The novel “Moby Dick” is both exciting and daunting, depending on whether you are the professor assigning it or the new reader assigned it in class. Yet there is no divergence of opinion on the legacy of Herman Melville’s 1851 classic about a great whale and a greatly mad sea captain. It was read aloud from start to finish recently in the 22nd Annual “Moby Dick” Marathon.
Worcester State University’s own Russ Pottle (Dean, Humanities and Social Sciences) took part.
“I read ‘Moby Dick’ when I was 12, and everything was different after that,” he said. “It’s a whaling yarn, but it says so much about the human condition and how we struggle with and celebrate that.”
Pottle was one of the readers from Massachusetts public universities. Other readers included literary figures, area politicians, and officers from the United States Navy and the National Park Service, along with a host of readers identifying themselves as “Melville Aficionados.”
The length and complexity of the novel are most likely the main reasons its appearance on a syllabus can spark alarm.
In case any students were wondering, it takes about 26 hours to read the novel aloud. Just ask Pottle, who read Chapter 39 in the eighth hour of the read-a-thon.
“It’s long, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “The novel really comes to life when you hear it in people’s voices.”
The gathering of dozens of readers took place in early January in one of the novel’s main settings, New Bedford, Mass. It was organized by the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
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