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San Francisco Moby-Dick Marathon

It may seem excessively optimistic (or, far worse, naïve) to expect a busy 21st-century San Franciscan to have any time for a 600-page, 160-year-old book about a whale. It may seem downright foolhardy to invite a few hundred people down to Fort Mason to read this crazy book aloud. But that's exactly what we're doing.

San Francisco will soon welcome Herman Melville back to the Barbary Coast with a marathon reading of Moby-Dick at the Firehouse at Fort Mason on October 24 and 25. We're going to begin at 12 noon, and read the whole thing aloud—all 600 pages, 135 chapters. Some people will bring visuals. Some will read in other languages. A few chapters will be performed as a play. When he was writing the book, Herman Melville knew he was creating something unlike anything anyone had ever written before. One of his main projects in the book is to show us that, just as every sailor in the book has his own unique notion regarding Moby Dick the whale, every reader has his or her own unique understanding of Moby-Dick the book. As Ishmael says, it “begins to assume different aspects, according to your point of view.” This is what makes this event so unique and wonderful—with so many different people coming together to read (aloud! with voices!), those myriad interpretations come alive in the most literal sense: the familiar appears to us in a new way; the unfamiliar becomes available for the first time. We need to cover overhead costs: venue rental, PA rental, etc. We have no paid staff. We imagine a festival atmosphere, inviting food trucks during the evening, art installations, performances from local theatre troupes, and much more. It's going to be, in a word...awesome.

“Our first port is San Francisco…and thence, I hardly know where.” — Herman Melville, 28 May 1860

Funded by San Francisco, CA (October 2015)