Saturday, October 2, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 394

Title: "Why, let me see; yes, you may as well tell him now that — that — in fact, tell him I've diddled him, and (aside to himself) perhaps somebody else."

6 inches by 9.25 inches
acrylic paint and ink on found paper
September 30, 2010


  1. So, let's examine all the thoughts that went through my head as I drew this picture...

    "Yep, he's really diddling him."

    "He's diddling him rather hard."

    "This will get me excommunicated for sure."

    "How many people will this offend?"

    "How many people will never visit the blog again after this?"

    "What happened to the captain's hat?"

    "Is that the captain or is Stubb gripping...something else?"

    Ultimately, I like this one. A lot. I think it shows, quite well, how bawdy, crass and earthy the novel is, at the same time that it is also (and paradoxically) soaring, brilliant, and almost divine. Again, one of the many many reasons I think "Moby-Dick" is one of the most complex, bedeviling and astounding novels ever written.

    Diddled indeed.

  2. Oh, and despite what the wonderful web site PowerMobyDick says, I have never read this passage as Stubb saying that, by diddling him, he "cheated or swindled" the captain. Although I can see why that is a perfectly acceptable alternative interpretation. Given that these men are at sea, for years, with little to do, I always took "diddling" to mean something quite different. And after seeing just what Stubb thinks of this captain, and how willing he is to have fun at the captain's expense...well...the joke is right there. Truly, side-splittingly funny this book is.

  3. This is iconic. I like that even the smoke-rings are getting diddled.

    There is no sense denying that there is both violence AND sex in this book. I remember one of my high school teachers lamenting the way she had to tip-toe around teaching this novel. "The problem Moby Dick," she said, "is that the smarter kids start to catch on to the significance of the TITLE."

  4. Winston, I am thrilled you noticed and commented on the smoke rings. It was very intentional and I hoped it would read that way when the image was done. I showed it to my wife and the first thing she did was point at the smoke rings and mutter "Nice."

    I was never fortunate enough to have "Moby-Dick" as part of any English class, but I can imagine how difficult it would be for a high school teacher to grapple with some of the themes and topics. I've read the book quite a few times and at very different ages, and I can't quite remember when some of the sexual content started to become obvious to me but I know it was fairly early on. But I can definitely see that kind of thing bringing up an awful lot of questions in a lit class full of more perceptive kids.

    Interestingly enough, I am now approaching one of my favorite chapters, "A Squeeze of the Hand," which is absolutely loaded with sexual and homosexual overtones. Not quite sure yet how I will approach those, or even if I will be able to work them into the art. We'll see.

  5. I haven't read the book since high school. Recently I've been reading Melville's "lighter" stuff (short stories mostly, with Typee, Omoo, and The Confidence Man on my reading table.) with the intention of getting back to Moby Dick when you've completed your project. Your illustrations will make a marvelous companion.

    It's funny, though. The only thing I honestly remember from the book is the beginning, the end, and that squeezing the hand chapter. I was starting to wonder if I'd missed those illustrations, or if I'd just developed a "false memory" of that particular passage.

    Curious to see how it turns out!

  6. Thank you, those are very kind words indeed. I will admit though that it is a hope of mine that some readers will revisit the book with my illustrations as an accompaniment. They are by no means definitive, and far more personal and esoteric, but I do think they are an interesting look at the novel. So I thank you for sharing that.

    As for "A Squeeze of the Hand," funny how that chapter seems to really stick in the mind of readers. You are not the first person to have mentioned to me that they read the book at some point in their past but forgot most of it other than this chapter. Now the pressure is on for me to create an equally memorable illustration.

  7. what i intend to do is discover the book through your quotes and illustrations - well that's what i've been doing actually, by bits. and then we'll see how much further i get into the whole thing.
    thanks matt

  8. Lizzy, the book does have its rough patches, especially for those not as passionate about Melville as I am. However, I do hope my illustrations can provide just enough to get you, and maybe other readers, through what they might find tough going. That would be wonderful to me.


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