Friday, November 18, 2011

The Man Who Lived Among Cannibals, no… it’s not a song title from the punk band, The Melvins

“And I pray, and I pray, and slowly rise upon my knees..” -Vile, The Melvins

Herman Melville was a punk rocker… a beach-bum comber, a yarn spinner, a surf rider spear harpooner…who believed in the confrontation of innocence and evil… he found that the brooding doubts and agonies of self-discovery proved the morbidity and demonism of man, and he did it with style. Forgotten in his time, his masterpiece, perhaps one of the most famous novels in history, was rediscovered many years after his death, oh… and he wrote an entire chapter devoted to whale sperm.
“Listen kid, your face is like porcelain…worries… life is like a garden…” -Let God be Your Gardener, The Melvins

In his lifetime, Herman Melville (1819-1891) was known as the “man who lived among cannibals,” a writer whose tales of island adventure in the Pacific captured the popular imagination of mid-nineteenth-century readers eager for exotic yarns of the South Seas.
“Lip tight it’s prophecy sealed, wafer wise come dancing caged and small in its cavity. But I can feel your heart beat it’s shape in my hand…” -Cranky Messiah, The Melvins

Melville was born into security but was forced early into work after the death of his father: farm hand, clerking in his brother’s store, being crummy bank messenger, even attempting an elementary-school teaching gig. Yet at the age of nineteen, his “roving disposition” caused him to board a vessel bound for Liverpool as a merchant seaman.
“I lay like you. I feel the same. Eye flies like you in touch between. In fact, it’s the moon. Don’t blame the rain that brings you here, and ask yourself to prove that you’re able to be brave.” -Eye Flys, The Melvins

After returning back to America an another attempt in the classroom, Melville signed on as an ordinary seaman on the Acushnet, a whaling ship bound for the South Pacific. Eighteen months later, when the whaler rounded Cape Horn and crossed to the Marquesas Islands, Melville deserted and was taken captive by the Typees, a tribe of islands savages noted for their cannibalism. After a month of captivity Melville escaped and made his way to Tahiti where he lived as a beachcomber.
“Never run, never… Oh God, it looks so beautiful! Never, never is an ugly word…” -Echo Head, The Melvins

He then signed on as a harpooner on a whaling ship bound for the Hawaiian Islands, returning back to America after four years abroad. Melville used these experiences in his novel, Typee, A Peep at Polynesian Life, an autobiographical novel, published in 1846 and a year later with Omoo, A Narrative of Adventures in the South Pacific, which drew upon his experience in Tahiti.
“Open the pain to my short glass ear infected in too much intensity…” -Steve Instant Newman, The Melvins

After a couple of failures in which critics said Melville’s writing became too profound for his audience, he returned with the masterpiece Moby Dick (1851), which is the story of an obsessive maniac, the hero-villain Captain Ahab, who is in search of the White Whale, and still has one of the best death scenes in all of literature… even Khan from Star Trek II quotes him…”From hells heart, I stab at thee!”
“Open the pain to my short glass ear infected in too much intensity…” -Steve Instant Newman, The Melvins

I don’t know… I can’t help but think of the Washington punk band from the early 80’s, The Melvins, whenever I read Herman Melville. Bartelby the Scrivener or Billy Budd, they’re cool stories of lost innocence and betrayed hope, and remind me of the dingy gravel sounds, almost a rustling wail of the sludge rock. (The Melvins is a three person punk band named after a Thriftway clerk that everyone hated, and who worked with the lead singer, Buzz Osborn, who also goes by the name, King Buzzo).
So here’s to sludge rock and slugging it out with savages of the world that want to skin you alive. It’s a tough place out there… best carry a harpoon… if you don’t like that advice…well, go live in Tahiti.

No comments:

Post a Comment