Call him Ishamel. He sets out seeking a girl whose favorite great book
is Moby Dick, and this is the story of his perilous voyage, as he walks the American streets, navigating
esteemed universities and corporations, and braving
the postmodern fogs of dance
clubs in cities including Charlotte, San Francisco, New York, and Chapel Hill.
We'll be showing Moby Dick at RiRa's in Charlotte, Top of the Hill in Chapel Hill, and the eCafe/Theater in Raleigh. Check back here soon for pictures, dates, details, and more!
If ye have questions, please drop Becket a line at email@example.com.
And as always, we wish ye smooth sailing aboard The Jolly Roger.
In Search of the White Whale
by Drake Raft
Call me Ishmael. Not so long ago I set out upon a voyage seeking the White Whale--a girl whose favorite Great Book is Moby Dick. I set sail in Charlotte one windy spring night last April, with a digital video camera in hand to document the perilous voyage. And ever since, I have been haunting the streets of the Queen City, in-between voyaging to New York and San Francisco on jollyroger.nbci.com business--perhaps you saw me in the shadows at Mythos this summer, or up in RiRa's, standing between George Bernard Shaw and James Joyce, or crawling the galleries on North Davidson, looking for the girl who would let me know that the renaissance has begun, that a classical context was again breaching the surface, that Charlotte was leading the Great Books renaissance. But by the time I got to Bar Charlotte, they said she'd headed to Fat City.
Tuto Mondo's: The techo-rave is thundering as I sit in-between two young ladies on a plush couch. Now one can't just sit down next to a girl and ask her what her favorite great book or classic is, unless one has a video camera. If one has a camera, then one can ask a girl pretty much anything. And the blonde on my left begins to lecture in detail about her favorite great book, The Acts of Kama Sutra, which I had not heard of before the advent of my voyage, but which I have found to be a popular favorite. Another standard response to my "Great Books" query is, "What do you mean by a Great Book or Classic?" And that's the question the brunette on my right interjects, just as the Kama Sutra conversation is getting under way. Mark Twain once said that the classics are the books that everyone quotes and nobody reads, and I must admit that the more I ponder the definition of a Great Book, the more the answer eludes me, like the White Whale itself. But I try my best to answer, and I tell her that the Great Books are those that remind us of entities greater than ourselves, thus exalting while entertaining, and bolstering our dreams while easing our burdens. The classics place the most noble of heroes in tragic situations, thereby silhouetting humanity's frailty and grandiosity against the backdrop of an often indifferent universe, resulting in sublime comedy and tragedy, depending upon if one chooses to laugh at or weep with reality's embedded ironies. "Well then I'll go with the Kama Sutra too," the brunette concludes.
The Charlotte Streets: The Great Books know no snobbery nor prejudice, they speak the same truths to all equally, and their standard fare for a first class passage to exotic lands is the opening of their covers. They join us in all walks of life, and though commonly quoted in the Senate and the ivied halls of academia, the words were often composed by penniless poets and prophets. A homeless man overhears me interviewing a group on North Tryon, and says, "Did I hear you say the Great Books young man? Let me tell you this about that--Shakespeare and Dante, Dante and Shakespeare, there are no others. The Divine Comedy, young man. It's God's daily news."
Have a Nice Day Caf: It's college night, and I brave the dance floor when Slim Shady comes on. It's one of those places where it seems impolite to introduce yourself before you start grinding on someone, and I'm not so sure I'm supposed to have a camera in there, or the copy of Moby Dick I took out with me as an ice breaker, so I keep a low profile and join a bridal party. They begin passing Moby Dick around, and it is way funnier than it probably should be, but they're enjoying it, and with the context set, I begin interviewing. Unfortunately none of them have ever read it, except for one who keeps yelling at the camera, "Call me Ishtar!" There's a fog rolling in, and popular answers beneath the rotating disco globe include To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, and The Catcher in the Rye, but when asked if they know who wrote the tomes, about half the interviewees aren't sure, suggesting that they had had to read the books for high school. How many people can name a favorite song and not know the band? In Sync comes on, and I break away to the girl behind me, and for a moment I think I've found her. Some guy yells over "Bye Bye Bye" that her favorite classic is Moby Dick, but when I ask her who wrote it, she shrugs and says, "Charles Dickens?"
RiRa's: Another school of thought generally answers To Kiss The Girls, The Firm, Jurassic Park, and Harry Potter, and who can say that these books won't become tomorrow's classics? I, for one, might, for I saw James Joyce frowning up in RiRa's, as the suited gentleman sitting before him began defending The Stand as a classic. He'd had a few Guinnesses, and he was about ready to take the argument to the street, so I said, "It's just not what James Joyce would say." "Who's that?" "He's frowning right behind you." He briefly glances over his shoulder at the portrait, then back at me. "Who the hell are you, and why are you asking stupid questions?" "I'm looking for a girl whose favorite great book is Moby Dick. Do you know of one?" He wasn't going to tell me, even if he did know one, so I bid him farewell. Like Joyce, deep down in my subterranean soul, I know that works like Hamlet, and Huckleberry Finn, and Moby Dick were written in greater contexts, and though more concise than The Stand, the works are the finely chiseled tips of far greater sculptures.
Some would argue that a more appropriate place to have begun shooting a great books documentary would have been New York, the major port of the publishing world, through whose hallowed gates virtually all books must pass in order to be reviewed and read. But in Moby Dick, Melville states that the White Whale is ubiquitous. And in this information age, where digitized classics flow freely into every corner of all distant cities upon the internet, the cultural frontier is to be found wherever one pauses to contemplate. William Blake saw a world within a grain of sand, and with the advent of the World Wide Web, we are realizing Melville's and Blake's visions, as silicon chips hold entire libraries accessible from anywhere upon this watery globe.
And so it is that Charlotte has all the advantages when it comes to being the stage for the first few acts of a classical renaissance. For today New York and San Francisco are dominated by the postmodern corporatization of literature, where the critics are held superior to the temporal works which they hype. No lasting renaissance nor work of art was ever conceived of nor launched by a committee of agents and editors, who tend to adhere bureaucracy's conformity, but rather new literature has always sought the open ocean, as far as way as possible from the ballasted publishing houses, for it is in the White Whale's nature to swim free. So it was no wonder that when I returned from shooting in Times Square and gently glided down just to the West of Charlotte one fine Autumn dusk, I glimpsed the White Whale behind the Bank of America building. So after spending an hour finding my Jeep in the third satellite parking lot, I headed out to AB&I.
Atlantic Beer and Ice: I join two young ladies eating dinner out in front of AB&I, on a most magnificent October evening that is the South's crown jewel. One of them says her favorite classic is Pride and Prejudice, whereupon the other adds, "Me too! I never knew you liked it!" It turns out they're best friends, and they both used to be cheerleaders at UNCC--that's how they met, and this is their first year working at First Union. And they're both surprised to find out how much the other one liked Pride and Prejudice. Ahoy then matie! Think of all the secret treasures and gems of conversation sail over on a daily basis. Think of all the silent souls we pass in a day's work, our friends and coworkers, parents and children, and when's the last time we shared thoughts on our favorite book? It's a most intimate question, and while good friends may seldom if ever discuss it, here I was, asking people before I even knew their names. I was going after the White Whale, and I knew the dire fate which it implied, but I had no choice, for Ahab is Ahab. So I ask them if they might know of where I might find a girl whose favorite great book is Moby Dick. One of them responds that she's never read it, and the other one agrees, adding, "I think my x-boyfriend read it--that's what he called his p----."
And so it is that for now I'm fated to walk the Queen City's night streets, until my quest is completed, or eternity runs out of time. And although our nobler dreams often elude us, as sure as the classics offer proof that Socrates never found the Truth, and Ahab never apprehended the White Whale, and Einstein never realized the unified theory he sought; look at the noble riches left in the wake of the passionate pursuit of those eternal entities known as Truth and Beauty. So how is this voyage to end? Join us next month for a screening of "In Search of the White Whale" upstairs at Rira's. Check out jollyroger.com/charlotte for details, and I'll see ye there! Avast! I'm off to the Loew's Motor Speedway.
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