I managed to catch much of the last hour of the Moby-Dick marathon. I walked in at 12:08, Chapter 134, “The Chase — Second Day”; Carol came in just after me. They saved the best readers for last, including a repeat appearance by Peter Whittemore, the great-great-grandson of Herman Melville. By my estimate, just over a hundred people in the room to hear the end of the book. Carol heard almost all of that last hour; I had to duck out for a phone call about tomorrow’s memorial service.
This year, thirteen people stayed for the full 25 hours, including people from New Bedford, Westport, Nantucket, and Centerville, Massachusetts; Connecticut; Washington, D.C.; Maryland; and Nevada.
The marathon ended at 1:03 EST, with these last words:
And I only am escaped alone to tell thee. JOB
The Drama’s Done. Why then here does any one step forth? – Because one did survive the wreck.
It so chanced, that after the Parsee’s disappearance, I was he whom the Fates ordained to take the place of Ahab’s bowsman, when that bowsman assumed the vacant post; the same, who, when on the last day the three men were tossed from out the rocking boat, was dropped astern. So. floating on the margin of the ensuing scene, and in full sight of it, when the half-spent suction of the sunk ship reached me, I was then, but slowly, drawn towards the closing vortex. When I reached it, it had subsided to a creamy pool. Round and round, then, and ever contracting towards the button-like black bubble at the axis of that slowly wheeling circle, like another ixion I did revolve. till gaining that vital centre, the black bubble upward burst; and now, liberated by reason of its cunning spring, and owing to its great buoyancy, rising with great force, the coffin like-buoy shot lengthwise from the sea, fell over, and floated by my side. Buoyed up by that coffin, for almost one whole day and night, I floated on a soft and dirge-like main. The unharming sharks, they glided by as if with padlocks on their mouths; the savage sea-hawks sailed with sheathed beaks. On the second day, a sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last. It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan.
I see in my copy of Moby-Dick the following written in pencil, in my writing, after the word “Finis”: July 4, 1984; that date, I guess, when I finished reading the whole of the book for the first time. It would have been marvelous to hear the whole of Moby-Dick read aloud this time; maybe next year.
Online Moby-Dick, marred by occasional typos but easy to navigate and search.
Moby-Dick marathon Web page on the site of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.