Two Octogenarians Reading a Book
Don Routh (my husband) and I had the habit of reading aloud every morning. We read the complete plays and poetry of Shakespeare. After going through the plays by two other Elizabethan playwrights, Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe, we decided to change direction and read novels. We had fun with such classics as Pride and Prejudice, Madame Bovary (in English), and Frankenstein.
At some point I mentioned that if we had recorded all we read, we would have a collection of audio books. Don’s daughter, Lauri, was there and said, “Oh, I would love to have a recording of Daddy.”
That was all the encouragement we needed. Grandson Paul ordered us a microphone and set us up a makeshift portable studio. Our friend John Bryant had just completed a two volume biography of Melville (Melville, A Half Known Life). Both Don and I enjoyed reading works by people we know, but in this case we thought we did not know enough about Melville to fully appreciate John’s opus. Don had recently read Moby Dick, so at John’s suggestion, we decided to read Typee, A Peep at Polynesian life, an early and partially autobiographical novel which, with its focus on a little known people of the Marquesas Islands of the South Pacific, constitutes a fascinating piece of proto anthropology.
As it turns out, Don died before we finished this project. Since we had read most of the book, I decided to finish recording it myself so that we would have the whole book.
At this time I am posting the first 12 chapters. More chapters will be posted soon. Don’s eyesight was weakening – forgive the numerous side conversations about stronger glasses. Realizing now how ill he was, I appreciate how valiant his effort was here!!
Here are chapters 13 through most of 25. The battery on the computer went dead during chapter 25. After that, Don was too ill to continue. We had some sort of technical difficulty during chapter 14, and I ended up reading the end of it by myself. See if you agree with me that this portion of chapter 14 is a protracted double entendre.
Toward the end of chapter 13, Don and I have a little debate about whether a word is literally or liberally. It turns out that we were both right as we each had a different edition of the work. I listened to a lecture online by John Bryant about Typee and was most delighted when he showed the original manuscript in Melville’s handwriting. There was no way to tell from his scrawl which he meant! You may join the discussion of which word Melville meant to use. This is like Shakespeare’s too too solid or too too sullied flesh.
In chapter 17 there are passages reminiscent of the sixteenth-century French author Montaigne (father of the essay form), particularly his essay on cannibals. For Melville and Montaigne “savagery” is not always inferior to Civilization. (And this from writers who never heard the word “ethnocentric.”)
I am reading and recording the remaining chapters. We all need to know how it comes out.