Fans celebrate Moby-Dick at reading marathon

Jan 6, 2019

As the chapters flew by, Margo Moore finally had her big chance: Reading a chapter of the epic whaling tale Moby-Dick.

Her 8:20 a.m. Sunday slot at the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s annual Moby-Dick Marathon let her read Chapter 107 of the book, titled The Carpenter. The chapter involves Ahab’s attempts at convincing the ship’s carpenter to build him a new prosthetic leg.

“I really liked it,” Moore said. “I like The Carpenter and talking about Ahab’s infamous leg.”

From noon on Saturday to 1 p.m. Sunday, more than 200 guest readers took turns reading the entire novel at the Moby-Dick Marathon. The readings continued nonstop, even past midnight into Sunday.

Moore, the President of the Claire T. Carney Library Associates at UMass Dartmouth, was one of the lucky readers. Melville is nothing new to her - she studied the author in grad school, and living in the area brought plenty of exposure to the whaling history documented in the book.

It isn’t the first time Moore has read a chapter of the book at the marathon. She was also a reader at one of the first readings more than two decades ago. She’s applied to be a reader off and on throughout the years since then.

“I think it’s really interesting the book still has that power to people now,” Moore said.

She was not the only Dartmouth-area reader. Clif Rice read one of the first passages of the novel on Saturday. Dee Leclair and Bonnie Hsu both served as “watch officers,” helping to track the reading progress and manage guest readers.

The Moby-Dick Marathon is an annual tradition, now in its 23rd year. It brings in fans of Melville from around the region and around the world. Throughout the day, fans on their way to the reading stopped outside the famed Seamen’s Bethel before heading into the New Bedford Whaling Museum for the main attraction. 

Other activities included readings at the Seamen’s Bethel and on board the museum's whaleship, the Lagoda, along with a dinner and museum tours. It is held on the anniversary of Melville's departure from New Bedford in 1841 aboard the whaling ship Acushnet.