Sunday, September 21, 2008

Alex's White Whale, Part One

Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I did the whole English major thing in college. And I had several of those “revelatory” dorm room discussions about different pieces of literature that I’m sure at least some of you out there have had at one time or another.

And I’ve sat through lectures and I’ve read tomes of literary criticism, and I think I was able to comprehend a lot of what my college professors were trying to pass along about many different books and poems and plays and whatever.

That said, there were some things, some epic works of staggering literary achievement that, sadly, I just couldn’t crack. Joyce, for example. All of Joyce. Everything the man ever wrote. I tried--several times. And failed. Every time. But I’m certainly not alone there.

However, there was one thing I took away from all those fancy English classes in that big fancy New York City based university of mine that I was 100% certain of. And, many of you will likely agree with me when I share it with you here. That little nugget of indefatigable truth? It’s this:

Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab was probably crazy.

Pretty deep, right? Sure it is. Now, I’ve read Moby Dick three times, and after each reading, I was sure of one thing: Ahab was off his rocker. Case closed. Story over. That’s that. I mean, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon on this one.

Here was poor, thickheaded Captain Ahab—driven to insanity by a big ol’ white whale. A big ol’ white whale that, despite Ahab’s greatest efforts (and not to mention the efforts of the different crewmen he led one by one to watery graves), just would not allow itself to be captured. Poor, stubborn, narrow minded Ahab. He fought Nature, and Nature won. Simple as that.

And, instead of stopping and thinking about his situation, he continued on and on and on...and descended into madness. And I was perfectly happy with this reading of the character, and I took from Moby Dick the lessons that all readers have taken from it.

That is, until...

I started collecting comics. And now, I’m just not sure if Captain Ahab was so crazy, after all. You see, in my five or so years of collecting, I too have come face to face with my own, personal White Whale (or two). And I have let her slip through my fingers time and again.

My White Whale is beautiful and elusive and awe-inspiring and inspirational. She calls to me and I...

Well, I basically just fail to catch her. But like a crazy person, I continue the search. On and on and on. Like a crazy person. Like Captain Ahab.

Like a comics fan.

Next time, I’ll exfand upon my tale of pity and woe.

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