January 8, 2022
Half listening to the radio — some environment report — I heard the word “fishmeal.” And my brain popped out, “Call me Fishmeal.”
For my readers from Mars, there was a famous novel, written by Herman Melville (who lived in my town of Albany, NY), titled Moby Dick, whose opening line, voiced by the narrator, was “Call me Ishmael.” (That was his name.)
My “Call me Fishmeal” was actually, I realized, something of a double entendre. The book was about a whaling ship, sunk in the end. All the crewmen became, literally, fish meals — except for Ishmael, the lone survivor.
This is how immersion (pun intended) in literature enriches one’s life. Well, actually, its rewards are deeper than the little frisson of amusement I got from “Call me Fishmeal.” But life is not all about just exalted contemplation of profound matters. Laughs are valuable too. And broad familiarity with literature facilitates more of them, as illustrated here. “Call me Fishmeal” would never have entered my brain if Moby Dick weren’t already part of its infrastructure.
This is what I love about being alive. Life does of course, again, have its sublime moments, but those are rare, and this did not quite qualify. Yet there are so many little pleasures, to be savored if one has the mindset to do so. Here I’ve actually parlayed my enjoyment of “Call me Fishmeal” into the writing of this essay, which gives me considerable further gratification.
I wish I could prolong it by adding more, but a key element of the writing craft is knowing when to stop.