Or, embracing the tunnel-visioned, grudge-holding, Mr. Grumpypants blasphemer in us all
(A three-part study of transcendental fury)
With Ted Enik, Daniel Grushkin, & Wythe Marschall
Date: Thursday, August 18
Time: 8:00 PM
Presented by The Hollow Earth Society
Captain Ahab—the best, first, and darkest dude with a zigzag lightning-bolt scar on his face. Moby-Dick—the unknowable Leviathan.
But wait—don’t forget: Old King Ahab and the God of the Israelites. Quixote and his enchanted armies of giants. The Old Man and the Sea. The Coyote and the Roadrunner. Quint and the Great White. Ripley and the alien broodmother. Kahn and the Enterprise…
Each of us seeks her own Whale. Each of us is susceptible to the obsessive focus of the one-legged captain. We seek an object, perhaps—a talisman that will complete us—or a secret knowledge that will give us power and bring us closer to the Transcendent. We pick at a spiritual scab.
Or perhaps we seek revenge, because to overcome and finally own the object of an obsession plugs a gaping void in our psyche. “That dog has it in for me…” “Old Whiskers is the oldest meanest catfish in the lake. Nobody’ll ever hook him!”
But why do we see in our objects of obsession an intelligence, a clever and evil intentionality that they consummately do not possess? Melville:
All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks… If man will strike, strike through the mask! …I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.
On August 18, we strike through the mask of Ahab himself: Join illustrator Ted Enik and writers Daniel Grushkin and Wythe Marschall as they offer three Ahabs, three perspectives on obsession in literature, and three curious readings of American’s greatest myth. Find out why you know the character having never read the book.
Our strikings (and sea shanties) will entertain and inform both those who have read Moby-Dick and those who have not yet done so. (In fact, there’s a wonderful one-minute-long version of the classic novel on YouTube.)
For who among us has not sought a personal Grail and failed? Who among us can read Ahab’s lyrical musings on the whale and not feel a twinge of shared guilt—a pinprick suspicion that we too have at some point, atop one object of obsession, piled up “all the general rage?”
All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby-Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.
Kid’s book artist/author, Ted Enik (www.tedenik.com), who isn’t entirely convinced about reincarnation, must have been some sort of sailor-whaler person in a past life. What else would explain his possessing a button concertina, a collection of shantyman’s tunes, and a foul-weather love of Mother Ocean?
Daniel Grushkin is a freelance journalist who covers the cross-section of science, biotechnology and culture. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, Businessweek, National Geographic Adventure, Popular Science, and Scientific American. He is co-founder of Genspace, the world’s first community laboratory focused on biotech education and exploration. The white whale has thus far eluded him.
Wythe Marschall (The Hollow Earth Society, Observatory) is a writer, artist, and lecturer for the English department of Brooklyn College. Wythe’s stories and essays have appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and elsewhere. With artist Ethan Gould, Wythe’s first book is Suspicious Anatomy, currently available online (suspiciousanatomy.com) and at fine bookstores in New York City.