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The weight of the hustle is squarely on me, which is basically how nature intended it. I tell my children that one of the defining pleasures of Brooklyn Heights is the morning view of the harbor. It is the prospect of Manhattan, figured as a ship heading out to sea in Moby Dick —the best description of the aforementioned view I have found—that impels Ishmael to try his luck on a whaler, which is the city in microcosm. The ship, which I have sailed in the pond in Central Park, sits on a low modern table next to my daybed. When, like Ishmael, I yearn for adventure, or when I grow weary of carrying weight for a brood whose sole and incessant demand is that I return their love, I duck into the fourth-floor bathroom and float my sailboat in the bathtub.

W ho Herman Melville was and what he actually thought about anything are altogether unsatisfying questions that have never been answered in a satisfying way. This has led critics from the beginning of his literary existence to accuse him, often rightfully, of fraud. The proper answer to such criticism is that all literature is a species of fraud, in the same way that all property is theft, and every great fortune is founded on a great crime. But why should they?

Just as books are made of other books, every great American is a person who made themselves up out of whole cloth. So how else could a homespun American Shakespeare have happened, and what else could he have pondered, if not the frauds that define America and Americans? Alongside all swindlers the state now stands there as swindler-in-chief. The ship then headed westward in the vicinity of the desolate Encantadas.


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After recruiting new men in the Sandwich Islands the first and third mates, along with thirteen of the twenty-three-member crew, fled the ship or were put ashore with disease , the Acushnet sailed on to Nuku Hiva, one of the Marquesas, and dropped anchor in a bay called Taiohae, whereupon Melville fled into the interior along with a seventeen-year-old fellow seaman from upstate New York named Toby Greene.

After a series of miserable days and nights, the two New Yorkers split up.

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Melville stayed behind with an infected leg, under the care of Polynesian natives, while Greene headed back to the coast for medical help. As far as has been determined by generations of scholars, who have doubtlessly consulted every scrap of evidence available, Melville spent perhaps two to three weeks in the valley of Taipivai. He had never been to Polynesia before, and came equipped with perhaps a half-dozen words of the native language. However, the scene in which his friend Kory-Kory rubs a six-foot pole between his hands, as his back arches and muscles tense, until it bursts into flame, is most likely a metaphoric rendering of a different act no record exists attesting to whether Thoreau tried this method at Walden.

The much-talked-about scene where the native beauty Fayaway drops her robe to reveal the glory of her nakedness at a discreet distance from the author is probably also a metaphor for something more earthy. There is plenty of evidence in surviving early manuscript pages to suggest that Melville originally wrote Typee as a familial in-joke, with members of his family cast as the natives.

Like most literary memoirs, at the time and since, Typee was obviously a fraud, in that very few of the incidents and quotations related could possibly be true. Typee was rejected by the editors of the Harpers publishing house, who scented fraud. Lot and His Daughters , by Jan Metsys, Navy vessels were treated worse than dogs.

Y et there is also evidence to suggest that Melville might have become a great writer even if success and controversy had not interceded and Typee had been thoroughly exposed as a work of fiction.

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Monck Mason was a fictitious character. The suggestion that Typee was a fraud stung Melville deeply. In his novels that came after Typee —including Omoo , Mardi , White-Jacket , and Redburn —Melville tried to write for a public that was outraged by the truth of what he saw and felt and whose appetite for hypocrisy had been whetted by the pleasing lies of Typee.

Over time, the injury that Melville did to his own sense of truthfulness in pursuit of an audience exploded into a higher consciousness of fraud as the essence of literary art. Books are made of other books—and so Moby Dick flatly advertised its borrowings before the story properly began. Through these acts of art, Melville created a space in which his readers could suspend their disbelief.

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He then filled that space with everything he knew and felt to be true about the ineffable fates of humans and whales. Melville had been thinking about writing something like Moby Dick from the very beginning of his literary life. Before he set off to Liverpool, on his first voyage, he may have read the account of J. The difference between Typee and Moby Dick is not that the first story was true and the second was not; they were both stories, ginned up out of facts and stories drawn from other books, as well as stories Melville had been told, or things he had seen or experienced firsthand.


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  8. The Old Grounds are not producing as many flounder as we would hope. So far, trolling with spreader bars, Joe Shute or Ilander lures with ballyhoo or Green Machines have been the best techniques. Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age. Since he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast. He has been the regional editor for several publications and was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.

    He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at Eburnle aol. Eric Burnley. July 12, Sunny Crowell with his pound, ounce flounder caught at Reef Site 10 on a live spot. Flesh-eating bacteria There has been a great deal of press recently about the flesh-eating bacteria found in the Delaware Bay. Fishing report The hot weather and southwest wind kept fishing about the same over the holiday weekend.

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