“To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme” (Moby-Dick)

One often hears of writers that rise and swell with their subject, though it may seem but an ordinary one. How, then, with me, writing of this Leviathan? Unconsciously my chirography expands into placard capitals. Give me a condor’s quill! Give me Vesuvius’ crater for an inkstand! Friends, hold my arms! For in the mere act of penning my thoughts of this Leviathan, they weary me, and make me faint with their outreaching comprehensiveness of sweep, as if to include the whole circle of the sciences, and all the generations of whales, and men, and mastodons, past, present, and to come, with all the revolving panoramas of empire on earth, and throughout the whole universe, not excluding its suburbs. Such, and so magnifying, is the virtue of a large and liberal theme! We expand to its bulk. To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.

From “The Fossil Whale,” Chapter 104 of Melville’s Moby-Dick.

 

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3 comments

  1. Katherine C. Mead-Brewer · February 4, 2013

    Ahaha, when I first read the title of this post my eyes bugged out because I thought it said: “To produce a mighty book, you must choose a might dick.”

    Like

  2. nina luz · February 4, 2013

    @ Katherine above: A Leviathan dick quill…? lol Same here… Must be Mondays Syndrome… (I know).

    Like

  3. blumm · February 4, 2013

    Give me Vesuvius’ crater for an inkstand! (¡¡Uau!!)

    Like

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