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No Wailing in Moby-Dick Club

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No Wailing in Moby-Dick Club

Illustration by Maura Hopkinson

Illustration by Maura Hopkinson

Illustration by Maura Hopkinson

Illustration by Maura Hopkinson

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Four years ago, in a small classroom in the basement, six students sat in a circle and discussed the adventures of Ishmael, Ahab, and arguably the most notorious whale to ever fictionally live: Moby-Dick. The group of students were not a club. They were not meeting to fill a spot on their college application, or because it was something they had heard about through the grapevine. It was curiosity, and a hint of jealousy that led the first batch of juniors to beg Mrs. Gallinari to read Moby-Dick in full.

Gallinari’s room is covered with whale photos and student-drawn depictions of Moby-Dick. Naturally, her students were intrigued and pleasantly distracted by the mystery of the story. Her honors classes read about a sixth of the book through chosen excerpts. Her singular AP class wasn’t as lucky.

A few days before the start of the 2015 school year, a dear friend and former professor of Gallinari’s, Amy Cass, passed away from cancer. She had been a mentor at the University of Chicago and sparked Gallinari’s initial interest in Moby-Dick. Cass had a semester course solely dedicated to Herman Melville’s greatest work of fiction. Gallinari credits Cass with more than exposing her to the story, she “constantly illuminated the deepest, most fundamental human questions in every text.” So when the group of six: Robert Metaxatos, Declan Grogan, David Francisco, Isabella Baumann, Sara Pietrzak, and Rosemary Josenkoski, asked her to start reading Moby-Dick and discussing it at a weekly meeting, it was almost as if Cass had tapped them on the shoulder and gave them the idea herself.

Though Gallinari had two toddlers running around at home, she had no choice but to make this reading circle happen. It was a nod to Cass, and an opportunity to re-read one her favorites.

The crew met consistently with about twenty-five pages read each week. Students fluttered in and out with sports and other high-school activities, but the core group of six stuck it out until the last page was finished. They traveled to The Museum of Contemporary Art to see the book come to life in the MCA’s “Little Lower Layer.” The title is a reference to when Captain Ahab attempts to understand what lies beyond the masked truth.

When the six members moved to senior year, Gallinari figured it was a one and done deal. She was shocked when they casually burst in to her room asking what the book was for senior year. They also asked to visit her new juniors, suggesting they carry on the legacy of the Moby-Dick Club, which isn’t a registered club at all. It is all voluntary and for the sake of simply learning.

Moby-Dick is now in its fourth year in Room 4. Seniors who took part in the reading group last year, Natalia Dabrowska and Isabella Romanucci, say that every Monday, “we conquered a Leviathan of a book after school while munching on Mrs. Gallinari’s delicious whale cookies.”

This year’s crew is planning the biggest Moby-Dick event in Fenwick’s history: The Moby-Con. For 25 hours, the Moby-Dick reading group will host a reading marathon in Fenwick’s library. On Friday, January 4th through Saturday the 5th, the group invites any willing student to share in the fun of the event. There are 15 minute reading opportunities (sign-up is available online), and drop-in spectators are welcome once per day. For eager upperclassmen readers, the full 25-hour lock-in is an option. Participants will be given t-shirts, Moby-Dick themed snacks, full meals, and a priceless experience. Father Peddicord will even be featured reading Father Mapple’s famous sermon. Gallinari thinks, “it will either be a cult classic or a complete flop.” Her bets are set on cult classic.

A few years ago, Fenwick held a March Madness for greatest book. The bracket was displayed outside the library and students were encouraged to cast votes online. The rules were similar to basketball: if you win round one, you move to round two, and so on. Moby-Dick emerged victorious based on a margin larger than students at Fenwick. This is why Gallinari feels the Moby-Con will be successful.

The group’s passion extends beyond the reading group. They hope that other students find the idea of staying inside school overnight so absurd that it makes it the Moby-Con that much more interesting.

They invite you to come aboard and marvel at Herman Melville’s greatest story. It’s an event that you may never have the chance to do again. As the group’s motto, “Go big or go home” suggests, making a big commitment to attend may give you a nice break from home as Christmas break draws to a close.

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