9,265 sentences later

January 4, 2006




According to amazon.com's statistics there are 9,265 sentences in Moby Dick. Apparently I have not had enough of them because once back in Providence I couldn't sleep so kept reading, skipping ahead to my favorite chapters in the deep middle where nothing much happens but everything is amazing. I did sleep eventually and then morning came and I woke up in Rhode Island and drove back to New Bedford and heard the rest of the story.

Amazingly, the Flesch Index for Moby Dick, at least according to amazon.com's calculation, is 57.9. That means it's actually slightly easier to read than Time Magazine (57). It's even a teensy bit easier than Pride and Prejudice, source of the second most memorable opening sentence in literature, at 57.6 albeit a lot longer. Austen is still long at only 6,028 sentences. Curiously, amazon does not have any statistics to prove that "Call me Ishmael" is actually quoted more often than "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Although, come to think of it I've never seen "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." on a bumper sticker. Regrettably, I couldn't find any text statistics for the Harry Potter books. That would've added interest to this digression for sure.

So, Anthea tells us she slept in her car for a couple of hours. Hmm. Not a good idea. This is New Bedford after all.

Once again only Ishmael and the whale survive. A total of 14 people including some from Nevada and some from Nantucket made it through the whole 25 hours. Nevada? Big whaling tradition in Nevada? Oh, must be the Basques. Never understood how they went from cod and whales in the North Atlantic to sheepherding in Nevada in the first place. Nantucket? How did they get here in the storm? The ferry stopped running. Later on I asked one of the Nantucketers about that. He said they caught the last ferry before they shut down for the storm.

After the Rachel picks up Ishmael and the whale swims away with all those harpoons in him, we headed upstairs for one last look at the exhibit of Azorean nativities, which actually ended yesterday but still isn't packed up yet. They're the work of five potters from the same area in the Azores and they're amazingly idiosyncratically Azorean. Some of them include huge processions of tiny musicians and altar boys and the faithful dressed as saints. Some are in covered casserole dishes with one side cut out. One amazing one is of an emigrant family leaving the Azores. It's poignant and realistic and it took me several minutes to realize that these poor migrants in 20th century clothing were in fact Mary and Joseph and Jesus. I think that was my favorite one. There was also one with the traditional figures but set inside a pineapple. I kept calling it the SpongeBob nativity. Apparently pineapples are a big thing in the Azores.

Once we'd had enough of the nativities, we lingered for a long time over an exhibit of black and white photography by Norman Fortier. Fortier specializes in boats. He lavishes equal attention on tugs and fishing boats and yachts. Even when the subject is women working in a textile mill the billowing fabric mimics billowing sails. He makes you really look at things and look again. The most disturbing and memorable image is not of a boat or a textile worker though. It's a single cod head in ice. Starkly black and white and really most sincerely dead, the cod is looking right at you as if to make sure you experience its moment of death. Y'know, black and white photography is going to be such a loss when the digital age crushes it out.


Today's Reading
Moby Dick
by Herman Melville

This Year's Reading
2006 Booklist

Last Year's Reading
2005 Booklist




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Copyright © 2006, Janet I. Egan