Shore leave ends

Last night I finished The Secret Commonwealth (Vol 2 of Pullman’s follow-up series to His Dark Materials) and sent it back (virtually, and virtuously) to the NYPL. By now, another patient reader has begun this dark and compelling tale. I noted parallels to current events (I’ll reveal no more than that), and had a brief moment of “That too?!?” about three-quarters of the way through. But then I remembered that I’m doing something similar with my own WIP, and just let myself fall deeper into Lyra’s world.

This year’s NaNo theme is so much fun.

As for my WIP — writing is progressing well, but slowly, and I’ll be on forced hiatus (for a pleasant reason) for a couple of weeks. But I’ve mapped out all the remaining chapters, many of which are already drafted — so maybe this draft is 70% finished. What’s even more exciting, with the help of my daughter, I finally filled in the last plot-hole. It was a big one, so I’m greatly relieved to have that repair in place.

And now I can get back to Moby-Dick. But before I start the next chapter (#68, so I’m past the halfway point), I just want to say a few quick words about Ishmael as unreliable narrator. In my last post, I warned everyone to watch out, because he makes up things. His chapter on the crow’s-nest, for instance, sounds like academic research but is, in fact, mostly humbug. But Ishmael has a clever sense of humor about it all — a bit like winking at the reader, especially with his footnotes — and is easy to forgive.

As for those footnotes, read them. They’re important. Melville, as Ishmael, is building a complex picture of American ingenuity, a mix of barbarity and inventiveness. Whalers, over the centuries, have invented all kinds of gadgets to ease the task of strip-mining the ocean’s wealth — ambergris, spermaceti, oil, meat — but there’s no avoiding the brutality of the process. You can move it below deck, but it’s still a bloody, stinky, cruel, dangerous mess.

A long time ago, a friend returning from a year in Norway brought me a can of whale meat. I kept that can for years, an object lesson of a strange sort. By the time I got rid of it (about the mid 1980s, I think), it had evolved from an interesting piece of art into a terrible reminder of what living on this planet demands.

Dear readers: try to make good choices.

About Lizzie Ross

in no particular order: author, teacher, cyclist, world traveler, single parent. oh, and i read. a lot.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Am reading, Am revising, Fantasy, NaNoWriMo, Seafaring, short stories and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Shore leave ends

  1. Jeanne says:

    As in any mixture, sometimes we get too much barbarity and not enough inventiveness.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Calmgrove says:

    Good to hear of your progress, Lizzie, and getting a reminder of the massive downsides of 19th-century whaling.

    I’m progressing slowly through Ishmael’s narrative because of my habit of hopscotching from title to title — though I knew this would be the case — and have been diverted by another tale with an element of seafaring, John Masefield’s The Midnight Folk. This has more marine-based scenes than I recall from reading it in, what, the eighties? But I should be posting a report from the captain’s log in a week or so, hopefully before the end of November.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. buriedinprint says:

    I’ve been saying that I want to reread His Dark Materials since The Book of Dust was published. At this point, I’m thinking I’ll squeeze in a couple of other series before book three is published and, then, dive in – er, jump in – with both feet. Glad to hear that it was so enjoyable. And relevant.

    Liked by 1 person

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