“Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.” – Herman Melville, novelist, short story writer, essayist, poet, and author of “Moby-Dick,” the most brilliantly creative and luminously instructive work of fiction yet written by an American, who was born on 1 August 1819, stating a truth that every child knows and most adults have forgotten.
Anyone who wants to better understand what Henry James called the “complex fate” it is to be an American should read “Moby-Dick.” It’s all there: the promise and the peril, the wisdom and the ignorance, the good sense and the superstition, the pragmatism and the nihilism, the poetry and the madness, the love of life and the unholy war on nature, the feeling of seemingly limitless possibility and the sense of impending doom. The Pequod and its crew offer the attentive reader a series of profoundly edifying insights into the myths that inform and shape the wonderful and terrible paradox that is American national character.
Some quotes from Herman Melville:
“At sea a fellow comes out. Salt water is like wine, in that respect.”
“Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tombs, and even from these dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope.”
“He who has never failed somewhere, that man can not be great.”
“There are hardly five critics in America; and several of them are asleep.”
“He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”
“There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.”
“In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers.”
“There is one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath.”