Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Review: The Great Influenza by John M Barry

John M. Barry´s list of works in shows that he is able to make a popular, general audience book about topics that academic historians might write articles and monographs the general public would avoid, like the way Ken Burns does with PBS films.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Both Believer and Infidel-Herman Melville

And how nobly it raises our conceit of the mighty, misty monster, to behold him solemnly sailing through a calm tropical sea; his vast, mild head overhung by a canopy of vapor, engendered by his incommunicable contemplations, and that vapor - as you will sometimes see it - glorified by a rainbow, as if Heaven itself had put its seal upon his thoughts. For, d'ye see, rainbows do not visit the clear air; they only irradiate vapor. And so, through all the thick mists of the dim doubts in my mind, divine intuitions now and then shoot, enkindling my fog with a heavenly ray. And for this I thank God; for all have doubts; many deny; but doubts or denials, few along with them, have intuitions. Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with equal eye.
This amazing passage appears at the end of Chapter 85 of Moby Dick, entitled "The Fountain." It's a (surprise!) lengthy speculation on the breathing apparatus of the sperm whale. And just when you're wondering why you are reading it, you get this wonderful insight from the author, Herman Melville.

Here's an earlier blog entry I did with a Moby Dick quote.

2013-12-25: The Lettered Wayfarer posted a quote from Moby Dick with a thoughtful introduction.