Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Fascination of the Sea


I find it kind of funny how completely fascinating a subject becomes once I've decided to make it part of a book.

Back in 11th grade I did a brief report on Herman Melville, and after seeing him described as one of the best writers who ever lived I determined to read Moby-Dick “some day.” Every few years I would pick it up, read a chapter or so, and then never continue. It isn't exactly an easy book to get lost in.

But recently, owing entirely to the subject matter of my current WIP (tentatively titled The Never Silent), I've decided to read Moby-Dick for real. It was written only four years after The Never Silent takes place, and, like TNS, it involves a voyage on sea. So far I've read 100 pages, and I'm actually enjoying it this time.

In particular I've marked a few quotes that really struck me. Here's one, only a few pages into the book:

“meditation and water are wedded forever”

One of the things that makes great quotes so great for me is that I know immediately what the person is talking about. Perhaps for some people the above quote doesn't mean as much, but for me it immediately transports me back eight years and several thousand miles to a beach in northern Wales.

I was there for a weekend during the summer with a small group of other students. We were about to leave for Cambridge later in the day, but that morning we had some time and chose to spend it along the rocky gray beach. The place was deserted but for us, despite the city (Rhyl) being decently large, though I suppose the early hour and overcast sky made it less appealing.

A long beam of wood jutted out from the shore—a sort of pier perhaps, though it was hardly a foot thick. I walked out along it as far as I could go and stood looking at the sea.

I'm not entirely sure I could describe what I felt. Or perhaps The Never Silent is my attempt to convey that feeling of weighty nostalgia that consumed me there on the edge of the sea. It was almost as if the lonely gray water carried all the memories of all the world, and if only I listened closely enough I would gain something by them.

So when I read that quote in Moby-Dick, I felt all those memories once again crashing against the shore, and I remembered what the ocean means to me. It's a wild, unkempt place, and, at least for the duration of The Never Silent, it's the most fascinating place on earth.

15 comments:

  1. Ooh, I love that quote. So true, especially when immersed in it. Gotta keep that one in the memory bank. :)

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  2. Indeed :) It's not a difficult quote to memorize.

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  3. I often wish I could memorize quotes better. Even that one, I'll probably have to come back to this blog to remember it. I do remember "Moby Dick" being one powerful story, especially towards the end.

    The only thing that book that did start to drive me nuts is it does the same thing as "The Grapes of Wrath": every other chapter breaks away from the main plot to examine a different aspect of the setting. Some of these chapters are good, others are not, but they always throw you out of what's going on in the characters' lives at that moment.

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    1. Normally I think that would frustrate me too, but I'm actually glad to have those chapters--they're great for research as they give a detailed look at life in that time period.

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  4. Let me know when you get to the chapter about the coin on the mast and what it symbolized. If Melville had been in my critique group, I would have complained about that one. :)

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    1. Totally don't remember that chapter. I do remember the one about the whale's forehead, though. It was like a page and a half long and... pointless. XD

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    2. Just finished reading a chapter on the classification of whales. I was amused by how pompously he asserted that whales were fish, all evidence to the contrary.

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  5. One of the big revelations for me when reading the book was that whaling relies on the low intelligence of whales. The creature can easily escape the fight by swimming down, or turning and ramming the boat (in the latter case, the old sailing ships didn't stand a chance).

    After hearing for years about the mysterious intelligence communicated in whale song (e.g. the Star Trek movie), I realized that whatever information the music may contain, the beasts never learned to add the words "swim down if attacked" into their lyrics.

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    1. Kind of makes you wonder... what is it that we're not saying, despite all our intelligence? What's our "swim down if attacked"?

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    2. "Assume the fetal position."

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  6. Came back to take a little stroll through your blog. #notstalking #notusinghashtagsoutsideoftwitter

    But OMG "Or perhaps The Never Silent is my attempt to convey that feeling of weighty nostalgia that consumed me there on the edge of the sea. It was almost as if the lonely gray water carried all the memories of all the world, and if only I listened closely enough I would gain something by them."

    I have felt that before!!! You put it so eloquently too. Love it.

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    1. I think you're my new favorite person, Bridget. #justsaying #hashtagparty

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    2. Mutual! I am just going to DM you my e-mail address now #oceansouls #writerloveatfirstsight Twitter is doing this a lot for me lately, so many great people!

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