Thursday, January 7, 2016

I should be doing something else, something related to web site design and sexual health programming for women in jail, but instead I am eating string cheese and staring at the wall, thinking (probably not very originally) about how Moby-Dick, Leaves of Grass, and Walden resemble each other. They all attempt to "get at" some idea that is ungainly or ineffable through acts of artful, suggestive induction, acts of piling/listing/layering. Whitman does it serially, with lists of words--layering his sense of nation through a litany of concretes--roles, places, performances, tableaux. Walden maps the nineteenth-century sense of individualism onto his pond and cabin, again listing and layering his subject through the seasons and moods of his surroundings. Melville weaves around and around his whale--always not quite getting there--but building a mountain incrementally, a whale out of bits and pieces: metaphors, legends, histories, allusions, definitions, sightings. I'm wondering about how this may be reflective of a general sensibility, a way of accounting for things that is quite different--or not different at all (??)--from our own. I am in a week-long fit of procrastination.