Moby Dick and A Little Tour in Yellow


“Out of the trunk, the branches grow; out of them, the twigs.  So in productive subjects, grow the chapters.”  — Moby Dick, Chapter 63, “The Crotch.”

Midway through Moby Dick it appears that Melville felt the need to explain the process forming his novel.  As I am reading Moby Dick and considering my own writing, especially A Little Tour in Yellow, these lines could not be more apt.  After all what is A Little Tour if it isn’t a bunch of branches and twigs?  (Maybe even a leaf or two.)  I like to think there are more than a few productive subjects in this blog.

If you read Moby Dick — and I think you should, it is chock full of good reading — you will notice that the initial narrative breaks down into an almost encyclopedic collection of vignettes, essays, and stories about whaling, whales, ships, and sailors.  It is as much a history as it is a story.

Melville’s style becomes “sloppy.”  He randomly starts and ends chapters.  Some are poetic and high-flowing, even a little stilted, perhaps, while other chapters more pragmatically strive for objective explanations of sea life and life at sea.  Often he stitches these chapters together with threads like the lines quoted here.

Isn’t A Little Tour in Yellow very much the same?

Of course I don’t have quill pen and whale-oil lamp lighting my desk.  Little excuse for me to so quickly turn the page and start again on a new topic without taking a little care about what I write and how I write it.  I do edit mistakes as I type now, which is an improvement over the early days.  (You’re welcome.)  But I don’t really stitch things together.

Nevertheless, as you read A Little Tour in Yellow, seek patience by seeking a classic.  Pretend, as much as you can, that you’re reading a book that is very much like Moby Dick!

Now scroll down this blog and find something you like.  Tell your friends and family to do the same.  Then tell me about it.



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