There's already so much great stuff in Moby-Dick. Why the front matter alone provides such interesting flotsam and jetsam! You could get anchored there and never go on to read the rest of the book. There's Melville’s author bio, for example. Did you know that he self-published? “Melville had The Whale printed at his own expense in May-July 1851.” Couldn’t get a publisher to bite, eh? Sadly, I know how that feels.
And there are fun translations of the word “whale” into several languages. You can use them to impress your friends! French: baleine. Spanish: ballena. Fijian: Pekee-nuee-nuee. That's a mighty long one. By the time you warn your Fiji friend that a whale’s a-coming, the two of you would end up peeking from atop the whale's nuee-nuee.
The Introduction, written by English professor Tony Tanner (a Fellow of King’s College in Cambridge, no less), also promises a boatload of good reading. “It is an informed and informative effort,” Tanner writes. “There really is a lot of information about whales in the book.”
Better still, with a bunch of guys stuck in a boat for weeks on end, there’s bound to be some salacious stuff. And there is. Tanner writes, “The Crew are sitting around a bath squeezing whale sperm.” That scene will occur in a chapter titled, “A Squeeze of the Hand.” And just to make sure we've covered all the important parts, there will be a chapter called “The Cassock”—about the whale’s penis.
A quick scan the table of contents, promises yet more enjoyable chapters such as: “Chowder” (yum!); “The Whiteness of the Whale” (probably whiter than Barely Beige but not as white as Tickle Me Ivory); and “The Whale as a Dish” (delicious!).
But the Classics Slacker is really looking forward to “Stubb and Flask Kill a Right Whale, and Then Have a Talk over Him.” Their talk will probably go something like this:
Stubb: “Well, this right whale appears to be dead.”
Flask: “Do you really think so, Stubby?”
Stubb: “I do. I really do.”
Flask: “I sure hope you’re right. I mean, about the whale. The right whale.”
Stubb: “I know what you mean. Do you want to squeeze his penis?”
Flask: “Nah, let’s have some chowder.”
So enough with the front matter. Let's push off into the main book. Anchors aweigh!