Thursday, January 12

A Single Little Piece

I was reading a story about an Oprah Book Club selection, a first person memoir, that apparently contained quite a bit of misinformation. I wondered what other books might fall into this category so I did some research.

I wanted to examine a book that was a first person memoir in the public domain that would be familiar to a large segment of readers.

I chose Moby Dick, a book that anyone who went to high school has had to slog through at one time or another. But, as I dug deeper into this work I discovered that it was more than just a long, boring story about killing a whale. No, it is much more loathsome than that.

The duplicity begins with the very first sentence, “Call me Ishmael.” After extensive research I have uncovered incontrovertible proof that the author of this work is not called “Ishmael” at all. His real name is “Herman”.

Later Herman – let’s use real names here, shall we? – runs into the captain of a whaling ship - Captain Ahab. After extensive sessions on Google and a detailed inspection of birth, death, tax, and voting records I have determined that in the past 150 years there has never been anyone born in the United States of America who has been given the name "Ahab".

Think about it. Have you ever run into anyone named Ahab?

“Joe, have you met my broker, Ahab?”

“Salesman of the year: Ahab”.

“My name is Ahab and I’m an alcoholic.”

No, I didn’t think so.

Finally, and this is the most unsettling item of all, although the entire plot of this book involves Herman's and this so-called Ahab's search for a large, white whale, there is no evidence in any nautical log, book, or almanac that this creature ever existed!

In fact, it appears that this "great white whale" is entirely a figment of Herman's imagination. Worse than that, it may actually be representing something else - although no one seems to know exactly what it really stands for.

Now, there are those who say that this isn't supposed to be a true story, that it is the tone, character, and setting that is important - not the actual facts.

Well, to these people I have but one thing to say:

Call me Skeptical.

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