There are books that speak to you. Books that reach down into the core of your inner being to play the delicate chords of your heart strings. Books that stay with you, becoming a passenger for life, indelibly connecting you to a particular place and time, like some kind of existential anchor of permanence in a sea of change.
Moby Dick is one such book, for me. That book haunts me. It’s the girl I had a crush on in high school but was too afraid to talk to. It’s a cherished memory that I frequently reflect on but can never revisit free of the encumbrance of age and experience. It rests in me, warm and inviting, but always just out of reach; visible, but never to be experienced again for the first time.
I long for that book, but know that it’s probably a once in a lifetime experience. So there is sadness there, despite the adoration I feel for the novel and the careworn memory of reading it.
And I had fun writing my review of it. It wasn’t just a review: something to be hammered out in 45 minutes a couple days after finishing the book. I wrote it while I was reading. Embedded in the graceful language and inexhaustible horror of the open sea, I wrote freely and unapologetically, indulging myself to a degree I’ve never done before. Writing the review was almost as fun as giving myself to the comforting embrace of Melville’s prose. Almost.
Perhaps it’s the exhaustion of reading about real life murder, but I again find myself sitting back and enjoying the experience of a writer freed from the constraints of parsimony. Simmons’ writing is languid in its extravagance; he meanders through this story in a way not typically seen in a modern novel; at times recursive in its detail, tracking back on itself to cover old ground. The repetition of certain phrases and words adds a sense of madness to the text that accentuates the endless terror the characters experience.
While I’ve never read anything else by Dan Simmons, I can’t help but imagine he owes a great deal to Moby Dick. The similarity goes beyond the mere thematic fixation on the details of sailing or the vast horror of the ocean. There’s a richness to the language here; it settles into the bones and numbs your senses. But Simmons has a knack for never feeling out of reach. This book isn’t dense. This book isn’t work. It’s an exultation of what can be done with the English language.
This book requires patience, but I think the beauty of Simmons’ writing and the deftly handled horror of the events described are enough reward to warrant a read. This book is easily the highlight of 2018, for me.