What’s On My Mind? A Whale of a Time

“It is unique to Fenwick…I’ve never, never, seen in
my experience a club that dedicates a year to a book,
not like an academic course, but an extracurricular
that does something this literary, the upper-echelon of
analysis” —Mrs. Shoffer


A glance at the hastening ebb of sea, the waves incessant and toppling, reveals terror in its longevity. Ishmael, stricken by seasonal humour, barters this terror for reassurance. He is confidently set to conquer her tide. It is a rather fair trade, however, once one that the sea is but a port for life as much as it is an agent of fate. Its abysmal grip on man has warranted mounds of mythological pathos, poetic depictions, and human attempts at metaphysical connection for millennia on end. She is painted with volatility and temperament in poems such as John Keats’ “On the Sea.” She is the personification of beast and behemoth through The Odyssey’s Scylla and Charybdis. In Moby-Dick, she harbors cannibalistic islanders and foreboding leviathans. These images of the sea are not exclusive, but, rather, convergent. She is all encompassing; she is a gateway into every theme of life.

Choosing to develop their understanding of these themes weekly is Fenwick’s Leviathan Reading Group. The members of the club tackle even bigger monsters than Moby-Dick itself, addressing complex and profound topics ranging from the need for faith to ideas of fate versus free will. They meet every Thursday at 7:00 p.m. using Zoom, in which discussions are led not only by adults but also by students. These discussions entail analysis and commentary regarding the weekly-assigned passages. It’d be remiss, however, not to mention the special guest appearances of Mrs. Gallinari’s Mabel and Gabe, who frequently grace the club with their child-like wonder and exuberance. Often another teacher will join to provide further insight such as Theology teacher Br. Trout, proving that discussion is, indeed, interdisciplinary. Charlize Guerrero ‘22, alumni and former club member, initially expected Moby-Dick to simply entertain the story of a man and his crew. Little did she know that much more was to be experienced; she recalls that she was “pleasantly surprised to encounter such deep dialogue on fate, destiny, and free will in almost every weekly reading. Moby-Dick prompted me to question the complexity of the color white and the hidden implications of a mere mat-maker. I thought about my free will and wondered if outside forces influenced my seemingly ‘autonomous’ decisions.”

It would be unrepresentative to Leviathan Reading Group not to mention their former year with Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Sailors travel every other year to the quaint Skotoprigonyevsk to once again test their tired eyes at humanity’s relationship to suffering, internal battles of man, and the meaning to life. Easy sailing. It’s hard to tackle some of the most-acclaimed and well-respected books back-to-back, but Captain Gallinari makes it look easy, adding, “The guiding principle of text selection for Leviathan Book Club is to choose long rich, complex books that would be difficult to fully explore on one’s own. The book itself is the leviathan.” I’ll throw you an onion: if charming brothers, smelly monks, and the gentle guitar of Smerdyakov don’t get you to reflect on humanity, you’re allowed to return the ticket.

Despite sailing for over seven years, Leviathan Reading Group still struggles with the official dedication of ‘clubhood.’ Howshall we thrive, if we don’t “exist.” Leader Mrs. Shoffer states, “I’m very excited for the opportunity to have the book represented in the yearbook. It is such a dedication of time and effort that it absolutely deserves a space. Hopefully if we resurrect Moby-Con we could even get a half page spread!” Achieving club hood would mean promotional materials for incoming freshmen, a budget, and even motivation to start a 3-book rotation based on student-interest. Will this year be the year? Writing articles for the Wick and backing new club initiatives like in-person game nights, fieldtrips, and resurrecting Moby-con, Seniors Angelina Larrea and Jamon Graham seem to think so.

Where does ‘X’ mark the spot? The Fenwick library on August 1st, 2019. On author Herman Melville’s 200th birthday, participants “transformed the library into an oceanic adventure land and fully invested themselves in the project.” Moby-Con was inspired by the New Bedford’s Whaling Museum’s 25-hour marathon reading event. Taken by the idea, sailors did what they did best, and STOLE! Adding a uniquely Fenwick twist of special guests such as Father Peddicord, a variety of motion picture reenactment (including, but not limited to, Star-Trek), and marine-themed treats. Reflecting on this further, Mrs. Gallinari expressed, “Our motto (on our t-shirts) was Go Big or Go Home, a nod to the length and scope of the novel, the enormity of its title character, and the fact that we wouldnot be going home for the duration of the 25-hour marathon read in the library.”

The leviathan legacy was built upon the momentum of core sailors caught by the passion of literature in 2015, and has been passed down throughout the many graduating classes. Former sailor Natalia Dabrowska ‘19 adds “My reason for joining the Moby-Dick Reading Club in 2018 has since grown into a personal philosophy best expressed by the following: when a person offers to share
their passion with you, it is in your best interest to jump at the offer.” Whether your interest is a save-all for the AP literature exam, a penchant for the philosophical, or simply because whales are cool—there’s a place for you. Dabrowska continues, “As a canonical text, Moby-Dick is culturally priceless, but there is no need to settle for this notion of worth without making the daring decision to experience the book yourself. Join the Leviathan Book Club!”

If you have the inkling to set sail, it’s never too late and join on Schoology and email our Captain [email protected]. Given the self-paced nature of independent reading and the motivating-group meetings, th journey is yours. Get underway, fair winds, and Go Big or Go Home!