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Sometimes things converge. As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m finally reading Moby Dick. It just so happens that the lectionary suggests Old Testament readings from the book of 1 Kings, where King Ahab, the one our captain is named for, is flirting with disaster.

In today’s reading, Ahab consents to Elijah’s plan for a Battle of the Bands or a God Smackdown or Israel Idol, your choice. It’s good reading, full of drama. There is the huge crowd, probably eating and drinking, making bets on the winner. The 450 priests of Baal have their colorful robes and their team chants. Crazy Elijah, possibly a little cracked from all that time in the desert hanging out with crows, glowers in his corner.

Baal goes first. His bull is cut in pieces and put on the altar, but no matter what the priests do, Baal sends no fire to consume the offering. Elijah, his sense of showmanship kicking into high gear, then takes his turn. He lets the crowd watch him rebuild God’s altar. He digs a trench around the whole thing and piles up the wood. He lays out the barbecue. Everyone kind of wonders what he’s doing, but they gasp when he calls for water. Jars and jars of water. He pours them out all over everything, soaking it all and filling up his trench. And then he prays.

God burns up the whole thing and his fire even laps up the water in the trench. The crowd goes wild.

And then it stops being exciting theater. Elijah sics the crowd on the priests of Baal. The losers are driven down toward the river and Elijah kills them all. So much for sportsmanship, not to mention, you know, the possibility of redemption. I’m pretty sure they left that part out in Sunday school.

Somehow I don’t think Moby Dick is going to have a good ending.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 11th, 2009 11:01 pm (UTC)
At least you know they don't all die, if you've read the first page.

Which is close to my record. I read a few chapters but bogged down. That was better than my previous try. Maybe I will give it another go and get all the way through. Or maybe I'll just claim that the greatest American novel is Huck Finn, which I have read and would happily reread. (And, would that it were the reverse, it's a lot shorter.)
Sep. 12th, 2009 05:16 pm (UTC)
Well, okay, I knew it ended badly before I started. I don't actually know HOW badly, but I'm sure in another 500 or so pages, I'll find out. _Huck Finn_ is definitely better and more fun to read, but I really am pleasantly surprised by Melville. I think I expected something horrible in the vein of _Heart of Darkness_, which I hated and had to grit my teeth to finish-- would have abandoned it except that it was for school.

By the way, THANK YOU and Joy and Indigo for a LOVELY tea last weekend. Yum and yum and yum again! You rock.
Sep. 12th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
I didn't hate Heart of Darkness, but long before the climax I got lost and confused. I just couldn't pay attention to all the description (I was in high school, which seems like some kind of explanation) and had only the vaguest sense of what was going on. So I did what I usually do and skip to the good bit, i.e., where the guy dies.

I have long intended to give it another try, now that I have sharper reading skills. I loved "The Secret Sharer," so I'm well-disposed toward Conrad and willing to believe the problem was me, not him.
Sep. 12th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
Oops, that was me.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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