Let's Go Whaling!

She was a grad student in English. He was a grad student in Spanish. They met. They dated. They married. Like all couples, they had things in common besides attraction. One of them was literature. Alas, different literatures, in different languages. Though she didn't read Spanish, he read English. And that's where the (good-natured) debate began.

"How can you be a student of literature if you've never read Moby Dick?", she would chide him. She pulled her punches, for she was an avid Joycean and she could've mortified him for having never read Ulysses, never mind "the Wake", as hipster lit majors called the mostly incomprehensible master work.

But he had a riposte.

"You've never read Don Quixote!"

And so it went, the Melvillean vs, the Cervantine. The battle of empires in a grad student household. Because the Brits sank the Spanish Armada and later the Americans did the same to Spanish ships in the Bay of Santiago, and because as a result of such battles their debate was in English, he felt she had the upper hand. No, she never read Don Quixote, and he, true to the stubbornness hard-wired into his Spanish DNA, refused to read Moby Dick.

The marriage did not last. No marriages did in those times, though it had nothing to do with their literary positions. There were two wonderful children, whom they loved and who loved them back.  And time passed and took its toll. The English major, the Melvillean/Joycean, was struck down by a terrible illness and she died. The Spanish major lived to tell the tale, right here, right now.

Oh Susan, how I wish you could read this so you'd learn that your ex-husband finally overcame that petty, in spite of its deep historical roots, adversariness and is now reading, and most of all enjoying, The Whale. Slowly, I admit. I've just met Ahab. Moby Dick is still out there in the waters. But I like it. A lot. I'm savoring it. I still believe Don Quixote is seminal, to all literature, including American -- when I finally read Huckleberry Finn, another bone of contention between us, I saw, to my surprise, that the boys discussed Cervantes. But I think I told you that. That was years ago and you were still here.

Now you're not. I still am and I still read. When I stopped being an academic I stopped reading books I felt I had to in order to qualify as an intellectual. I still read classics if I feel like it. In fact, I only read if I feel like it, lately a lot of Scandinavian noir, maybe because it chills my overheated tropical mind. And you knew I always needed chill. So did you, girl, but we won't go into that. I have a whale to catch.