12b. Bonus: Damian Fleming on Moby-Dick.

I have been heard to say that there’s two types of people in the world: People who love Moby-Dick, and people who have never read Moby-Dick. [At] the same time, I never recommend anyone read Moby-Dick directly, because I feel like if you’re not reading it at your own leisure and come to it willingly, it could be really, really annoying.

Medievalist and Moby-Dick fan Damian Fleming joins us to keep the conversation going about this great book. We discuss our favourite passages, how Ishmael represents his labours, how we feel about whaling and cetology, how potentially gross strawberries are, and all the humour in the novel and what’s been done with the novel.

Show Notes.

Damian is a brilliant presence on Twitter.

@MobyDickatSea is also brilliant on Twitter.

The Moby-Dick Big Read. Damian recommends chapter 3, The Spouter-Inn, read by Nigel Williams.

Ron Swanson on Moby-Dick.

John Donne: To His Mistress Going to Bed.

The Time I Spent on a Commercial Whaling Ship Totally Changed My Perspective of the World.

Rockwell Kent’s illustrations for Moby-Dick.

Support The Spouter-Inn on Patreon and you can join us on a members-only Slack where we will happily keep chatting with you about Moby-Dick.

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12. Moby-Dick.

But I now leave my cetological System standing thus unfinished, even as the great Cathedral of Cologne was left, with the crane still standing upon the top of the uncompleted tower. For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught—nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience! (ch. 32, “Cetology”.)

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is a massive book. It’s a story about obsession, an encyclopedia of whale facts, and an unexpected love story. It’s also the source of the name of our podcast! Chris and Suzanne could talk about Herman Melville’s magnum opus for hours (and indeed, those who support the show on Patreon will get to hear some parts of their discussion that didn’t make the final edit).

Show Notes.

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. Also available free on Gutenberg. An annotated version.

Audiobooks of Moby-Dick: Librivox. The Anthony Heald reading. The, uh, Burt Reynolds version.

The audiobook for The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Whale Whale Whale, a Moby-Dick podcast.

Moby-Dick Big Read.

Moby-Dick marathon reading.

Herman Melville Was Also a Failed Poet.

Paul Gilroy: Refusing race and salvaging the human.

How Toni Morrison Hunts the White Whale.

Next time: Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. [Public domain in some countries, where the text and an audiobook are available.]

Support The Spouter-Inn on Patreon and hear bonus bits of this conversation that didn’t quite make the edit but which we think are still neat.

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11. The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

I want to say before I go on that I have never previously told anyone my sordid past in detail. I haven't done it now to sound as though I might be proud of how bad, how evil, I was. But people are always speculating—why am I as I am? To understand that of any person, his whole life, from birth, must be reviewed. […] The full story is the best way that I know to have it seen, and understood, that I had sunk to the very bottom of the American white man's society when—soon now, in prison—I found Allah and the religion of Islam and it completely transformed my life. (ch. 9)

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told to Alex Haley) emerges from a specific time and place and yet, despite feeling very much of that moment, still resonates with issues that American culture is dealing with today—and is still a powerfully written book. Chris and Suzanne discuss its historical context, the formal questions of autobiography, writing to be read by wildly different audiences, conversion narratives, and what Malcolm X might have made of today’s America.

Show Notes.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X. (Weirdly, there doesn’t seem to be an audiobook?!)

Alex Haley’s Playboy interview with Malcolm X, which led to the book.

50 Years Later, The Autobiography of Malcolm X Is Still a Must-Read.

Solving for X: Malcolm X and White Readers, an article which is at times incisive, at times problematic.

The Explosive Chapter Left Out of Malcolm X’s Autobiography (with images of the co-edited manuscript).

A recent exhibit of the unpublished chapters: Only After the Deepest Darkness: The “Lost” Chapter & Manuscript of The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Next episode: Moby-Dick [Gutenberg, Librivox].

Support The Spouter-Inn on Patreon to help us make the show—and join our members-only Slack!

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10b. Bonus: Peter Coviello on Leaves of Grass.

Another bonus episode! This time we’re joined by Peter Coviello, professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Peter studies nineteenth-century American literature, the history of sexuality, and queer studies—so it will be no surprise that he has thought a lot about Walt Whitman. His most recent academic book is Tomorrow’s Parties: Sex and the Untimely in Nineteenth-Century America, which was a finalist for the Lambda Award in LGBT Studies. We talk with Peter about nineteenth-century taxonomies of sexuality, Whitman’s caring for wounded soldiers in the Civil War, his understanding of nationalism and the American project, how he does and does not fit into his era, and the singular delights of his poetry.

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10. Leaves of Grass.

Full of life now, compact, visible,
I, forty years old the eighty-third year of The States,
To one a century hence, or any number of centuries hence,
To you yet unborn these, seeking you.

When you read these I that was visible am become invisible,
Now it is you, compact, visible, realizing my poems, seeking me,
Fancying how happy you were if I could be with you and become your comrade;
Be it as if I were with you. (Be not too certain but I am now with you.)

(“Full of Life Now”)

It’s Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday today! Suzanne and Chris are celebrating by rereading Leaves of Grass, the book of poetry that Whitman kept writing, revising, and expanding throughout his life. With its ecstatic rhythms, its vigorous celebration of the body and of freedom, and its dreams of collectivity through diversity, Whitman’s poetry can be compelling, even overwhelming. And even when the book doesn’t quite live up to our hopes and dreams, it offers a path beyond itself.

Show Notes.

Leaves of Grass. Also available for free on Project Gutenberg and, as an audiobook, on Librivox.

The Walt Whitman Archive also contains the complete text(s).

Some curious details about the first printing of Leaves of Grass.

The most famous section of Christopher Smart’s “Jubilate Agno”.

Walt Whitman reading “America”.

(Though there is some controversy about the authenticity of the recording.)

Mark Twain wrote on “The Whitman Controversy” (about Whitman’s alleged obscenity).

When Wilde Met Whitman.

Whitman Noir.

Some of the poems we quote:

Responses to Whitman:

Paul Hindemith set a requiem with When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom’d.

Mark Doty reads Song of Myself (and more).

Next episode: The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

You can support The Spouter-Inn and gain a bunch of perks through Patreon.

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