Filed under: Book review, Moby-Monday, storytelling | Tags: Amplified, Jon Langford, Meg Guroff, Melville House, Moby-Dick
In a world rife with fiction by people who maybe shouldn’t be writing fiction, Julie Schaper and Steve Horwitz tracked down a few people who weren’t writing fiction but ought to be. The two editors’ new anthology, Amplified, (Melville House, 2009) collects short stories by some of alt-country music’s most influential songwriters, including Laura Viers, Maria McKee of Lone Justice, and Rhett Miller of the Old 97’s.
Among these bright lights is Jon Langford of punk rock’s The Mekons and the proto-cowpunk outfit the Waco Brothers. And this is where Moby Monday comes in. Langford’s 1998 solo album, Skull Orchard, contains two whale-themed songs, and lyrics from both appear within Langford’s tragicomic story “Inside the Whale,” whose narrator is a beached Moby Dick.
“Apparently, I discovered, I am the very rarest stuff of legend,” says the whale, recalling the time he’d met a female dolphin—big fan—who had read Moby-Dick cover to cover. “She said you’d been looking for me forever,” he tells a human on the beach. “How was I supposed to know?”
In an elliptical tale that touches upon such curiosities as the original Captain Morgan of rum fame, forgotten boxing great Sam Langford, and an aching homesickness the Welsh call hiraeth, the author strikes a melancholy chord. But throughout, he also invites a happier sensation with which the Melville fan is well acquainted: the pleasure of looking stuff up.
Margaret Guroff is the editor and publisher of Power Moby-Dick.
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