Captain Ahab stood erect, looking straight out beyond the ship’s ever-pitching prow. There was an infinity of firmest fortitude, a determinate, unsurrenderable wilfulness, in the fixed and fearless, forward dedication of that glance.
Herman Melville, Moby Dick. From Chapter 28: Ahab.
Moby Dick was published 161 years ago today. Below, Moby Dick-inspired stuff:
Others have drawn every page of the book. From the blog Spudd 64:
Because I honestly consider Moby-Dick to be the greatest novel ever written, I am now going to create one illustration for every single one of the 552 pages in the Signet Classic paperback edition.
But no one, as far as I’ve seen, has actually gone out to kill any whales after reading the book. Or at least not recently. And no one description that I’ve seen describes the transformative experience of reading Moby Dick better than something Herman Melville wrote himself — describing what happened to one of his characters left floating in the open sea for just an hour, waiting for the ship to come fetch him.
(Spoiler alert) from Chapter 94:
The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up, but drowned the infinite of his soul. Not drowned entirely, though. Rather carried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes; and the miser-merman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded heaps; and among the joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile eternities, Pip saw the multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs. He saw God’s foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man’s insanity is heaven’s sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God.
He was called a number of fantastic dictionary-ready names by the Jeffersonian Republicans, including “a pusillanimous, half-begotten, self-dubbed patriot,” “an incurable lunatic,” “a deceitful newsmonger … Pedagogue and Quack,” “a traitor to the cause of Federalism, ” “a toad in the service of sans-cullottism,” “a prostitute wretch,” “a great fool, and a barefaced liar,” “a spiteful viper,” and “a maniacal pedant.
Happy Dictionary Day, Noah Webster!
From the Atlantic Wire’s Jen Doll — a fantastic list of interesting facts about the guy whose last name makes up half of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Readers often find their best book recommendations when they aren’t even looking for them. Maybe you’re at lunch with a friend who brings up the new book that you just can’t miss, and reading it sets you on a new path. Or you read about the books that influenced your favorite designer or writer. These recommendations come from nearly everywhere: friends, television shows, thought leaders, and algorithms.
But this process can be cumbersome and difficult, requiring you to jump between multiple applications and devices. The best products tend to pair discovery with consumption in a way where the user doesn’t perceive them as disparate activities— enabling a complete consumption experience. With Oyster, we’re bringing this to books.
When everyone has access to the same library, you can share and curate with confidence. Friends can read the same book in one-click, without having to make an additional purchase or hunt for a link to buy it.
That’s from Oyster’s blog post yesterday, introducing a book app that allows you to pick freely among a wide range of titles for a monthly fee. They’re recreating chance conversations, the creators say, where the problem isn’t about how to get to a bookstore, or how much a book will cost, but rather how much time you have to read all that you want. Not a bad problem to have. Check out Oyster’s site here.
Here’s Fast Company:
There are a handful of subscription-based models floating around, but their focus is usually on a niche selection of titles. Yesterday, Harper Collins announced it will start offering subscription-based business and leadership titles through e-learning company Skillsoft’s on-demand training library. The TED Books app charges $14.99 for a three-month, six-mini-books plan that delivers short titles written by its conference speakers.
But because so much of Oyster’s mission is about helping its users discover new titles, it’s naturally looking to offer as wide a range of genres, publishers, and authors as possible. That means its closest existing competition lies in Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library, which lets $79-per-year Amazon Prime members rent just one book per month, but from a large selection of 100,000 titles.
It’s still very early, though, to come to any conclusions.
[R]eading is socially accepted disassociation. You flip a switch and you’re not there anymore. It’s better than heroin. More effective and cheaper and legal.
A working habit he has had from the beginning, Hemingway stands when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.
When Hemingway starts on a project he always begins with a pencil, using the reading board to write on onionskin typewriter paper. He keeps a sheaf of the blank paper on a clipboard to the left of the typewriter, extracting the paper a sheet at a time from under a metal clip that reads “These Must Be Paid.” He places the paper slantwise on the reading board, leans against the board with his left arm, steadying the paper with his hand, and fills the paper with handwriting which through the years has become larger, more boyish, with a paucity of punctuation, very few capitals, and often the period marked with an X. The page completed, he clips it facedown on another clipboard that he places off to the right of the typewriter.
Hemingway shifts to the typewriter, lifting off the reading board, only when the writing is going fast and well, or when the writing is, for him at least, simple: dialogue, for instance.
He keeps track of his daily progress—“so as not to kid myself”—on a large chart made out of the side of a cardboard packing case and set up against the wall under the nose of a mounted gazelle head. The numbers on the chart showing the daily output of words differ from 450, 575, 462, 1250, back to 512, the higher figures on days Hemingway puts in extra work so he won’t feel guilty spending the following day fishing on the Gulf Stream.
George Plimpton, The Paris Review. Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction No. 21.
In a 9,000 word interview from 1954, Plimpton and Hemingway discuss writing and craft, and gossip about their contemporaries.
I’m deeply honored that President Obama will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by introducing it to a national audience. I believe it remains the best translation of a book to film ever made, and I’m proud to know that Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch lives on — in a world that needs him now more than ever.
Harper Lee, author, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Background: This Saturday President Obama will provide an introduction to USA Network’s 50th anniversary screening of To Kill a Mockingbird. The film is an adaptation of Lee’s only published book but one that won her a Pulitzer Prize and a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 for her contributions to American literature.
Via Hollywood Reporter:
The film stars [Gregory] Peck as a lawyer in a small Alabama town who takes the tough case of a black man accused of raping a white woman. Told from the point of view of the attorney’s daughter, the novel is heralded as one of the first to portray America’s race issues frankly and remains on many schools’ mandatory reading lists.
The film was nominated for eight Oscars and went on to win three of the awards including Best Actor for Gregory Peck, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Art Direction.