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Herman Melville Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

Herman Melville was suffering from serious writer's block with Moby-Dick until he read Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story collection Mosses From an Old Manse. He was inspired and eventually dedicated the finished novel to his friend.24

Every year the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts stages a non-stop marathon reading of Moby-Dick. It takes about 25 hours for 150 readers to read the book aloud.25

Melville could be a little, um, self-centered. On one Christmas, he gave his children books that he actually wanted to have an excuse to buy them, and he once woke his young daughter up at 2 a.m. so that she could proof-read his poem.26

Poor George John Whyte-Melville. The English novelist's works were often mistakenly attributed to Herman Melville, who lived around the same time. For the record, the novels Katerfelto and Satanella belong to George.27

The founders of Starbucks Coffee originally wanted to name their business after the whaling ship in Moby-Dick, until one of the partners rightfully pointed out that people might not be interested in drinking a cup of "Pee-quod." They settled on Starbucks, after Captain Ahab's first mate.28

In 1848, Melville was asked to review a new book entitled The Romance of Yachting by Joseph C. Hart. Melville hated the book and could not hold himself back in the review. "You have been horribly imposed upon, My Dear Sir. The book is no book, but a compact bundle of wrapping paper. And as for Mr Hart, pen & ink, should instantly be taken away from that unfortunate man, upon the same principle that pistols are withdrawn from the wight bent on suicide," Melville wrote. "What great national sin have we committed to deserve this infliction? … Seriously again, & on my conscience, the book is an abortion, the mere trunk of a book, minus head arm or leg.—Take it back, I beseech, & get some one to cart it back to the author."29

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