with quietly extraordinary qualities. No music or heavenly light announces her holiness. The scenes are barren, the light is directional and shadowed, as in a Caravaggio painting. The film presents a series of vignettes, as though on as shallow stage. Within each one, she seems to seek to hide, not allowing herself to dramatize even her own illness and approaching death. But the reactions of other sisters reveal her. An elderly nun chooses her as confessor, surrendering to her the one private possession she has retained, against the rules, for 50 years. A confused and unhappy young sister responds to her clear-eyed and loving compassion. A crabby older sister showers her with flowers and asks her for the relic of a fingernail clipping, astonished that she is unable to withhold her homage. Most important, her Mother Superior, who alone knows her secret desire to become a great saint, requires that she write down the thoughts of her heart, knowing that they will be important. Believers will be moved, the merely curious may find themselves breathless.
One vignette in particular, stays with me as a beautifully rendered cinematic explication of her character. I have never in all my researches on St. Therese encountered a narrative that 'validates' the scene, but it has a haunting truthfulness. Therese is working in the kitchen with another sister. A box is delivered. When opened, it proves to contain a huge, live lobster. Therese boldly lifts it, though she is clearly frightened and awed by its claws and its repulsive appearance. But it is too large for her hand, and falls heavily to the floor, writhing and snapping on its back. She bends over, rights the thing, and picks it up. As she bends, blood streams from her mouth-a hemorrhage from the lungs, and the first sign we see in the film of the tuberculosis that will painfully kill her. She smiles radiantly to her companion sister, wiping the blood away, and saying that she 'bit her tongue.' Thus, Therese faces death. I am struck by this scene because it reflects another painful scene in Dostoevsky's novel, The Idiot. A tubercular young student recounts a nightmare in which he is trapped in a room with a huge scorpion he knows he cannot escape. His terror and horror at this entrapment by inexorable death contrast strongly with Therese's outward reaction, though we later learn that she, too, is afraid. The difference? She boldly asserts her fear as a test of her faith, and continues to give herself to the God she no longer can see.
I see that some reviewers have been unnecessarily disturbed by the young nun who is so attached to Therese. This isn't a sick modern-day attempt to introduce'lesbianism' into the convent. It illustrates that one of the great difficulties religious must face is the inevitable temptation to form special attachment to another individual. Such special, individual love IS a problem for those trying to focus all love on an invisible God. Watch closely. You will see that Therese knows her fellow sister is troubled. Clear-sightedly, but lovingly, she refuses to participate in that exclusivity. The disturbing scene in which this sister eats sputum Therese has coughed up from her dying lungs is clearly based in the girl's attempt to emulate the actions of St. Catherine of Siena, who drank water used to wash a leper's skin. This action is 'perverse' only to those who do not understand it as an attempt to participate sacrificially in another's human suffering. Where the young sister is 'wrong' is that she would do such an action 'for Therese' but probably not for a stranger who is, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta would put it "Jesus in a distressing disguise." Therese herself costantly reveals less self-dramatizing sacrifices in her 'Story of a Soul.' To some, she appears extremely neurotic. To me, her 'craziness' appears the insanity conferred by divine love. Such madness for love of God will always look bizarre to non-participants.

The Black Dahlia
The Black Dahlia
by James Ellroy
Edition: Paperback
41 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars darkness visible, Feb. 16 2004
This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Paperback)
This is not the work of a healthy mind. That doesn't mean that it's not brilliant, but be aware and be careful before you embark. You will probably have to finish what you start, and it is ultimately un-pretty. It's not too far a stretch to guess that Ellroy's own obsession with his mother's murder is playing out here, and the torment is ugly, graphic and real. Yet, like all truly talented and disciplined artists, Ellroy is able to make of his ghastly obsession an artistic statement about a society, a place, a time. His ULTIMATE 'solution' to the crime is not completely believable, because what happened to Betty Short, the 'Black Dahlia' is clearly the product of a private, unconscious descent into a particularly vile form of madness that he unconvincingly puts off on a character who can't really support the behavoir. But the grotesque characters met on the way down ARE real, and their lust for cruelty, death and dead things convincingly connects to ancient dramas of torture, and the 20th Century horror of the World War that ushered in a Century of atrocities founding a mountain of crazy profiteering on a grand scale. One is enormously grateful for the presence of a single character, Russ Millard (known aptly as "the Padre") who serves as a reminder that decency in some form does carry on. Otherwise, the police, the builders of the Hollywood hills, the film industry, and all powers north and south of the border seem devoted to a particularly foul living out of viler imaginings than most of us, fortunately, entertain in even our worst nightmares. To be honest, I finished this novel inclined simply to pray for Ellroy, and other direct and indirect victims of sexual violence, and that we and all the other Betty Shorts of the world should be spared.

L.A. Confidential
L.A. Confidential
by James Ellroy
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.14
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Noir saga with mythic journey at its heart, Feb. 4 2004
This review is from: L.A. Confidential (Paperback)
It's a spider web. It's a labyrinth, and the minotaur at its heart is both a psychotic murderer and the central selves of its three main characters. As a surface read, this novel is a stellar exemplar of the noir California genre. The Los Angeles it conjures up is both a nightmare and a reality (Johnny Stompanato, the gangster lover of Lana Turner, is a character, and his murder by Turner's daughter provides a final knife-twist in the plot). Ellroy's dark city exhibits more seething, foul vice crawling over itself than I have ever encountered between the covers of one book. Yet it turns out to be about the ultimate redemption, or at least coming to terms with self, of the three primary characters. Ed Exley, a privileged son whose apparently burnished war record is a sham; Jack Vincennes, whose weakness for pills and booze has led him into a shameful error he can't shake; and Bud White, who is trying to overcome his powerlessness to prevent his mother's brutal murder by finding wife-beaters and rapists and punishing them all to a bloody pulp. This trio of damaged and damaging cops all converge on an insanely ramified late night slaying at the Nite Owl cafe. It lines to prostitution, drugs, plastic surgery as a racket, harder than hard-core porn, organized crime, blackmail, extortion, and a host of petty and major criminals both inside the LAPD and outside. Ultimately, though, the lines go way further back by 35 years, to a series of child murders done to create a grotesque little eros--a thing composed of the wings of birds and parts of children. This horrific image should tip you off--you are in the presence of something more epic and mythic than mere noir. What these policemen are searching for and combating is the destruction of innocence and love--their own innocence and ability to love as well as the long-dead children. Ultimately, despite distrust, rivalry and even hatred, they combine forces and experience to untangle the whole ghastly mess. Vincennes dies redeemed by full confession to his loving wife, Bud pushes through tremendous temptations to succumb to Neanderthal violence to actually use his mind to fight evil, and Exley confronts his own and his father's secrets. The psychotic murderer at the root of it all proves to have been the kind of monster we keep inside ourselves--repeatedly altered by plastic surgery and imperfectly controlled by drugs, he keeps destroying until he is unmasked and dis-enabled. Finally--this IS a noir novel--the consciously wicked man remains standing, and powerful, at the close. Read it if you can. It's a hell of a trip to redemption.

Shadow of the Vampire (Widescreen)
Shadow of the Vampire (Widescreen)
DVD ~ John Malkovich
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 54.48
11 used & new from CDN$ 3.30

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars great acting, but incompletely developed ideas, Jan. 31 2004
Hmmm. Interesting film. Like many pieces of art that thinks about art, it gets a bit idea-ridden. But the thoughts are interesting, and Dafoe's performance as Schreck / Count Orloch is something divinely weird. Here is a movie with a genius makeup artist, who manages to re-create the vampire of Nosferatu (no creepier vampire has ever been shown on screen, I think) with exactitude . . . and Dafoe gives him PERSONALITY! It's not just the pity-the-monster pathos, though that's beautifully touched on when, alone in a cave, he begins reading from Tennyson's 'Tithonus' . . . "The woods decay, the woods decay and fall / the vapors weep their burthen to the ground / Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath / and after many a summer dies the swam.../ Me only cruel immortality consumes. . . " but the absurdity of his situation. He has read Dracula, he says, and finds it sad, because the poor count has no servants, and has to be seen by his guest serving the table, making up a meal he cannot partake. He feeds like an old man pees, he says, all at once or in drips. He ghoulishly stuffs down a passing bat like a Circus geek. He snorts and sniffs like one so long alone has has forgotten to have normal manners. After rudely smacking his lips feeding greedily on the desired maiden (no maiden indeed!) he snores in piggy satiation. He is awful and repellant, and very, very funny at the same time. Malkovich's Murnau is a little less of a delight. The whole idea of his character--one so obsessed with creating immortal (or should we say undying?) art that he is willing to expose his cast and crew to the depradations of the real vampire thing, is a sort of mad scientist joke that has all the manifest and hard-to-believe stupidity it usually does in the old horror flicks. He keeps cranking away at the camera while Orloch snaps necks and sucks noisily on the heroine's throat. He has striven so hard for verisimilitude that he is willing to have a rogue creature on the set, but then he complains peevishly when the count dares to commit a murder in such a way as to spoil the composition in the frame. Still, what he says about art and film is telling, and memorable. The director is meant to show us another sort of monster, I guess--the kind who gets so in the grip of an idea about imitating reality that he wittingly or unwittingly shoots a snuff film. This is a level of irresponsibility it's a bit hard to accept. But then, of course, it's a level of irresponsibility in our minds because we rapidly come to believe that Orloch either believes he is the real thing or IS the real thing . . . and how real is THAT???? Meanwhile the cast and crew continue to accept his unpleasant presence as that of a method actor who takes his art very seriously. It's a clever hall of mirrors in which not all the characters have reflections. The incorporation of footage from Nosferatu is done extremely well and seamlessly. And yes, there is irony in recalling that one of the first things done in film, was to put on deathless celluloid the moving life & murderous acts of the undead.

Godric
Godric
by F Buechner
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.27
35 used & new from CDN$ 1.88

5.0 out of 5 stars saintliness & poetry hiding in plain sight, Oct. 13 2002
This review is from: Godric (Paperback)
Two thirds of my first time through Frederic Beuchner's re-imagining of the story of Godric, I realized that I had been reading blank verse for page after beautiful page. The beauty, earthy comedy, and plain-spokenness of the tale were so far uppermost in my mind that my ear didn't even calculate the music it was enjoying at first. Godric-Deric-Godericus-Drick-Godric bawls his story with such epic wrathfulness and lullabies it with such unearthly tenderness that we take it for the beating of our own blood, and not the mostly iambic measure. In the same way, Godric's self-knowledge, his all-too-human grief and shame at the imperfect acts of an imperfect life, and his savage irony at the biographer sent to him by his friend, serve to cast his saintliness into the shadows of a life lived ever in the presence of his own shadow self. But if we read with the eye of an open heart, the gentle, courteous irony is that Godric emerges for us much as the saint his medieval hagiographer, Reginald, would have had us believe him to be. Indeed, perhaps more the saint, because Godric makes us party to all the darker details of his struggle toward God. This is not an expose of the unseemly details behind the gilded sweetness of a medieval golden legend. It is an exigesis of a human heart. We are made, by singing Godric's song with him, raging his rages, freezing with him in the River Wear, to understand things at some level that no 20th century mind easily understands--punishing the flesh in freezing water and chafing irons, immuring oneself in a wood with not but a pair of serpents for companions, leaving off a life of prosperity for a life of privation, setting God above any mental, spiritual, or heart's ease, seeing visions, dreaming dreams, groveling in prayer until one's knees are callused, believing to the very depths of self there is a God and that God shows himself to us as the Blessed Virgin, or as a face made of leaves. The Godric of history is said to have been born about the time of William the Conquerer and to have lived a hundred years or more. The time, then, includes some of the same years readers of the popular Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters will have encountered. It's a holy side trip from the cozy monastic whodunits to explore the isolated woodlands near Durham, and enter more fully the lives of the poor and dispossessed of those hard times. I have just finished reading this brief book a second time. I'm sure I'll read it many more, for love and pity's sake, for God visiting Godric, and for the music.

The Deptford Trilogy: Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders
The Deptford Trilogy: Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders
by Robertson Davies
Edition: Paperback
60 used & new from CDN$ 0.35

5.0 out of 5 stars Davies' masterwork--a life changing read, Sept. 8 2002
I can't keep a copy of The Deptford Trilogy. Within a week of my umpteenth reading I always find myself pressing it on some friend or relative. Why? Well, when a revelatory experience has been FUN for you, you want to pass it on. Robertson Davies genius is infused with the comic, not the tragic view of life. But this does not mean he is shallow. Indeed, he is a writer who--particularly through this three-part novel--opened my mind up to contemplating the nature of the saints, the works of Carl Jung, and the need to be aware of the dark side of my own personality. And this was fun??? You bet. As a creator of breathtakingly interesting, fast-moving, unpredictable plots, Davies has no peer. There IS a 'basic plot'. . . a Canadian youth or maiden starts out in some tiny, narrow provincial town, by some means or other is transported to Europe, and there encounters experiences so deeply transforming that he or she becomes a most fascinating and mysterious personage. I really don't want to spoil the adventure for you by recounting it. Let it be enough for me to say that while you are on the rollercoaster of fate with the main character in each of these stories, you are fascinated, enlightened, and sometimes so amused that you laugh out loud, yet the things that are happening are profound. Davies has mastery of all the subjects that come up, and of many voices. He can deliver both the flat, crude lingo of a backwoods cynic and the sophisticated, accented polish of the worldly-wise European magus. He whisks one of his characters from a dreary Baptist parsonage to a backwoods hell of a carney show and thence to the world of 19th century British theater, with all its scenery, costume, technique and raffish charm intact. He makes you believe that a weak-minded woman considered by all to be crazy is a saint. He introduces you to a brilliant attorney whose ferocious self discipline leads him to a spectacular mental breakdown and a trip to Zurich for perhaps the most fascinating Jungian analysis you will ever encounter. And it is fascinating because you explore yourself and your own being, as he is recounting the story of his life. The whole story of the novel in all its glorious variety originates in a single action--illustrating both subtly and dramatically Davies' contention that no action is ever lost or trivial. Two boys are coming home from school at nightfall in a Canadian village. One maliciously puts a stone in a snowball and pitches it at the other. It doesn't hit the intended victim, but instead the weak-minded wife of the Baptist parson. The life stories of the two boys and the child of the parson and his wife become the three novels of the trilogy. This novel was pressed upon me by a friend, and --as I said at the beginning -- I have pressed it on several others. Without exception, they have read as I did, with excitement, pleasure, and a sense of encountering something important and new which changed the way we thought about the world. And the change is something like this--Davies gives a sense of possibility and wonder in life. He SHOWS that people can begin in the most shabbily, narrowly ordinary of circumstances, and yet that they can flower into extraordinarily consequential, interesting people with beautiful experiences of life. This truly is divine comedy. Enjoy it!

Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
115 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars sin is complicated, redemption simple, Aug. 8 2002
When I was a literature student in college, Ray Malbone, the professor who taught the English Novel said to us on the first day of class "You are here to save your souls." What he meant was, that great novelists are always aiming to persuade you to enter into and adopt their worldview. Dostoevsky was literally out to 'save the soul' of Russia from the corruption of alien thinking that had invaded her intellectual life and dragged her people away from simple orthodoxy.
One generally reads this novel as a young person, when one is, like Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, experimenting with extreme ideas. Don't be even momentarily deceived by all the excursions into Neitsche-like ideas of freedom from restraint. Instead, recognize that Dostoevsky was not just a religious conservative but an outright reactionary, and you won't lose your way in any of the tangled thoughts and specious arguments that tangle young Rodya's literally and figuratively fever-tortured brain. Make no mistake about it, Rodya has sinned against God and his neighbor, and he must be 'born again' to get out of the dreadful mess he's wandered into.
So what makes this novel not a tract that would bore us, but a deeply moving psychic journey that draws us with its tension and distress?
First, this isn't really a story about what a murderer is like. For that, go and read "The Devils" or "The Brothers Karamazov" in which you will see the disgusting and horrifying spectacles of lost souls working out their foul destinies. Rodion is NOT like a murderer. That is the most striking thing about him. Indeed, almost any reader will admit to having identified with him and feeling great sympathy for his anguish at almost all times during the novel. He deeply loves his mother and sister. We learn that he has done heroic actions in saving children from a fire. He finds himself again and again unable to restrain impulses of the deepest generosity--saving an abandoned and drunken waif from a predatory man, listening with compassion to a drunkard, carrying that same drunkard home when he is broken and dying, emptying his pockets to the last kopeck to help his family, treating the man's young, prostituted daughter with respect and honor. To Dostoevsky, Rodya represents the finest among young Russian intellectuals.
What happens to him then? He becomes possessed or obsessed with those French-German ideas that have invaded the motherland. It's not so much that he THINKS his way to this murder, as that the depraved philosophies of the west get into him like a bacterium or a virus and possess his will, until he is compelled to carry out an action he knows beforehand (as he realizes afterward) will make him know that he is 'no better than a louse.'
The true greatness of the novel is in Dostoevsky's astonishingly acute observation of every thought, grimace, and piece of behavior produced by Raskolnikov when he is in this sick state of mind and soul. Hard to remember that the novel was written well before modern psychiatric theory was propounded--so precisely does Dostoevsky distinguish each outward and visible sign of the unconscious drive toward truth, confession, and atonement that possesses Raskolnikov's whole being the moment the compulsion to do murder has its denouement in ghastly action.
I give this novel four stars not because it isn't great--it is--but because Dostoevsky went on to write far greater things. This is best read first among Dostoevsky's novels, because later ones are darker and more difficult to decipher. Readers won't be a bit lost in this straightforward wtory, as long as they hold fast to the knowledge that Christianity--specifically Russian Orthodox Christianity as opposed to Roman Catholicism--is where Dostoevsky keeps his moral center firmly fixed.

Penguin Classics Little Dorrit
Penguin Classics Little Dorrit
by Charles Dickens
Edition: Paperback
14 used & new from CDN$ 0.39

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars maturing beyond the prison of self, July 22 2002
This is my personal favorite among Dickens novels, fully equal to Bleak House, though not nearly as widely read or admired. Most reviewers miss the fact that debtors prisons had long been closed before Dickens wrote the novel, so 'reform' was in no way its objective. What he really wanted to explore was self-imprisonment. His main character, Arthur Clennam, has been imprisoned by family strictures all his life. Denied love as a child, exiled from his sweetheart as a young man to an outpost of the family business in China, left by his father only with a watch inscribed 'DNF' meaning 'do not forget' (what he doesn't know) Arthur returns to England. We first see him 'imprisoned' in quarantine with others who suffer spiritual incarcerations of their own. The spiritual heart of this novel is the story of how Arthur loses hope that he can 'go home again' and pick up with his old life, how he reconstructs a personal life and satisfying work, and how he endures the collapse of the past and all its guilty debts, ultimately being set free to live life on a new foundation. This novel will hearten those who have arrived in the middle of our lives feeling that like Arthur, we stand among ruins, 'descending a green and growing tree' whose limbs die and wither under us as we come down. But when he is finally stripped of everything, Arthur gains all. While this great bildungsroman of maturity is being carried forward, Dickens offers a wealth of characters, plots, and subplots that will keep Dickens lovers turning pages in well-founded faith that Boz will once again knit all together in a satisfying tapestry of incident and meaning. It could be summed up as "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." All the characters are jailed by something--Little Dorrit herself by her prison home, her father by his dependency and pathetic grasping for reputation. Blandois, the wicked murderer, shows up first in a Marseilles prison and bestrides the plot with his vile presence. Arthur's mother stays voluntarily imprisoned in a decaying house and her wheelchair, and worse, in wrath and jealousy. We also meet a housemaid trapped in uncontrollable rage, the woman who abducts her, walled in pride and hatred, a young woman trapped in adoration of a worthless husband, parents frozen in grief over a lost child, a financier transfixed with the knowledge of his own falsity . . . and more. Secrets, nightmares, murders, lost deeds and treasure, stolen fortunes, all abound in this vivid and satisfying plum pudding of a novel. Modern readers may weary of the satirical chapters on 'the Circumlocution Office'--but they're no worse than the treatment of the Court of Chancery in Bleak House. The best of this novel is that it is not all written just for the satisfactory settlement of some young person, but rather for the arrival at full maturity of a man who is already adult at the novel's opening. Arthur (one remembers that Britain's legendary king bore that name) rescues others from despair, and finally learns to let others so rescue him. This is a redemptive novel, that shows us it is possible to see that we are inside the prison of who we've been taught we are, and believe we can't stop being, and it is possible to break beyond those prison walls and 'go down to a life' of quiet decency and common happiness. A great, grownup read!

Moby-Dick: or, The Whale (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
Moby-Dick: or, The Whale (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
by Herman Melville
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.00
36 used & new from CDN$ 9.87

5.0 out of 5 stars STILL the one and only GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL, July 8 2002
Let anyone who dares try to surpass it, Melville's Moby Dick remains and probably will remain forever untouched as THE American masterpiece. Where else can you find a novel about an activity that has all but perished from the earth--at least in its 19th century form and purpose--that stays fresh as hot blood and silvery as sea-wrack in the mind? Where else can you find such a magnificent, encyclopedic grasp of western philosophy, theology, mythology and classical literature, handled with high humor--as though the whales themselves were batting those great themes and ideas about among their flukes? Where else but Shakespeare will you find a cast of characters of such variety and stature, with such resonant voices? Where else such immediate journalism of the daily life aboard a whaler? Where else such beautifully turned small essays, that seem like the journal entries recorded yesterday by a clever and educated man aboard a ship sailing now in some eternally present ocean? Where else will you go deep into details of filth and gore and hardest physical labor utterly foreign to your own life, and emerge considering how you will live out tomorrow? If it's an effort to keep up with Melville's mind, make the effort to keep a reference book hard by. You will emerge the wiser from the struggle to understand it all. Or if you don't want to be bothered with that, just NOTICE how much you SEE when he is describing sights and operations you surely have never seen before. This novel is so much more than a summary of its lance-straight trajectory of a plot can convey. Because Melville has freed himself--who knows how--to use every method he can think of to expand the Pequod into a universe of humans being human, mad or inhuman, dramas unfolding, specific work being done, nature inspiring us with awe, meditations mused upon. And the whale, his whiteness, and his magisterial, inscrutable power, truly is 'the unknown God.' When we see him in the last chapters surging among the boats it is like watching God pass on the waters. That tangle of lances and cables, that corpse freight Fedallah on his back, are like all the futile attempts of theologies to capture God and lash him to our little human craft and try out his essential oil. We'll never do it, and this novel will never sink. Sometimes, inexplicably, human talent touches the sublime. Melville saw God's face, and has lived to tell us.

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