A whale of a time: a Moby-Dick marathon in Massachusetts

Fans gather in a non-stop reading of Herman Melville’s entire masterpiece at an annual winter festival in New Bedford, where the idea for the novel was born

The world is filled with people who have never read Moby-Dick, or never finished it, or say they have but haven’t, or would sooner be harpooned than even attempt it. There are others, here and there, who know the book well, and love it to bits, and hold it sacred like a kind of bible. The Atlantic seaport of New Bedford, Massachusetts, is a haven for that minority, especially in the freezing first weekend of January, when the city’s whaling museum hosts the annual Moby-Dick Marathon.

Over 26 hours or so, Herman Melville’s whole unabridged epic is read aloud by a relay of guest speakers and local volunteers, the narrative baton passing from renowned scholars and civic leaders to cops and fishermen, folk singers and pumpkin farmers. Not to mention visiting Melville aficionados like me.

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