Posts Tagged ‘Moby Dick’
May 1, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
January 29, 2013 | by James Santel
Nostalgia is a dangerous feeling to indulge. It transforms other people, including old versions of one’s self, into figures whose lone purpose is to lend texture and credence to a diorama of the past. And just as an elementary-school diorama of, say, a Roman frontier fortress, no matter how meticulously researched and constructed, can never convey the totality of what it would have been like to stand sentry in Germania circa 70 A.D., so the version of the past constructed by nostalgia is a distortion, albeit one that relies upon memory (itself a kind of distortion, as neuroscience tells us) and experience to weave what is in essence a fairy tale.
Nostalgia’s refractions aren’t limited to people, of course. Its influence extends to places, too, refusing to acknowledge that places have presents and futures—presents and futures that often don’t involve one’s self, hence the willingness to ignore them—but only pasts: your pasts. Whenever I visit the University of Chicago, for instance, Hutch Courtyard is never Hutch Courtyard, a pleasant flagstone enclave that’s served as a favored warm-weather gathering spot for generations of undergraduates, but instead the place where I sat reading Moby-Dick when I learned that my grandmother had died. That’s it. All of the hopes and dreams, joys and fears toted through that spot by millions of human beings for more than a century, brushed aside by my solipsistic longing for a past that wasn’t nearly as honey colored in the living as it is in the remembering. I recall seeing a picture of Prince Charles passing through Hutch Courtyard during a 1977 visit and thinking, There’s Prince Charles walking right by the spot where I was when I heard that Grandma died. Nostalgia, which presents the past as a meadow of boundless possibility, is actually quite constricting. Read More »
November 16, 2012 | by J. D. Daniels
At last I had begun writing my long-planned book about Captain Ahab’s doomed enterprise in Moby-Dick—about Robur’s doomed enterprise in Verne’s Maître du Monde—about the doomed enterprise of Doctor Hans Reinhardt from the 1979 science-fiction film The Black Hole.
Eleven thousand words in, and may God grant that I learn it sooner next time or else not at all, I understood with blinding clarity that my book itself was another doomed enterprise.
As Don Quixote said: y yo hasta agora no sé lo que conquisto a fuerza de mis trabajos—I do not even know what I am conquering.
“Master of the world”! Robur-le-Conquérant!—what a delusion! what a farce! The quintessence of megalomania: Richard Wagner named his dog Robur.
November 9, 2012 | by The Paris Review
Not long ago I had the honor of officiating at the wedding of a Swede and a Russian Jew. It was not a religious ceremony (unless you count the Universal Life Church), but when the three of us sat down to discuss vows, the bride and groom agreed that the Book of Common Prayer couldn’t be beat; we just had to kill the “obey” clause and the stuff about God. It felt funny, crossing out words in my great-grandfather’s prayer book, but according to a new monograph by Daniel Swift, Shakespeare did pretty much the same thing, repeatedly. Shakespeare’s Common Prayers: The Book of Common Prayer and the Elizabethan Age makes a case for the Anglican liturgy as a work of politics and art and as a crucial influence on English literature. It made for perfect candelight reading after lower Manhattan lost power. —Lorin Stein
November 7, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
October 19, 2012 | by Sadie Stein