Preface [chapter]

1973 The Salt-Sea Mastodon  
THIS BOOK was written in sheer self-defense. I have always found Moby-Dick an utterly compelling novel, like nothing else in American literature. Other novels engage me, interest me, absorb me, divert me, move me. Only Moby-Dick frightens me. At the same time and paradoxically, no other book in any literature has given me so much pleasure. Reading Moby-Dick is for me-the students' term is entirely appropriate-a real "trip." This is because, like Kafka, Dostoevsky, and Joyce, Melville plumbs the
more » ... depths, bringing back for our scrutiny those aboriginal verities and primal truths which we would not know but which, for our own well-being, we must know. Hence the paradox: the recognition of primal truth is a fearful experience, while the satisfaction of the need for primal truth is a pleasurable one. In Moby-Dick, fear and pleasure are but two sides of a single coin. Nevertheless, one must somehow defend oneself against books X
doi:10.1525/9780520313262-001 fatcat:2m3fnt5bdjed7nptvzd6bpdun4