Monday, August 8, 2011

A whale of a dilemma

Should I be unfaithful to this "definitive text"?

I'm about to begin Moby-Dick again and though the trusty Penguin Classics edition I've underlined, annotated, and dog-eared pretty heavily through the course of two previous readings has become a sentimental object, I'm thinking it might be time to invest in a new edition, one whose yellowing margins are free of the embarrassing penciled in thoughts of my younger selves.

But I'm not sure. You can learn a lot about yourself by returning to a book you've read before. Will those passages that resonated previously affect me the same way now? Will I agree with my assessments of a character or plot development? And, especially important in the case of a book as weird and patchwork as Moby-Dick, will I remember which chapters I can skip?

On the other hand, there are benefits to approaching a familiar book by a new route. I'd be seeing Moby-Dick free of former prejudices and might, by getting my hands on a fresh copy, pull the book out from under the layers of thoughts I've added to my sturdy Penguin Classics copy.

I'm undecided. Should I remain faithful to a my copy, with its cracked spine and all of its history, or is straying in this case morally acceptable? Maybe you can help me decide.

In the meantime, here's a collection of Moby-Dick cover art, some old, some new, some imaginary:







6 comments:

Stephy said...

You have to remain loyal to your history, but if you want to look at the read through fresh eyes, I'd say read an unadulterated copy, and after each chapter you can look back on your comments/writing in your old copy. You can from new opinions of the book, yet still look back and remember where you came from, chapter by chapter.

Jeff Scott said...

If I've re-read the same copy, I have reminiscence of when I read it before. I end up remembering what I thought back then and what I was going through as well as new interpretation of the book. It's like a time machine. Also, the second to last cover art creeped me out.

Alysandher said...

Well, with a book as dense as Moby-Dick there's more than enough room for both. Nothing can rival the heady nostalgia of reading from a well-worn copy, but at the same time reading from a new edition can offer a priceless fresh perspective. Alternate between the two as mood strikes. Of course, if this idea doesn't strike your fancy, I'd just stick with ol' faithful.

Anonymous said...

google books! ha-ha-ha just kidding . . .

Spiros said...

Effect, not affect.

Karen said...

Affect...