“Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.”
So says Ishmael, the narrator of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, shortly after meeting his room/bedmate, the South Seas islander Queequeg. I must say it’s a thought that’s given me pause since I heard it the other day.
If you have not already discovered it, allow me to recommend the Moby Dick Big Read, a fantastic audio project spawned by a 2011 symposium and art exhibition on the whale at Plymouth University. All 135 chapters of Melville’s classic have been read aloud and recorded, to be released for free download, one chapter a day from the middle of September to the middle of January.
I know someone whose father read her Moby Dick as a bedtime story when she was little. She recalls those evenings with warmth and fondness, and believes they instilled in her a life-long love of the sea and all things maritime. Listening to these audio files, I imagine myself a small girl, snuggled beside my friend beneath a billowing comforter in her childhood bedroom. Even the shadows in the corners seem to bend closer to catch the animated cadences of her father’s voice, rising and falling like the sea.