Joseph Bottum:

And yet, even as he develops such ideas in his fiction, he seems less to think them than to feel or even suffer them—wincing as they crash from side to side in his brain like dense boulders of thought. Melville was not a systematically educated man: though backward in his early schooling, he taught himself literature by devouring haphazard naval libraries during the four years of his sailing adventure. And his lack of education meant that he had only the crudest intellectual tools with which to try to break his ideas open. […] He knew the Bible well, inheriting from his church-going age an almost unconsciously profound biblical awareness that left Scripture the ground on which his mind invariably walked. But Melville had little else of the kind of general education that might have stocked his brilliant mind with anything beyond the intellectual commonplaces of his day. His typical pattern of writing is to take a hackneyed, obvious notion like the Romantic view of the corrupt city and the innocent country, and twist it into complex, awkward shapes in an attempt to make it express the far denser mood-thought he felt about the city.

Only such a crude, haphazardly educated mind could produce the bizarre marvel that is Moby-Dick. Take it as inspiration.

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