We are planning to publish an annotated edition of Moby-Dick to coincide with the marathon reading, and have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund it. This is going to be a lovely, high-quality edition, in paperback and hardback, using the excellent Power Moby-Dick online annotated edition. Watch the video above then go over to Kickstarter to read more about the project and sign up for one of these lovely books. Details here: Annotated Moby-Dick at Kickstarter.
The Kathleen and May is a wooden three-masted topsail schooner built in 1900 and the last survivor of its kind. The ship spent its working life plying the Irish sea and the coasts of Ireland and Great Britain, and is now based in Liverpool. I am delighted to announce that the beginning and end of each day of our Moby-Dick marathon will take place on board. And here’s an odd little coincidence. From 1908 to 1931, the Kathleen and May was based in Youghal (pronounced Yawl) in County Cork, Ireland, the very town that features in the harbour scenes of John Huston’s film adaptation of Moby-Dick.
Do you have pictures of this beautiful old ship? If so, why not add them to the Kathleen and May group on Flickr?
The New Bedford Whaling Museum, which holds its 17th annual Moby Dick marathon in January 2013, is collecting images of people reading Moby Dick via a Flickr group you can find right here. I’ll have news of a very special edition of Moby Dick that would be ideal for this very soon, but in the mean time, why not break out your camera and see what you can come up with?
In the weeks before and after the weekend of our marathon reading, there will be a series of accessible public lectures exploring Liverpool’s connection with Melville and Moby Dick, mythologies of whaling, whaling in Liverpool, and the whaling industry in Liverpool and the Northwest, and on whales and marine conservation. The programme is starting to shape up, so I thought I would share what we have so far:
Maritime Lectures 2013, Wednesdays 17, 24 April, 1, 8, 15, 22 May
At the Merseyside Maritime Museum, 4th floor lecture theatre, 1-2pm.
- Dr Chris Routledge on Scoresby and Liverpool whaling, whaling and science etc. April 17 Date confirmed.
- Gavin Hunter (archivist at Port Sunlight) on the Harris Whaling Station bought by Lord Leverhulme to supply his soap works with whale oil. April 24 Date confirmed.
- Melville, Moby Dick and Liverpool– impact & about the book; Melville’s connection to Liverpool. May 1 To be confirmed.
- Mythology of whales and whaling, Innuits/Canadian first nations. N West coast mythology. Objects in museum. May 8 To be confirmed.
- Dr Bernard Stonehouse (Scott Polar Institute, University of Cambridge). Liverpool and the establishment of whaling fleets. May 15 Date confirmed.
- Whale/Marine Conservation. May 22 To be confirmed.
Last night I attended Moby Dick at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre, adapted for stage by Conor Lovett and Judy Hegarty Lovett from the novel by Herman Melville, with music composed and performed by Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh, as part of the Liverpool Irish Festival. I was also lucky enough to speak to Conor earlier in the day about the play, and the unlikely, yet rather wonderful, transformation of Melville’s novel into a play with just one actor.
This is a gripping, and intense performance, with sustained tension and high drama. Ishmael’s story is accompanied by the perfectly-judged music of Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh, performing on an instrument I had never seen before, but which turns out to be a Norwegian Setesdalsfele “5+5”, a fiddle with five played strings, and five resonating strings below. Together they recreate the atmosphere of melancholy stillness and suppressed danger that pervades the novel itself, from the first ‘loomings’ to its desolate epilogue, and yet do so with a lightness and humour that make this show a joy.
The performance is impressive, but I was also fascinated by the process of adaptation, itself a remarkable feat. Judy Hegarty Lovett, the show’s director, first read the book, and declared it “a natural solo show.” What followed was an intense period of study, stripping down the novel and turning it into a conversation between Ishmael and the audience, a conversation in which he tells the story of Ahab’s “slow demise,” divesting himself of civilisation. Lovett recalled “Every day going down to this semi-submerged vaulted cave thing, I would light my wood burning stove and start filleting our sentences. I felt like I was going on board the Pequod every day … A crazy, intense period.” It is a remarkable adaptation that somehow manages to distill Melville’s book into an intimate, personal recollection, and yet leaves nothing of its magnitude behind.
Having spliced together the key chapters and scenes, finding sentences that would express what they hoped to get across, there was naturally very little room for the encyclopaedic detail for which the novel is famous. Almost everything had to be stripped away to get to the essence of Ishmael’s story, and yet there is obvious pleasure here in Melville’s language, his use of Quaker speech, and moments of comedy. The result is a beautiful jewel of a show that captures the mental and moral decline of Ahab and his crew, and the existential challenge they face. The destructive force of Ahab and the whale, and the profound loneliness of Ishmael at the end of the story, are powerfully handled.
Gare St. Lazare Players have been touring the play off and on since 2009, performing around the world, and Lovett says that it has given him some wonderful experiences, in particular putting on shows around New Bedford, and visiting the whaling museum there, and at Mystic Seaport. This was the last performance of the current tour, before the Gare St. Lazare Players move on with the productions of Beckett which form the bulk of their repertoire, but Moby Dick will be back. I recommend you look out for it, but in the mean time, why not read the book?
We began putting the programme together for next Spring’s lecture series at the Merseyside Maritime Museum this morning. The six lectures, which are organised through Continuing Education at the University of Liverpool, will take place weekly on Wednesdays between mid-April and mid-May 2013 (final dates to be confirmed), to coincide with our Moby Dick on the Mersey marathon reading. Topics we are hoping to cover include Liverpool’s whaling fleet in the eighteenth century; William Scoresby, whaling, and Greenland’s ‘Liverpool Coast’; Melville and Liverpool; the mythology of whaling; and whales in the Irish Sea.
We’re building an exciting series of events on and around the weekend itself. Watch this space for more information as the programme comes together. Follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our mailing list.
Announcing Moby Dick on the Mersey, a marathon reading of Herman Melville’s epic novel taking place at the Merseyside Maritime Museum over three days, from the 4th to the 6th of May, 2013. The event is a collaboration between the museum and the University of Liverpool department of Continuing Education. We are going to need over 130 readers, so if you want to take part sign up for our email updates, and follow @merseymobydick on Twitter, so we can let you know how you can get involved.