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February 03, 2012

"Call Me Ishmael"

Distant Melville Relative Attends Whale of a Reading Session

By Heidi Opdyke

A midwinter hunt for whales drew two CMU staffers.

During the 16th annual Moby-Dick Marathon reading at the Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Mass., more than 150 volunteers read the book aloud nonstop for 25 hours.

Among the 2,000 who listened in early January were Ian Ernest Voysey, a teaching assistant in Computer Science, and Vincent Zeng, a photo lab assistant in the College of Fine Arts. They were part of just 36 people who stayed the whole time.

"It was my brother's idea," said Voysey, a distant relative of Herman Melville on his mother's side.

"I've read Moby-Dick enough to convince myself that no one has ever really read Moby-Dick. There's just too much there," Voysey said. "You can say that about any book to an extent, but the density is on a different level here. Even if you've passed your eyes over the text a hundred times, you always shall have missed more than you got. I've been going through a quadratic process of reading it and rereading it from the beginning for the last five or six years, though, and am a little bit familiar with it."

This year is the 160th anniversary of the book.

James J. Lopes, vice president for education and programming at the Whaling Museum, said readers read "Moby-Dick" in Portuguese, Dutch, Hebrew, Spanish and English.