Friday, April 21, 2017

Moby Dick Marathon Begins Today at Provincetown Public Library

This picture depicts the final chase of Moby Dick
from the book History of the Sperm Whale, 1839.
Beginning this afternoon, Provincetown Public Library is hosting a three-day marathon reading of Herman Melville’s epic novel Moby Dick, with some 120 participants either reading aloud, or dressing in period costumes and performing brief scenes from the book, while listeners take in an hour or two of the story, or attend the entire event and hear the book read from cover to cover. The complete novel of more than 600 pages will be read aloud over a period of 24 hours, spread over three days: 2 to 8 PM Friday, 10 AM to 10 PM Saturday, and on Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM.
The event will begin with Melville’s great-great grandson, Peter Gansevoort Whittemore, reading the first few pages, which include one of the most famous opening lines ever written: “Call me Ishmael.” Other whaling towns such as New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Mystic, Connecticut will also host readings of the novel.
Among more than 70 American whaling ports, Provincetown ranked number five in number of vessels with 160 outfitted here, and number three in voyages undertaken, with 902 launched between 1820 and 1920, when our whaling era ended. By the middle 1800s, Provincetown had become a thriving whaling port, and at one time was said to have been second only to New Bedford, making us arguably one of the wealthiest towns per capita in Massachusetts in those days.

Attend this reading Friday, April 21st through Sunday, April 23rd
Melville was inspired to write his whaling adventure, by the way, when he heard the story of the Nantucket whaling ship Essex, attacked and sunk by an angry sperm whale in 1820, with a handful of the crew surviving by resorting to cannibalism in order to stay alive during three months adrift in the Pacific Ocean. Whaling was a very dangerous way to make a living, and a substantial number of ships were lost at sea without a trace, though it was likely quite rare for a vengeful whale to attack and actually sink a ship! Still, we have no way to know what happened to the many whaling vessels that simply never returned to their home ports.
The story of Moby Dick follows whaling Captain Ahab on his obsessive quest for revenge on the villainous white whale that had destroyed his ship, and had cost the captain a leg. Melville's saga is considered one of the greatest adventure stories of all time. Get Thee to the library, at 356 Commercial Street, for at least part of this marvelous community event, or for the entire reading, which is free and open to the public. Contributions to the library are welcome, of course, but are not required.
Get out of the house and enjoy a bit of classic literature, delivered to us in this most unusual way. Our thanks to the library, and to the legion of readers and actors who will volunteer their time to bring life to this classic story.

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