I was in a book club this summer with my grandpa. He picked Moby Dick. I didn’t have a say in it but hey, this was cool. As an English major, I am long overdue for Ahab’s white whale obsession.
Grandpa wrote his name in it.
Underlined poignancy, made notes here and there.
Then he forgot about it. Put it on a shelf and went to a war and had a pile of kids and farmed up food. Moby Dick moved over the years to other shelves in different rooms to a box of books in a brimming closet, leapfrogging decades and cities till I dug it out.
All summer I consumed dense pages, wondering if like me he read passages aloud to feel the shape of words flow out his mouth. I liked it for the most part—the waves and wind and weird literary devices—though it did get long.
Be honest—how much whale physiology and sea creature taxonomy and byzantine descriptions of a whaling ship’s rigging did you skim or skip completely?
Your notes got scarce then, and I don’t blame a bit.
I wish there were more of them, turning each page hoping he would be there to hint what he was thinking. To tell me something about himself or the world—what he figured out of it.
I went to his funeral in the womb.
Would’ve liked to book club Goodnight Moon.
This will have to do.