Moby-Dick is not about a whale. It’s a meditation on the purpose of life and the meaning of good and evil told through the brilliantly handled device of a man obsessed with revenge. Ahab could have destroyed everything that once mattered to him through an obsession with hunting buffalo in the 1870s, trading stocks in the 1920s or 2008, or cooking meth today. Melville happened to bring an encyclopedic knowledge of whaling to his theme, but it’s not about the whale.
Macbeth is not about a man who kills his king. It’s a meditation on the purpose of life and the meaning of good and evil told through the brilliantly handled device of a man obsessed with ambition. Macbethcould have destroyed everything that once mattered to him through an obsession with money, land or women but he happened to be a thane who would be king.
Yet, of course, neither would be “the same” if translated to Wall Street 1929 and you cannot understand a book of substance from reading this blog either. All I can do is provoke you to read and re-read and re-consider.
The porter scene in Macbeth is about a man answering a door. Who cares? The porter scene is a masterful juxtaposition of humor and foreboding that I have come to appreciate after years of hard work studying Shakespeare. Again, who cares, but if that last sentence resonates with you, then you are more my kind of reader than the one who wants Moby-Dick to be about a whale. How the master can achieve horror and hilarity (especially in cooperation with a masterful interpreter on the stage) so well in such a brief scene is what Macbeth is about for me. But because Macbeth is a work of substance that last sentence is just as inadequate as saying “it’s about a man killing his king.” I could string together a thousand sentences like that and all they would add up to is, “Macbeth is worth reading yourself.”
Of all the good things Kirkus had to say about The Time Traveler’s Fool, perhaps the only one that matters is that you should read it . . .twice.