Friday, August 12, 2016

Five of the best-known literary obsessives

At the Guardian, Charlotte Seager tagged five well-known literary monomaniacs who take things too far, including:
Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Obsession is often vengeful: after the white whale bites off his leg, Captain Ahab becomes fixated on hunting him. Few would embark on such a monomaniacal pursuit, but anger clouds his thoughts and, like our other characters, Ahab becomes blinded by his obsession. When he finally finds and harpoons the whale, the line gets looped round his neck, and Ahab is pulled away with it to sea:
The harpoon was darted; the stricken whale flew forward; with igniting velocity the line ran through the grooves. Ahab stooped to clear it; he did clear it; but the flying turn caught him round the neck, and voicelessly as mutes bowstring their victim, he was shot out of the boat, ere the crew knew he was gone. Next instant, the heavy eye-splice in the rope’s final end flew out of the stark-empty tub, knocked down an oarsman, and smiting the sea, disappeared in its depths.
So, yet another obsessive loses their life to a fixation. Captain Ahab is so addicted to hunting the whale that he doesn’t see it for what it is: a futile quest for revenge. The object of his obsession escapes with a harpoon in its side.
Read about another entry on the list.

Moby-Dick appears among Ann Leary's top ten books set in New England, Martin Seay's ten best long books, Ian McGuire's ten best adventure novels, Jeff Somers's five top books that will expand your vocabulary and entertain, Four books that changed Mary Norris, Tim Dee's ten best nature books, the Telegraph's fifteen best North American novels of all time, Nicole Hill's top ten best names in literature to give your dog, Horatio Clare's five favorite maritime novels, the Telegraph's ten great meals in literature, Brenda Wineapple's six favorite books, Scott Greenstone's top seven allegorical novels, Paul Wilson's top ten books about disability, Lynn Shepherd's ten top fictional drownings, Peter Murphy's top ten literary preachers, Penn Jillette's six favorite books, Peter F. Stevens's top ten nautical books, Katharine Quarmby's top ten disability stories, Jonathan Evison's six favorite books, Bella Bathurst's top 10 books on the sea, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best nightmares in literature and ten of the best tattoos in literature, Susan Cheever's five best books about obsession, Christopher Buckley's best books, Jane Yolen's five most important books, Chris Dodd's best books, Augusten Burroughs' five most important books, Norman Mailer's top ten works of literature, David Wroblewski's five most important books, Russell Banks' five most important books, and Philip Hoare's top ten books about whales.

--Marshal Zeringue