Thursday, December 31, 2009


Troy's Work Table wishes everyone a wonderful 2010.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


...seems to be the order of the (very short) day(s) right now. I will return with more books, art, and beer sometime after the first of the year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


The arguments for promoting electronic books and reading devices just astound me.
An Amazon spokesman told the [Wall Street Journal], "Authors get the most publicity at launch and need to strike while the iron is hot. If readers can't get their preferred format at that moment, they may buy a different book or just not buy a book at all."*
Readers that prefer paperbacks don't get them at the release of the hardcover. They have to wait an average of 12 to 18 months. Oftentimes, the audiobook is released a few months after the hardcover.

These arguments on behalf of the consumer are incredibly lazy and untrue and self-serving. has lost all credibility with me as they try to sell their Kindle reader and increase their profit stream at the expense of reader, booksellers, bookstores (of whatever ilk), authors, and publishers.


*From the Thursday 10 December 2009 issue of Shelf Awareness, as a response to news that Simon & Schuster will be delaying the release of E-book versions of frontlist authors until a few months after the release of the hardcover edition of the same.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Flip the switch...

Ta da!

Saturday, December 05, 2009


This evening was Puyallup's annual Santa Parade and Tree Lighting. The child and I sat on the cold sidewalk and watched the floats, cars, bands, and groups pass us by as we huddled together for warmth.

(1) One of the child's favorite entries was the cross-eyed Rudolph truck and trailer with band.

(2) Where else can you see a phalanx of elementary school crossing guards?

(3) There are always tractors...

(4) The brass of the Sumner Spartans marching band.

(5) Surf-rock legends The Ventures rocking out some Christmas tunes.

(6) The Salvation Army mobile Giving Tree.

(7) Mrs. Claus and Santa Claus riding on an old Puyallup Fire Department truck.

Friday, December 04, 2009


This morning, the child and I headed out in the freezing fog to visit the historic Gig Harbor waterfront. We had two main goals. The first was to take some pictures for TWT's "Cutting In" project. The second was to visit Mostly Books.

Mostly Books is a small space that is filled with new releases and has a Pacific Northwest focus. All of the major bookstore categories are represented and they will special order any book that you can't find on the shelf.

Troy's Work Table was especially thrilled with their nautical section, and picked up a 2010 tide graph calendar for the Seattle area.


I'm buying books for the holidays. Are you?

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Ishmael's heartsong:

"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball."

—chapter 1, "Loomings," Moby-Dick

Saturday, November 28, 2009


"There it is, the huge, dying cargo, then dead, ready for 'cutting in.'"
—from Herman Melville by Elizabeth Hardwick

"I felt I had stumbled across a kind of treasure map to the barnacle-encrusted wreck of something true and important sunk deep inside of me, and I decided to try to bring it up and expose it to the light."
—from "Diving into the Wreck," as found in Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon

"Moby Dick A novel by Herman Melville. Its central character, Captain Ahab, engages in a mad, obsessive quest for Moby Dick, a great white whale. The novel opens with the famous sentence 'Call me Ishmael.'"
—entry in "Literature in English" from The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, 2nd Edition, Revised and Updated by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Joseph F. Kett, and James Trefil

"Melville, Herman An American author of the nineteenth century, best known for Moby Dick. In his writing, Melville drew on several adventurous years he spent at sea.
—entry in "Literature in English" from The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, 2nd Edition, Revised and Updated by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Joseph F. Kett, and James Trefil

"This is the mood of Moby-Dick and the whaler Pequod, a death ship but not a vessel of mundane commercial ferocity. The aim is, under Captain Ahab, only incidentally, if that, bound to fill vats with oil and return to Nantucket with household and family income. It's a voyage of arcane personal vindication, the death of the White Whale in payment or vengeance for the leg he has taken from Ahab."
—from Herman Melville by Elizabeth Hardwick

"An implication holds firm, a connection between wild Leviathan and wilder Deity. The realism is astonishing, on the face of it. No hook, we are told, avails to lead the one or the Other about, no bit in the tongue, no ring in the nostril, no gaff through the cheek."
—from Job: And Death No Dominion by Daniel Berrigan

"Shall you perhaps lead Leviathan about on a leash? Or will he consent to play slave to your beck and call? Or perhaps you would carve the great armored creature in pieces, selling chunks of crocodile in a market, like pounds of fish? Careful, you sport with death."
—from Job: And Death No Dominion by Daniel Berrigan

"However, Massachusetts always bounced back in peacetime, and by 1820 New Bedford, the greatest port of all, took over, captaining the pursuit of the fierce but especially oil-rich sperm whales later immortalized by Herman Melville in Moby-Dick. Absorbing the fleets of other nearby whaling centers, New Bedford in 1845 sent ten thousand seamen in more than three hundred ships to bring home its greatest receipts: 158,000 barrels of sperm oil, 272,000 barrles of other whale oil, and 300,000 pounds of whalebone (much in demand for corsets and suchlike)."
—from American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century by Kevin Phillips

"[Emily Dickinson's] agonizing sense of ironic contrasts; of the weight of suffering; of the human predicament in which man is mocked, destroyed, and beckoned to some incomprehensible repose; of the limits of reason, order, and justice in human as well as divine relationships: —this is the anguish of the Shakespeare of King Lear, and it was shared in like degree among nineteenth-century American writers only by Herman Melville, who also had his war with God. Yet, unlike Melville, she is willing to love the God with whom she is at war. Thus she is a closer spiritual neighbor to Jonathan Edwards, who believed (as she evidently did) that final judgment is not a foreseeable end, but a pronouncement renewed in all moments of existence."
—from "The Vision and Veto of Emily Dickinson" by Thomas H. Johnson, as found in Final Harvest: Emily Dickinson's Poems by Emily Dickinson

"Others Noll finds approaching his insights were also far from Evangelical thought—Emily Dickinson and Herman Melville. What he does not state is that Dickinson and Melville, too, were influenced by the Transcendentalists. * * * 'Post-Christian theists' is what most Transcendentalists would have called themselves. Lincoln, in a time of apocalyptic fanaticisms, was an example of both Enlightened religion—the religion of Melville and Dickinson—and of the Evangelical instincts of his black contemporaries: the religion of Frederick Douglass."
—from Head and Heart: American Christianities by Garry Wills

"Split your lungs with blood and thunder / When you see the White Whale / Break your backs and crack your oars men / If you wish to prevail."
—from "Blood and Thunder" as found on the album Leviathan by Mastodon

"Neither Melville nor his Ahab were concerned with validity of intensity. Intensity is by its very charge valid for he who experiences it."
—Williams S. Burroughs to Allen Ginsberg in a letter dated June 4, 1952, as included in The Letters of William S. Burroughs: 1945-1959

"[Ahab's] speeches and meditations seem to flow from the Bible, Shakespeare, Byron, Bulwer-Lytton, Gothic novels, Edgar Allan Poe, The Count of Monte Cristo, Wilkie Collins, Charles Reade, and Dickens. * * * In the world where trading in sperm oil is a way of life, Ahab's speeches are simply unbelievable. But on their own plane of discourse, despite a good many absurdities, they have a kind of wild rhetorical energy that somehow prepares the reader to accept the appearance of Fedallah, his prophecies, the madness of Pip, the revulsion and obedience of the mates, and other omens or warnings of something fearful to come, quite as "real" as the discussion of ambergris in chapter 92."
—from "A Commentary" by Howard Mumford Jones, as found in the 1976 W.W. Norton edition of Moby-Dick; or, the Whale

"They told you it was a war for the soul of America, but you didn't believe them. They kept saying you were the Enemy, but you wouldn't accept that, because you didn't feel like an enemy. Now you know they meant every word, and more."
—from American Nomad by Steve Erickson

"Moby-Dick (1851) was published to a mixed reception, and sales were disappointing. This masculine, experimental novel did not appeal to a novel-reading public principally comprising women."
—from The Harper American Literature (Volume 1)

"Like Melville, [Robert] Lowell is filled with fury at the spectacle of mankind beating its brains out in a spurious race after the unattainable—call it the White Whale, World Conquest, the Perfect State, or what you will—and like Melville, he comes to endow the symbolism of this chase, inhuman and homicidal, with a greater reality than those who have seemed to lose their humanity in its madness."
—from a November 3, 1946 review of Lord Weary's Castle by Robert Lowell as found in The New York Times, written by Selden Rodman, and eventually collected in Books of the Century: A Hundred Years of Authors, Ideas and Literature

"Into Moby-Dick, which he was writing as he wrote to Hawthorne, [Melville] put 'the sane madness of vital truth,' and the world didn't want to hear it."
—from "Introduction" by Frederick Busch, as found in the 1986 Penguin Classics edition of Billy Budd and Other Stories

"Melville's magnetism held the entire Hawthorne family in its grip long after Hawthorne and Melville ceased to see one another. Said Julian Hawthorne in retrospect, 'There were few honester or more lovable men than Herman Melville.'"
—from Hawthorne: A Life by Brenda Wineapple

"Missing from this list of 'all the elements [of the originals: the plot, the characters, the social, historical, and local backgrounds and the authors' language and style],' however, are digression, texture, and weirdness, three of the literary values most characteristic of Melville's work."
—from the Special Fiction Issue (Summer 2009, Volume XXIX) of The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Herman Melville's ; or The Whale edited by Damion Searls

"But the most lasting experience I have had that keeps me continually aware that writing is a great mystery is the experience of reading Melville."
—from "Melville's Sacramental Style" as found in Required Reading: Why Our American Classics Matter Now by Andrew Delbanco

Friday, November 27, 2009


I need to go for a walk to clear my mind of Thanksgiving and Black Friday. I need to go for a walk in the crisp, clear, clean night air of Puyallup. I need to bounce some ideas about "Cutting In" around in my brain.

The evening is cold. The sky is partly cloudy, with the moon and stars peeking through and the warmth of the day fleeing toward the heavens. Condensed moisture is forming frost on any available surface—car windows, fences, lawns, walkways.

I am walking through a town that is heading toward slumber. Restaurants are closing up. The bars are fairly quiet. Puyallup Police vehicles are patrolling about, and a Washington State Patrol car is momentarily parked on Fourth Avenue. A few "rabblerousing" teens on skateboards and bikes are heading home.

The cold begins to bite into my flesh, through my sweatpants and sweatshirt. I arrive home with the Weekly Volcano in hand to a silent house, where the wife, the child, the cat, and the cockatiel are all asleep. I settle into my wingback chair, pick up Moby-Dick, and begin to read.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


"Ghosts of Pilgrims Past" was a spontaneous Thanksgiving art project, completely conceived and enacted by children at the family gathering. Troy's Work Table assigned the Pilgrims after the fact, but the art project, its curation, and the accompanying performance piece were all initiated by the wee ones.

Clockwise from upper left:

(1) John Carver.

(2) William Bradford.

(3) William Burton, the only Pilgrim to die on the Mayflower's voyage from England to the New World, and therefore buried at sea. The text reads: "I am going to haunt you...forever! BOO!"

(4) Elizabeth Hopkins.

Monday, November 23, 2009


The problem: I realize that I don't really know enough about Herman Melville as I begin this Moby-Dick reading project on which I have embarked.

The solution: Obtain three Melville biographies from three different independent bookstores.


I knew which biographies of Melville that I hoped to find.

The first is considered to be "definitive." It is a two volume biography—the first volume covering the years 1819 to 1851, the second covering 1851 to 1891—from birth to death, with the break coming at the pivotal point of the publication of Moby-Dick. The author, Hershel Parker, is one of the leading Melville academics.

The second is a small book consisting of a mere 150 or so pages, compared to the 2000 pages of Parker's two volumes. It is a brief look at Melville's life by literary critic and novelist Elizabeth Hardwick. I have read passages of it from a copy I checked out from the library and I find it irritating. Hardwick seems flip with information and not especially concerned about trying to define Melville's life or his work.

Parker's two mammoth volumes and Hardwick's slim tome appear polar opposites. That is why I need all three books.


I stumbled upon Herman Melville: A Biography (Volume 1, 1819-1851) by happenstance. I was digging through the shelves of King's Books (Tacoma, Washington) and an ex-library copy (Seattle Public Library) of it stared back at me. Other than having a few stickers and markings upon the dust jacket, it was in good condition.

I began poking and prodding through its pages as soon as I got home. I was intrigued by the wealth of information that Hershel Parker had collected and presented on Melville, his life, and his various writings. It was at that moment that I knew that I needed to find the second volume, as well as the Hardwick biography as a counterpoint.


A quick search of the website of Powell's City of Books (Portland, Oregon) turned up a hardcover edition of Elizabeth Hardwick's Herman Melville. I ordered it and it was in my mailbox within a matter of days (distinctive Powell's packaging pictured above).

I find myself more kind to this book now that I am halfway through it. Hardwick presents her version of Melville. This book is less academic, less scholarly, and less wordy than other biographies, but that is the point. Hardwick has made his life read like a novel. Details are discarded when necessary to move "the plot" along. What I once thought flip and short turns out to be a percussive rhythm.

I am glad that I gave this book another chance.


Another internet search, this time on, turned up another ex-library copy of volume two of Hershel Parker's Melville biography. Eight days after being ordered, Herman Melville: A Biography (Volume 2, 1851-1891) arrived this afternoon in my mailbox. The good folks at Icapsa Used Books (Grand Rapids, Michigan) helped me to complete my Herman Melville biography "wish list."

My task at hand is to begin to cull through it for facts and nuggets of information, much as I have done with my other two Melville biographies.


I want to thank three independent booksellers for their excellent customer service and their part in helping to make the "Cutting In" project a reality. Support an independent bookstore today!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Disc golf in the rain means fewer people on the course. Therefore, I headed off to White River DGC on a wet Sunday afternoon (by myself!) to play a round.


Hole 1 - 3
Hole 2 - 4
Hole 3 - 3
Hole 4 - 3
Hole 5 - 4
Hole 6 - 4
Hole 7 - 4
Hole 8 - 4
Hole 9 - 3
Front nine - 32 (+5)

Hole 10 - 3
Hole 11 - 4
Hole 12 - 4
Hole 13 - 3
Hole 14 - 4
Hole 15 - 3
Hole 16 - 5
Hole 17 - 3
Hole 18 - 4
Back nine - 33 (+6)

Total - 65 (+11)

Saturday, November 14, 2009


As my friend and fellow writer Dave reminds me, today is the 158th anniversary of the publication of Moby-Dick; or, the Whale by Herman Melville in America. It was preceded by its British "counterpart" The Whale; or, Moby-Dick by almost a month.

Moby-Dick; or, the Whale was first published on November 14, 1851 by Harper & Brothers of New York.

The Whale; or, Moby-Dick was first published on October 18, 1851 by Richard Bentley of London.

The American edition was typeset and ready to be published prior to the British edition, even though the latter ended up being published first. The British edition is a different book than the American edition, however, and not only due to the change of title. Melville made changes and corrections to his manuscript, which had been typeset in America and provided the proof pages for the British edition. Bentley also made changes, removing or changing passages that he felt would upset his Victorian reading audience, especially those of sexual, religious, or political content.

So, here's a hearty "Happy Birthday" to the American version of Melville's masterpiece!

Friday, November 13, 2009


Today was a bookish day for Troy's Work Table. It began with a trip to the Puyallup Public Library, where the child attended storytime, checked out books, and placed a puzzle together.

It was soon followed by visits to King's Books, University of Washington Bookstore, and Meta Books—all of Tacoma. At King's Books, TWT just happened upon an ex-library copy of Herman Melville: A Biography, Volume 1: 1819–1851 by eminent Melville scholar Hershel Parker. Let's just say that I was extremely happy, especially finding a book that will help establish some of the historical and social context of my Moby-Dick reading project.

Miko, one of the two bookstore cats at King's Books, welcomed us as we arrived and bid us farewell when we left. His friend Atticus also made sure that proper hospitality (and opportunities for vigorous petting) were extended. Then it was off to home to read some in Moby-Dick and the newly acquired biography.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I arrived home after work to an empty house. I could smell something cooking, but no one was around. The wife and the child were away at a cooking class.

I walked into the kitchen and saw a loaf of bread sitting on the cutting board. A handwritten note upon it read "Please bake me!" Being (1) good at following directions and (2) hungry, I preheated the oven and placed the bread therein.

Glancing over at the opposite counter, I spied the origin of the wonderful smell. It was a Crock-Pot® filled with Guinness Beef Stew. I opened the lid and stirred the contents of the pot around.

When the bread was done, I ladled up a bowl of potatoes, carrots, eggplant, beef, and broth and sat down to eat. I was just finishing my stew, my hunk of bread, and my Alaskan Winter Ale when the child and the wife returned home. They filled up their own bowls and we spent ten minutes together before I was off to my writing group, to share some new pieces and dream about the Magic Crock-Pot® at home.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Early November sunset in Edgewood, Washington.

Autumn. The light is dimmer, the colors are saturated, weighted. Everything is curling in upon itself—leaves on the ends of twigs, tails on the ends of squirrels, wisps of vapor on the ends of clouds, heavy with November rains. Gravity and dark and cold are pressing in.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I have decided to take a year and read Moby-Dick closely and in great detail, to really reflect upon what appears on the page, and to see what intrigues and challenges me. My primary goal is to read it from cover to cover, although I am also going to skip about as I see fit. Some chapters will be read again and again. Some chapters will be engaged by bringing them to life.

I imagine eating clam chowder and relating my experience to that of Ishmael and Queequeg eating their clam and cod chowders at the Try Pots in Chapter 15, "Chowder." I hope to spend some of the season of Christmas at the ocean, much as Ishmael and his shipmates spend their "short, cold Christmas" "broad upon the wintry ocean" in Chapter 22, "Merry Christmas."

I hope to make hardtack at home. I hope to visit the Working Waterfront Maritime Museum in Tacoma. I hope to visit the Karpeles Manuscript Museum (also in Tacoma). I hope to visit a tall ship, and perhaps ride on one. I hope to be able to taste whale blubber.


My interest in reading Moby-Dick once again was piqued by the Dalkey Archive's Summer 2009/Vol. XXIX issue of The Review of Contemporary Fiction. This special fiction issue is dedicated to Herman Melville's ; or The Whale, an extract edition of Moby-Dick. It is nearly 400 pages of text that was left out of the Moby-Dick in Half the Time abridged version. It is weirdly enticing to read every paragraph, word, and punctuation mark left out of Moby-Dick during its abridgment.

This play with the text led me to realize that there are three full versions of Moby-Dick—an American edition, first published in 1851 by Harper & Brothers in New York; a British edition, first published in 1851 by Richard Bentley in London, which differs due to revisions of both Melville and Bentley; and the Northwestern-Newberry scholarly edition, first published in 1988, which "created" a new text by trying to determine what would have been the actual corrections and revisions that Melville himself would have made, but ultimately resulted in a new version of the book formed by using bits and pieces from both the American and British versions.

Needless to say, I now have at least four versions of Moby-Dick floating about the home library.


The name of this year-long reading project, "Cutting In," comes from the chapter of the same name (Chapter 67). This brief chapter describes the crew of the Pequod cutting in to the carcass of a recently captured whale and dissecting it into its component parts. It seemed an apt metaphor for what I find myself doing to the text as I read and reflect and reread. Therefore, "Cutting In" it is.


I hope you will embark on this journey with me as I engage this great and sprawling mess of a novel in its various incarnations.

Monday, November 09, 2009


"The next logical step, it appears to me, is to begin a blog specifically for my beer posts. That way, my interest in craft beer can be better defined and better cared for in a place dedicated to it alone."

Read the first post on Troy's Tap Handle HERE.

Friday, November 06, 2009


After being sick for two weeks with a major head cold—head pressure, congestion, coughing, drainage, body aches, fatigue, et cetera—it was nice to be able to head back outside and hit the disc golf course. It meant that I was doing such the day after a good strong windstorm had removed many leaves from the trees on the course. It meant playing in some strong wind, and having to use my heavier discs. It meant having to adapt my game due to those heavier discs and that brisk wind. It also meant having to search for discs as they buried themselves into piles of leaves or simply blended into the background.

The fairway of hole #1 was littered with yellow and brown maple leaves. One would think that it would be fairly easy to locate a white disc that landed upon them, but such was not the case.

Hole #3 proved to be a challenge, as I hit a tree on the first shot and played at the edges of the fairway for the rest of the hole. Once again, you would think that a bright red disc would be fairly easy to find, but when only a portion of the disc is visible it is somewhat of a challenge.

Hole #6 is only available during the winter layout of the course. It involves fewer trees than summer layout #6, yet I find it more challenging due to the cedar trees. Not only am I allergic to them, but when their branches are wet they may as well be made out of cement. In other words, they stop discs immediately.

Clockwise from upper left: Mirus in a bed of maple leaves; Sinus in a bed of cottonwood leaves; Stingray in a bed of cottonwood leaves; and Gumbputt in a bed of mixed leaves—maple, cottonwood, and alder.

Hole #9 is a fun hole in both winter and summer (#7 in summer layout). Fortunately, I curled my disc around and through trees to avoid most of the leaves on the ground.

Hole #11 is one of my favorite holes. I played it well today. My initial drive curved to the left and set me up within decent putting range. I almost made the basket on my second shot, hitting the pole and glancing off.

Hole #16 was a challenge due to the leaves remaining on the trees. I couldn't get my first two shots to break the screen of trees near the old riverbed. Once I did, I was in good shape.

Buzzz attempts to hide.

As does Avenger SS (Super Straight).


Hole 1 - 3
Hole 2 - 5
Hole 3 - 4
Hole 4 - 6
Hole 5 - 3
Hole 6 - 4
Hole 7 - 4
Hole 8 - 3
Hole 9 - 3
Front nine - 35 (+8)

Hole 10 - 3
Hole 11 - 3
Hole 12 - 4
Hole 13 - 3
Hole 14 - 3
Hole 15 - 3
Hole 16 - 5
Hole 17 - 4
Hole 18 - 3
Back nine - 31 (+4)

Total - 66 (+12)


My best shot of the day was an eighty-foot putt that curved around a tree to the right of the basket and hit nothing but chains and dropped right in. It was absolutely awesome. (It also made up for my horrible six throws on hole number four.)

Monday, October 26, 2009


The sky is heavy with rain. The clouds are dark—shades of slate upon silver upon stone. The smell of brine is in the air.

Soon, we pursue the great white whale—Moby-Dick.


I dreamt last night of the Pequod's harpooners—Queequeg, Daggoo, Fedallah. These three were not in their respective whaling boats, however. They were all gathered in one boat together. Tashtego was not with them. I was wondering why he wasn't with them when the boat was lifted up and I sat up in bed. Good or ill, I embrace this sign as I embark upon a year-long close reading of Moby-Dick.


Today at work, I listened to the album Leviathan by heavy metal masters Mastodon. It embodies the violence and masculinity of Moby-Dick in screamed vocals, guitar, bass, and the thunder of drums (all wrapped in beautiful melodies). I listened to it again and again.


Later at work, I listened to sea shanties.


Tonight, as the child and I played with Legos, we listened to bluegrass cover versions of Aerosmith songs (by Cornbread Red). The child thought the chorus of "Sweet Emotion" was "sweet ocean." I took this as another sign.


Soon, we pursue the great white whale—Moby-Dick. I hope we survive.