What is the meaning of Moby Dick?

The Questions Answered column has languished lately because in the past few months I have only been receiving questions of the most staggering banality - I mean, general knowledge questions from people who appear not to have heard of Google, pleas for help with film trivia of the order of, 'Please help settle a bet: what was Rocky's surname in the Rocky films?' and in one case, which appears to have been quite serious, a request for help planning a journey by someone apparently incapable of consulting a fucking train timetable.

This last, I think, is what comes of letting old people, or retards, get their hands on computers. I really wish I'd answered that question, actually. In fact, I'm going to, right now. This is for you, Derek of Dunfermline, if you're still stuck in your fucking house because no-one will tell you what bastard train to catch.


You will have to start bright and early in the morning. Pull on your least piss-drenched pants and haul your wretched carcass out of your manky plastic-bag-infested house. Oh, take your slippers off first, unless they've been on so long toenails are going to come with them, and put some fucking shoes on, for Christ's sake. Don't take your budgie with you, they're not allowed on trains. Shuffle down to the corner and catch a bus, a big red thing with wheels, or get your mental health visitor to drive you into town. Try not to piss on the way.

Catch the 9.17 from Dunfermline to Edinburgh
At Edinburgh, ask someone in a uniform to put you on the 11.12 from Edinburgh to Crewe
(Or if someone in a white uniform with a reassuring voice approaches you, go where they take you and stay there forever)
At Crewe, change to the 14.40 to Portsmouth
At Portsmouth, catch the ferry to Calais
From Calais, catch the earliest available train to Gare du Nord Paris
At Paris, enquire for tickets on the Orient Express. You will want to book a sleeping-car to Belgrade
When you get to Belgrade, ask for directions to the Hotel Beograd
At the Hotel Beograd, ask the way to the kitchen
In the kitchen, look for the meat locker. Go inside and shut the door firmly behind you in case of drafts. Remain there patiently until called for. I have arranged a taxi to take you the rest of the way, but if you leave the meat locker before it comes, I will eat your budgie.

...Then there were a couple of annoying students asking for help with their homework. I think I actually helped one of them because, well, she was a schoolgirl. I have no intention, however, of helping Chris, who wrote:

I found your pass notes but there's nothing on Mobey Dick please please please can you do one on Mobey Dick? especially chrcter of Ahab, plot, meaning, etc, need by weekend, Thx
'Moby Dick' is a tale set in the porno industry about a man who has his cock bitten off by a Great White Whore and roams the world seeking... No, bugger off. Attend a damn lecture and/or read the damn book. (Although if you've used any of my other Pass Notes for your course, there's probably not much point now anyway.) Really, read the book, it's cool once you get into it. Pride, revenge, obsession, exciting whale-hunts, stuff like that. Ahab in particular is excellent, a man who won't take any shit from anyone or anything, not even God. An outcast. A man alone. Hard as nails, you know? Just like me, in fact, except he only has one leg and I get sea-sick playing the MB Games Battleships.

You should be warned that Melville bangs on about whales a lot, though. He's well into whales and frankly becomes a pain in the arse about it at times. I started to skip these bits myself and, in fact, will precis them for you: whales are very big. In fact (and I only posted Chris's mail as an excuse to do this) here is my rendition of the chapters of Moby Dick where Melville is banging on about whales:

'The whale's penis! Ye Gods! How can I convey to you the sheer magnitude of the whale's penis? To do justice to the foreskin alone would require forty pages and half a thesaurus. - It is said that as a child Good Queen Bess was given a whale's foreskin, and had it erected as a marquee in the garden, in which no less than forty courtiers and a team of dancing bears held a tea-party. As for biblical authority, Sheba gifted Solomon with a fine unguent made from the smegma of a whale: 400 jars of it, from a single specimen; applied liberally to the face and neck, it was reputed to have the magical property of warding off any creature with olfactory organs...And the whale's bollocks! Saints preserve us! You should see the size of a whale's bollocks! Imagine, reader, twin planets, one riding slightly higher than the other, encased in an integument the thickness and texture of a Persian rug, intaglioed with a magnificent network of wrinkles such as Theseus alone could map...the Vas Deferens tube is large enough to admit of a small child sliding through it - as they are wont to do, with merry shrieks, on many a Nantucket festival-day...And the She-Whale's vagina! Jeeesus Christ! What can I tell you of the She-Whale's vagina? Picture to yourself an echoing chasm full half a mile long...many the poor vessel that has been trapped therein...it is related by the Phoenicians that a particularly large whale-mare, Wide Alley Sally by name, did rear up and pleasure herself with the Rock of Gibraltar, using it like unto the manner of a dildo...the thing to do if trapped in a she-whale's vagina is to stimulate the clitoris (The she-whale's clitoris! Picture to yourself a ruby the size of a roc's egg!) with harpoons until you are expelled by her orgasmic contractions...'

December 2003

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