My all-time favorite book, dating back to the fifth grade, when I read it clandestinely in class, held under my desk. Probably explains the perennial overuse of semicolons in my writing as well. Moby Dick even appears in one of my short stories, “Airlock,” (to be published later this month, stay tuned for more details) as a prop.
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago–never mind how long precisely–having
little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on
shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of
the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating
the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth;
whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find
myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up
the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get
such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to
prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically
knocking people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea
as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a
philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly
take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew
it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very
nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.
There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by
wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs–commerce surrounds it with
her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme
downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and
cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land.
Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.
Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears
Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What
do you see?–Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand
thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some
leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some
looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the
rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these
are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster–tied to
counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are
the green fields gone? What do they here?
But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and
seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the
extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder
warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water
as they possibly can without falling in. And there they stand–miles of
them–leagues. Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets
and avenues–north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite.
Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all
those ships attract them thither?