I was working the register at Barnes & Noble here in Christiansburg, Virginia the other day, and since it was dead, and since gift card season is about to begin, I browsed all the fancy card designs to pull samples to show customers. There are new ones out with snowmen, and winter scenes, as well as ones with the Cat in the Hat or a wild thing from Where the Wild Things Are.
The ones that inspired this post, though, are the $25, $50, and $100 cards. Each features a portrait of an author, like our currency has pictures of the presidents. So of course, I was curious. Who’s on what? Of all the authors in history, who are the only three who made the cut? As you can probably guess, Shakespeare is one of them. He’s on the $25 card. Makes sense – he’s one of the most prolific, and probably most consumed authors of all time (besides Stephen King). So he gets the most commonly gifted card. Dickens, whose work I cannot get through (sorry Greg, if you’re reading), is on the $50. I can’t speak on Dickens since I haven’t read him, but I’m sure Dickens fans are glad he’s there.
And on the $100? It makes me giddy just to think of it. On the hundred dollar gift card, the big daddy gift card, the largest denomination Barnes & Noble sells, is someone who is now near and dear to my heart, in a weird love-hate kind of way. I would have never recognized his face – I had no idea what he looked like – but when I read his name my heart leaped. Because though I do not know his face, I do know him. The author on the granddaddy of all Barnes & Noble gift cards, the BIG one, the gift of $100 worth of stories, of characters and place, of mind-expansion and adventure, is Mr. Herman Melville. Author of one Moby Dick. Which I read this summer. And am still basking in the afterglow of finishing it.
There are reminders of this glory everywhere. I just went to Thesaurus.com to find a synonym for “masochistic” and there’s a big banner there that says “Take the Moby Dick challenge. This difficult novel can scare off readers in just a few lines. See how far you can get.” Yeah? Well I got through the whole thing. BAM!
I shelved a copy at the book store the other day, and I smiled as I shelved it, thinking, “I read that.” Then mentioned to anyone who would listen – “Hey, guess what I did this summer? I read Moby Dick!” And of course, everyone has a story about Moby Dick. My coworker, for example, told me his dad has recently become obsessed with Moby Dick. So much so that he made the family go to the whaling museum in New England last time they visited relatives. My coworker rolled his eyes as he told me this.
I notice nods to Moby Dick in seafaring movies, recognize characters’ names in commercial products, or discover a line from the epic tale, and I get them now. I think, “Hey, that’s from Moby Dick.” There are references to Melville’s behemoth everywhere, and each time I recognize one, I get that same giddy feeling – I’m part of the Moby Dick club! (Jealous, aren’t you?) For all my life, I have that. I have read Moby Dick. And that my friends, is durable happiness.