Available June 7th
Chuck Klosterman has officially warmed up the cool side of the pillow and stolen all our comfy slippers. In his new book, But What If We’re Wrong, Klosterman takes the role of Ygritte and tells the lot of us John Snows exactly how much we know. As the Candide of Uncertainty, he demonstrates that humanity is pretty much an unreliable narrator of our own history. And in 1,000 years we will look exactly like the poo flinging monkeys we looked like a 1,000 years ago from today. From our defective observation skills and the history we narrate from those observations, to the idea we are an app living in some tweenster’s cell phone; Klosterman’s essays address all the stuff we think we know and why we probably should doubt it.
One of the more provocative ideas in But What If We’re Wrong goes to our questionable ability to objectively witness and record events. Purveyors of these observations, known colloquially as historians, comb through and anthologize, memorialize and marginalize these human experiences into bitesize portions. We cling onto these tomes as infallible sources of wisdom while they are at least 3 degrees of separation from reality. But what Klosterman doesn’t address are the errors compounded from the things left unsaid. The things people were afraid to say at the time, and so buried them in white sperm whale metaphors of unattainable desires.
All this beating around the berries leaves us to do a fair amount of reading between the lines. So not only is the recorded history built on shifting sands but we are trying to scry the grains on the way to the bottom. But Melville was nice enough to not be terribly careful or secretive about what he was trying not to say outright. PhD’s have been made on the homoerotic harpooning of so many whales.
Fortunately for us, we can double down on Melville by scratching the surface of his private correspondence. Namely, with puritan and paramore, Nathaniel Hawthorne. The idea of their relationship is not new. Academics have talked about it. People have written plays about it. And now someone has written a book about it. Mark Beauregard has written a delicious book of all the anticipations and exigencies of love. Never has so many legs brushing in carriages been so thrilling. The Whale: A Love Story is tale of metaphysical attraction so overpowering that it leaves in its wake, a path of destruction as it wantonly destroys the lives all around it. Wait, didn’t Melville write a book about that, something about a fish maybe?
And while we can quibble about the details because the historical record is already quicksand, there is enough in the whisper and trace to fuel this story. A story that has waited a long time to be told so thoroughly. But how sadly fortunate American literature has been to profit by these unrequited loves which were redirected to the page.
Available June 14th
In celebration of the love between Hawthorne and Melville, I am declaring June, Herman & Hawthorne Month here at Aploplexy! I have a bunch of half-crazed ideas planned out and a good bunch of white polar fleece for making Moby Dick costumes for the cats. I don’t know if this is more of an announcement or forewarning. So just make sure you have all your shots.