Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 38.
- Review Date: 2008-10-20
- Reviewer: Staff
A supple and well-read poet with a fine ear, Beachy-Quick has long studied—some might even say he has been obsessed with—Moby-Dick; his second (of three) books of verse, Spell (2004), wove references and passages from Melville's novel into poems. This much longer book of short prose essays responds in more straightforward ways: each of its two-to-three–page pieces takes up a topic from the lives and thoughts of Ahab, Ishmael and their crew (such as ”Vengeance,” ”Flame” and “Fate”) and reflects on it. Often the whale, and the book, represent the endlessness of all quests, our enduring hunger for the right, last word. Jewish philosophy and wisdom literature (Martin Buber, Emmanuel Levinas), other famous modern thinkers (Wittgenstein, Derrida) and Shakespeare's King Lear also guide Beachy-Quick's thoughts, while the rhythms of not only Melville but Emerson and Thoreau guide his resonant prose. The poet Charles Olson launched his own career with a book about Melville, and Beachy-Quick may have Olson in mind; he has certainly paid rapt attention to a world masterpiece. Yet that attention too often produces predictable arguments, ideas that many other readers of Melville will easily recognize, though Beachy-Quick's lyrical evocation may also give them new life: “The whale is the wall behind which the universe mockingly lingers whole.” (Oct.)