Do you love reading but sometimes wish it were a little more social and a little less taxing on the wrists? Don't fret; just do a Big Read. There was Infinite Summer, when thousands of people read Infinite Jest, and Conversational Reading did a Big Read of Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai in 2010. And the latest, best Big Read is happening right now: Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick is starting a new life as a podcast. That means the dulcet voices of Stephen Fry, David Cameron, Tilda Swinton, and Simon Callow are all mainlining Melville’s words straight to your ears.
Feel like rising to Ahab's challenge? Here’s how you do it, in seven easy steps!
1. Accept & forgive your decades of Moby-Dick avoidance
“I’ve got too many other books.” “I wasn't that into Bartleby the Scrivener.” “I still hate my high-school American Lit teacher.” Or maybe you took that one English class pass/fail and realized that maybe you could pass without cracking that spine. One way or another, Moby-Dick got beached on your bookshelf. Perfect.
2. See a friend reading it and think seriously about picking it up
Maybe you just came off the heels of a terrible airplane novel and suddenly Melville doesn’t seem so terrible. Maybe you just want to sleep with that boy/girl with the oversized glasses and you need a reason to strike up a conversation. But don’t start the book yet. Baby steps.
3. Learn that Moby-Dick podcasts are happening and that David Attenborough and Benedict Cumberbatch are reading chapters
Read that again: David Attenborough. The dude narrated Planet Earth. Hell, he could read the chapters classifying different whales and have us riveted. Begin seriously considering reading the damn book.
5. Get to Chapter 32 and briefly consider cancelling your internet service
Do whales actually have to be classified by size? Why are you listening to these overly detailed descriptions? Is this book even worth listening to? Ah, but herein lies the beauty of the Big Read: get on Twitter and ask everybody if you really need to keep going. Hear from various sources that yes, really, you should stick with it (and even finish the cetology chapter). Regain your belief that there's method to Melville’s mammalian madness.
6. Kill the White Whale
Four months and one hundred and thirty-five podcasts later, realize that you somehow did it. You read Moby-Dick. Wasn't it better than that terrible airplane novel? Did you hook up with the glasses-wearing friend? Who cares — this is one serious book crossed off your Lifetime Reading list. If you still have an apartment, pop a bottle of Champagne and toast your tenacity.
7. Go hunt another Big Read
Well? Did you think you were done? Look at your bookshelves. (You may take the bottle with you.) The Iliad is actually pretty awesome. And War and Peace’s two epilogues aren’t going to read themselves. Take a deep breath and pick one.
Go on, get cracking.
image credit: ocburbs.blogspot.com