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From: John Bishop <jbishop@blkbrd.zko.dec.com>
Subject: (urth) Re: Moby Wolfe [Digest urth.v022.n038]
Date: Fri, 05 Feb 1999 09:07:47 

Cute, but no cigar:

o  "Call me Ishmael" is a reference to the son of Abram and
   his concubine Hagar (search for "Ishmael" in 
   His family splits off before the Jews become Jews.

   So "Ishmael" is not the narrator's name, but his method of:

   1) denying the reader his real name, 

   2) claiming that real names are not the point, 

   3) saying he is a "wanderer" and cast out from his people and

   4) telling the reader that what follows is going to be 
      portentious and symbolic (biblical) rather than realistic
      and direct.

   Dan McCall, author and English professor, told me this
   some years ago; as the professor pointed out, any reader
   of the time would have instantly caught the reference.

   Of course, "Severian" is meant to make us think of "severe"
   but it's also his name.

o  Quequeeg is probably not Andean; many of the whalers were
   Native Americans from New England (e.g. the "Gay Head Indians"
   who were in the news a few years ago when they had a run-in
   with Jackie Kennedy over land on Martha's Vineyard), others
   came from all over; but the makers of shrunken heads are the
   Jivaro [http://users1.ee.net/pmason/shrunk2.html], who are
   from Brazilian or Ecuadorian low-land forests.  On the other
   hand, he may just have picked up the technique as a way of
   making money from other people's prejudices.

   Personally, given his tatoos, I suspect he's a Pacific 
   Islander--Hawaiian, Tahitian, Samoan or Maori: the whalers
   were active in the Pacific and recruited anywhere they could
   get cheap, tough workers.

o  And who would be Ahab?

        -John Bishop

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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