Friday, August 24, 2007


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who hasn't fantasized about going to bed with a cannibal with a swimmer's build + skin art?

besides being my favorite premodern american novel, herman melville's moby-dick is a pioneer queer-friendly text. ishmael's adventure aboard a massachusetts whaler begins with a night in the sack with queequeg, a tall polynesian prince who excels at water sports + headshrinking.

at first the shy, neurotic narrator of the novel blanches at the discovery that his bedmate is a "savage." but by morning he awakes with queequeg's muscular arm thrown over him + giddily reports he has never slept better in his life. his only concern is how politely to extricate himself from the sleeping brute's embrace:

"i tried to move his arm--unlock his bridegroom clasp--yet, sleeping as he was, he still hugged me tightly, as though naught but death should part us twain."

when it occurs to ishmael that he may spend the next 16 hours locked in his new friend's bearhug, he turns prissy catholic schoolgirl + repents. queequeg, in turn, is typical rough trade in the morning:

"at length, by dint of much wriggling, + loud + incessant expostulations upon the unbecomingness of his hugging a fellow male in that matrimonial sort of style, i succeeded in extracting a grunt; + presently, he drew back his arm, shook himself all over like a newfoundland dog just from the water, + sat up in bed, stiff as a pike-staff, looking at me, + rubbing his eyes as if he did not altogether remember how i came to be there."

melville is mum about what the boys do about queequeg's stiff pike-staff, but the experience quite changes ishmael's view of savages (quickly he learns to prefer them to his fellow christians) + the "queer" (melville's word) matrimonial bond thus initiated between two future shipmates remains steadfast till death do them part at novel's end.

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