I teach literature! I should know better!


My Bright Angels & Familiars series, as you may have noticed, has been delayed. Largely because of the holidays, but also because of the first book I’m reading on my new Nook. None other than, wait for it, Moby Dick.

I’ve never read Moby Dick. Why? Because it has hung on the periphery of my need-to-read list for, like, ever and I’ve never picked it up because I’ve been afraid of it? Why? I’m not sure. Because it’s long? Because it’s Great Art? Because it’s full of metaphors and stuff? Because if I don’t “appreciate” it I’ll be a philistine?

I’m not sure exactly, but the result is the same: I’ve been too intimidated to pick it up.

And guess what?

I love it! I can hardly put it down! It’s got lolzy jokes! And I haven’t even got on a whaling ship yet!

And yeah yeah sure: I can easily see why it’s a big deal — I already have half a dozen papers I could write (though I’m sure they’re already written — I don’t know anything about Moby Dick scholarship).

Why do we forget that writers write to be read? That they want people to like their books so they (readers) will buy their books so they (the writers) can keep stocked with quills and coffee and wifi. Sure, there are some people (I’m looking at you, James Joyce, and you, worshippers of James Joyce) who think being difficult is a virtue, but this is not normal. Writers write to be read. Even Great American Novels like Moby Dick and Huck Finn were meant to be read.

This line of thinking brought be back to the Mormon Lit Blitz, of which we have written a bit. When the contest was first announced, I was thinking we would be better off spending this effort on getting people to read things like Bright Angels & Familiars. But now I realize their method makes sense.

Most people don’t seem to believe a worthy MoLit exists. And those who are aware of it feel a bit towards it as I did towards Moby Dick (or still do towards, say, The Giant Joshua).

So one-thousand word entries (rules) are pretty brilliant. Who can be intimidated by four pages?

Because all that needs to be done, as I’m learning, is just to get someone started.

Call me Ishmael.

12 thoughts on “I teach literature! I should know better!”

  1. I”ve tried to get into Moby Dick a couple of times, but have failed each time. It’s just so dang long.

    But yeah, 1,000 words is great. I’m glad to see you get religion on the Mormon Lit Blitz.

  2. Yeah, I didn’t read Moby Dick until grad school, and I was so nervous about getting through it that I started it during Xmas vacation before the semester even got underway. To my surprise, I totally dug it, all aspects of it. I really look forward to reading it again sometime.

    I’m just finishing listening to Middlemarch, another grad school discovery. That is one seriously great book, another one that intimidates people but shouldn’t. I also love Vanity Fair and David Copperfield and other door-stoppers from the 19th century.

    Their common thread, for me, is that the people seem so human and real, with such satisfying, engaging characters. This is what makes them timeless for me, and they feel as fresh (or even fresher) than much contemporary literature.

  3. .

    Coincidentally, the other long book I added to my new Nook was Middlemarch. I’d never really thought of it until a recent article in the New Yorker about — an essay by a woman who loves it and has since high school and rereads it every couple of years. Who knew it was that kind of book!

    (Also: how did I post this on a Sunday?)

  4. First of all, thanks for the endorsement. We’ve been receiving a lot of Lit Blitz submissions lately, and I’m looking forward to reading them in two weeks and seeing how the contest goes.

    I’ve listened to the first half of Moby Dick twice, and enjoyed every bit of it. The reason I’ve never been able to finish the book is because I’ve always used a library audiobook copy, which always comes up due before I’ve finished. And I’ve never been able to renew it because someone else has always had it requested. I have to read it in a few months for my exams, though, and I intend to finish it this time.

  5. I have still never read Moby Dick. I did read Middlemarch last year and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

  6. No offense, Scott, but “check out the comments section” is never proof nor a good idea if we’re talking about the comments section of a daily newspaper.

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