Moby Dick, or The Whale
It was on this day in 1851 that this novel, now regarded as one of the great American classics, was brought out by Harper & Brothers of New York. They didn't make much money on it. From a commercial standpoint, it was a failure. The author, Herman Melville, and his publishers must have been mad. Why would anyone want to read about a peg-legged whaling-ship captain seeking revenge on the whale that took off half his leg? Why indeed. Of course, we all know by now that this novel is about much more than that. Even folks who haven't read the book know its famous first line: "Call me Ishmael," which is said to be one of the most famous first lines in the history of literature. And of course, who hasn't heard of Starbuck, whose character has given his name to the modern latte empire?
But do they know this part? "All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks...If man will strike, strike through the mask! ...That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me."
Both the content and the language of this speech and many others are difficult for today's readers. For us, everything comes too easy. It's a good thing we have people like Gregory Peck in this scene from the 1956 film helping us to understand.
An extraordinary woman by any measure, Condi was born this day in 1954. Concert pianist, Stanford University Provost, Secretary of State. Wow. Off the charts, wow. No one has said it better than Oprah in the following clip. Happy Birthday, Condi!
Even folks who don't know classical music know this composer (born this day in 1900) for his Fanfare for the Common Man. Here it is now, followed by the great Martha Graham in the opening scene of Appalachian Spring.
This master of Impressionism was born November 14, 1840. Here's a tribute to his timeless art.
I like big books, and I cannot lie. My background includes talk radio, newspapers and TV news. I've hosted a morning-drive classical music program on the California coast and published nationally in Reader's Digest, the Christian Science Monitor, and Playboy. I've won awards for my journalism and my fiction. One of my essays even made it into an anthology for college English courses. For real? Yes, for real.
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