“Look, the word ‘dick’ appears over 80 times in the novel, not to mention right there on the cover where everyone can see it,” said Amelia Rashad-Posey, Professor Emeritus of Melville Studies at Stanford University, “There’s simply no way you can ask a middle school teacher in this day and age to make a student to read the word ‘dick’ out loud in class. That’s not a risk that your average underpaid, poorly motivated teacher is going to take. And this is not a book kids will pick up on their own.”
Award-winning Melville biographer, Gerd Wallace, has also reluctantly thrown his support behind the decision. “We’ve been debating this move for years, and I’m now firmly on board with this decision. We can’t let an otherwise innocent four-letter word get in the way of this great novel’s legacy. This is a sad, but necessary concession to the least common denominator.”
Helen Wendt, of the Topeka, Kansas Board of Education, applauded the decision. “That word is evil,” she said. “That word makes people think of a penis. Maybe it makes them think of a vagina. That’s a sin. And people who read books are going to hell.” Wendt believes they’ve “won this battle, but not the war,” which is how she characterizes her decade long crusade to make only the bible and books about intelligent design available in public schools and libraries.
Book-burning Florida pastor Nathan Bedford Beauregard announced that he is pleased with the planned changes, but he asserts that they don’t go far enough. Beauregard supports additional proposed changes that would further alter the novel, especially the removal of passages that many feel have homosexual undertones. “That book is gay,” said Beauregard during a conference call this afternoon. “You know it. I know it. Everybody knows it. That book is gayer than a football bat. It’s gayer than Broadway. And it’s gayer than a box of Dennis Cooper novels, which I would burn if I had.”
Rashad-Posey confirmed that further changes are still under consideration. “I don’t know if Herman Melville was gay. And I don’t care,” she said. “You’ll have to ask Gerd Wallace about that. But some of the book certainly seems gay. Right? At least to a modern audience. Men sleeping with men. Men dancing with men. Men living with other men on a boat. Men squeezing sperm. I mean, there’s a whole chapter dedicated to a whale penis. It’s like ten sentences long. If you lose that, seriously, what do you really lose? Logic alone dictates that whales have giant penises. Do we need to read that they’re longer than a Kentuckian is tall?’”
This is hardly the first time that a work of literature has been edited, or censored, in order to accommodate a society’s changing sensibilities. The practice is widely attributed to Thomas Bowdler who published a “cleaned-up” series of Shakespearean works in the early 19th century. This initiated a long history of “bowdlerizing” works for the masses, including “Tarzan” and “Doctor Doolittle.”
Ironically, unlike the “Huck Finn” situation, there have been few, if any, calls to edit or to remove the racially insensitive language and situations in “Moby Dick.” When hearing of Melville’s offensive depiction of the black character Pip and of the novel’s assertion that white men have “mastership over every dusky tribe,” Beauregard said, “I don’t find any of that offensive.”
And when asked how the name “Doug” was chosen, American Association of Book Publishers president Douglas Waters said, “Well, there was obviously a lot of early support for going with ‘Moby Richard,’ but in the end, we still felt the connotation and the nickname would too often come into play. So I tossed Doug out there. And it sort of stuck.”
With a buffet dinner, free public lectures, trivia contests, special exhibits, live internet (or “web”) streaming, international participants, and it’s very own twitter hash tag (#mdm15) – I expect that this will easily be the premiere mid-Winter literary event of down town New Bedford for all of 2011.
In fact, we’re so excited at WAWD, that we’ve decided to relaunch the site (which appears to have fallen into a state of disrepair due to months of neglect; not unlike an antique tube amplifier or Italian motorcycle. It’s not that we don’t want your comments, it’s just that our internet machine apparently no longer accepts them).
Over the course of what’s left of the week leading up to the event, we might update the site again, or re-publish some classic articles from the vault.
Robert “Bo” William (frequent WAWD reader and commenter) and myself will be reading at 8:30 PM and 8:40 PM Saturday evening. By our best estimates, we should be jumping in somewhere around “The Whiteness of the Whale.”
If you’re planning a trip to New Bedford, please read the WAWD New Bedford Travelog. (I hope the parking is still free on the weekends).
The highlights were items from Self’s (nearly positive we’re not talking about the basketball coach here) Poe (cue Troy McClure “One of our greatest writers.”) collection: $362,500 for an autographed manuscript of two poems, $662,500 for Tamerlane and Other Poems (“FIRST EDITION OF POE’S LEGENDARY FIRST BOOK: THE MOST CELEBRATED RARITY IN AMERICAN LITERATURE. ONE OF ONLY TWELVE COPIES KNOWN, AND ONLY ONE OF TWO IN PRIVATE HANDS.”), and $830,500 for Autograph manuscript verses, the first 8 stanzas (of 16) of “For Annie (“Thank Heaven: the crisis — the danger is past….”)
But I’m sure you’re like me, and you’re probably thinking. “Poe was a drunk. What about my man Herman Melville.” Funny you should ask.
A first edition copy of the English edition, published a month before the American version, and 35 passages smaller, fetched $43,750.
First Edition English copy of Moby Dick by Herman Melville
A first edition American copy was auctioned for $32,500
First Edition American copy of Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Hofstra University prof, Dr. John Bryant, has received a $175,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to launch the Melville Electronic Library (MEL) – a virtual place where “scholars, critics, students, and general readers, will have unprecedented access to a searchable collection of interlinked versions of Melville’s manuscripts, print texts, sources, art works, and other research and secondary materials.”
The entire project will supposedly take FIFTEEN YEARS. Seriously, though, in 15 years I hope we’ve got something like a million times better than the current internet. I wanna be hunting virtual f’ing whales with virtual Herman Melville and landing in Tahiti with Bligh and Spencer Christian (NOT to steal breadfruit trees).
Anyways, Dr. Bryant “is one of the world’s foremost experts on Herman Melville.” He’s also a proponent of something he calls “fluid texts” – “which will enable users to compare varying manuscript stages and published versions of Melville’s writings.” E-technology will best make this dream a reality.
Within two years, though, Moby Dick, Billy Budd, and Battle-Pieces will be available via MEL.
All 6,438 sentences of Moby Dick will be translated to Japanese Emoji.
According to Benenson, here’s how it’s gonna work:
Each of Moby Dick’s 6,438 sentences will be translated 3 times by different Amazon Mechanical Turk workers. Those results will then be voted on by another set of workers, and the most popular version of each sentence will be selected for inclusion in the book.
At the Emoji Dick web sheet, you can make donations to help get the project done (as of right now, he’s got $681 of the $3,500 needed). 5 bucks gets you the raw assets and a PDF. $200 gets you a signed, limited-edition hard cover. And there are many options in between.
Here’s a couple examples of what the work will/might look like:
For more info, check out the web sheet that features a video about the project.
Looks like a cool project. WAWD will be making a contribution.