Moby Dick (evaporated)
(2016–2020) ·
experiment #0201604102131 ·

 

This is the print version of a web-based project that I began in 2007. In 2016 I prepared a hardcover print edition. This year (2020) I revised the preface and redesigned the book. You can preview or purchase it at Blurb.

Title : Moby-Dick (evaporated)
Author : Herman Melville; preface and book design by JT Bullitt
Size : 5×8 in., 13×20 cm
Pages : 264, hardcover
ISBN : 781715991517
Preview and buy : Blurb

From the preface:

This new edition of Moby-Dick or, the Whale contains Melville’s complete text, with one small transformation: each word occurs only once. After a word appears, it evaporates forever, never to be seen again. One by one, words vanish without a trace, grammar falters, and sentences splinter, leaving a trail of orphaned punctuation in their wake—the flotsam cargo of a foundering ship. The reader soon descends into an accelerating vortex of lexical debris, the skeletal remains of language:

“, , .” “,”. “, , . , , ?” “Elijah.”

[Ch. 19]

The systematic and relentless evaporation of structure distills the meaning and tone of Melville’s epic down to its elemental purity—the crystalline essence of foreshadowed doom—as here, when Moby Dick is first sighted:

inside

. , Moodiness, , brooding. Unlikely, distrusting fitness, , , qualified, wildness. Gnawed, infixed, unrelenting fangs incurable; , , appalling brutes. , corporeally incapacitated, superlatively underlings attack. , , keyed, all-engrossing hunting. , righteous fiendish! Profitable, counted mint. , immitigable, .

[Ch. 41]

Thus transformed, the book abounds with punctuated streams of encrypted signals whose meaning stubbornly resists decipherment through reason alone. Witness the rising crescendo of urgency and astonishment in the book’s final scenes:

“!”, — “? — Ravening, , ; ? — ; , , — . ! ! , , , — ! , ; . , ; fadest; ! . ; — journey’s?; . , — ? , ! — — , ! ! — ! ? — ; ! —. : — ! — ! ! — ! ! — vane” — — “, soars! — ? , ! — , !”

[Ch. 135]

Although the residue of this evaporative process defies rational thought, it nonetheless possesses a unitive symbolic significance; for it is in the disintegration of the familiar landmarks of language that we are drawn even closer to Ishmael’s humanity. As his descent into the deep progresses, the swarms of marks and scratches on the page intensify, and we become co-participants in an archetypal journey into the psyche. Together with Ishmael we abandon the safety of land, head out to sea, and fall deeper into the abyssal wilderness of Ahab’s doomed adventure; together we descend into the maelstrom of his unconscious and unreasoning obsession; and together we drift in the wreckage, brethren survivors of an encounter with the transcendent, in whose presence words invariably fail. Language may be what elevates us and distinguishes us as humans, but it is its inevitable failure that unifies us as the tender mortal beings we truly are.

benny-IMG_8807

Benny gives his full attention to this morning's reading