The Classics Slacker gets a sinking feeling whenever
from his narration and drops anchor, settling on whatever subject he feels like
gassing on about for hours and hours. His digressions usually begin with “The
tale would be lost if I didn’t mention…” or “You would be really confused if I
didn’t first explain…” or “Let me show off how much I know about _______________.
Moby-Dick is liberally sprinkled with whole chapters of this nature, covering subjects such as:
Art. A treatise on the pictures, drawings, paintings,
sculptures, and figurines of whales as rendered in various mediums. Good information for the next time you’re garage-sale shopping in Greenland.
Brit. Yellow stuff that floats on the water. Whales eat it when they aren’t eating sailors.
The Line. Rope used to snare whales. Either made of hemp (“a dusky dark fellow, a sort of Indian”) or Manilla (“a golden-haired Circasian to behold”). Yes, even rope can get
Ishmael all man-excited.
The Dart. Heavy implement used to fling into a whale. Could it be yet another of
not-so-subtle symbols of male genitalia? You betcha.
The Crotch. Not what you think. But given all that has come before, you can hardly be blamed.
The Whale as Dish. Delicious vittles to delight everyone at your dining room table.
Whale fritters. “Brown and crisp and smelling something like old
housewives’ dough-nuts, when fresh.”
When was Amsterdam Ishmael sniffing around old
housewives? Before he met Queequeg? And did he really eat their dough-nuts? This
description of whale fritters raises more questions than yeast.
Whale tongue. “A great delicacy in
Right up there with snail eyes and frog legs. Sacre bleech. France
Whale brains. “Two whitish lobes, precisely resembling two large puddings, mixed with flour and cooked.” A great delicacy in
Whale blubber strips. “Exceedingly juicy and nourishing for infants.” For when the baby aisle is fresh out of Gerber’s mashed liver and beets.
Cutting In. Exactly what it sounds like. Spare you the gory (literally) details.
The Blanket. The skin of a whale. Keeps him warm and cozy. But not so much after he’s dead.
“A wine cask with a capacity of 49,000 gallons.” Why
wine? Why Heidelburg? Good questions, meinen liebchen. The German tun refers to the
tun (head) of the sperm whale, which “contains the most precious of his oily
vintages.” Probably best not to serve it with dinner. Unless you’re eating schnitzel
with noodles. Heidelburg Tun.