Every Page of Every Page of Moby-Dick, 24

9/17/21, 8:23pm

23

The line from MD that inspires the next canvas becomes the first in a series of aphorisms isolated by MK and then rendered into an original, illustrative medium, which I liken to a data visualization. Only here there is no data per se to visualize but a parcel of language mapped upon the found page, in this case a page from a chapter in an academic volume about Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, two rails on a supposed “Ladder of Creation” runged by endless observations, the discourse of evolutionary science. 

The page is numbered 309 in its lower right corner, and the chapter title (“The Ladder of Creation”) is printed on the upper right margin opposite a poetic epigraph from one of Darwin’s cartoons; in the page’s lower left corner there’s a small black-and-white picture of a white bearded Alfred Wallace standing beside a blooming Eremurus robustus (aka a foxtail lily, or the candle of the desert), grown to nearly the full height of the jacketed man; Wallace is pictured wearing all black, so his round white head stands out prominently in the photograph, mimicking the pale tufted narrow head of the foxtail lily bloom oped atop a long-spiring stem barely distinguishable (given the low grade reproduction of the photo) from the grassy, wooded hillside in the background. All this you take in upside down because the page is turned on end. “The Ladder of Creation” reads rotated at 180 degrees, and Alfred Wallace dances on the ceiling with a blooming fox tail, where MK inks his illustration of “M.D. Aphorism #1”: “Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.” 

9/18/21, 7:38am

The choice of found page here, given its inverted orientation, demonstrates MK’s recognition that the prejudice that initially biases Ishmael against his appointed bedfellow has a foot rooted in evolutionary science. The other foot, we’ll see, is rooted in a certain Christian spiritualism. Nurtured by Coffin’s teasing hints about the man’s identity, Ishmael’s bias grows into a towering angry fear by the time he’s figured out who Queequeg is – a “cannibal”* – when the man climbs into bed with him, tomahawk-pipe alight. The logic sustaining the distinction of savage and civilized is overturned or overwhelmed by two factors in the budding of Ishmael and Queequeg’s relationship: 

  1. Ishmael’s temperance movement allegiances, bespoken most plainly in the text of MD when he observes the barman Jonah’s establishment upon entering the Spouter Inn; apparently the greater light brought into the room with Coffin after Ishmael screams for the landlord upon being gruffly demanded by Queequeg to say who he is and then threatened when the harpooneer is surprised to find him hiding awake in the bed, is enough to tell Ishmael that the cannibal is a sober one, “clean” at least;   
  2. empathy for Queequeg himself, the first token of which is uttered immediately preceding Aphorism #1: “the man’s a human being just as I am: he has just as much reason to fear me, as I have to be afraid of him”; this suddenly amicable attitude of Ishmael’s seems prompted by the not only “civil” but “kind and charitable” way Queequeg invites him back into the bed after Coffin has quickly explained the sleeping arrangement.

Driving both of these considerations that overturn the valuation of civilized and savage in this moment in the text of MD is Ishmael’s magnetic attraction to Queequeg that there will be occasion to talk about more with illustrations to come. For now I’ll just point out that for all Queequeg’s “unearthly” appearances and behaviors registered by Ishmael as he hides in bed and observes the harpooneer undress, in the greater light brought into the room with Coffin Ishmael notes that he finds the man attractive: “comely.”

MK’s illustration of the event of language in this “aphorism,” the distillation and reduction of the philosophy of the whole of MD into a single sentence, is comprised of two distinct visual elements:

  1. Just below the centerpoint of the topsy-turvy found page there’s inked a small dark sphere, having roughly the circumference of a fingertip; the perimeter of the circle is neatly defined on its outer edge and unevenly inked in black toward the center. (Where the black ink does not reach into the circle’s interior, it’s shaded grey.) Radiating outward from this center point of the diagram are 24 jagged shards of various lengths and breadths, variously colored (mostly) in shades of green, blue, purple, and yellow. The alteration in shards’ coloring doesn’t conform to a observable pattern; they’re all amix: 4 grass green, 4 sky blue, 4 turquoise, 4 ocean green, 4 yellow, 2 purple, one grey, and one shard (notably different from the rest) is red. Inked in black capital letters in 10 of the 24 shards are the individual words comprising the aphorism: “BETTER / SLEEP / WITH / A / SOBER / CANNIBAL” is arrayed on adjacent shards in the upper portion of the diagram; “THAN / A / DRUNKEN / CHRISTIAN” appears on shards on the lower half.
  2. Inked above this diagram, about a quarter of the length of the found page from its uppermost edge (according to the orientation of the printing, its lowermost edge) and extending three quarters of the way across the page, is a horizontal band or strip, terminating at the ends in a similarly jagged fashion as the shards in the diagram below. The band is divided into 12 colored blocks of various sizes – some wider, rectangle-shaped, some very narrow, like lines. The coloring of the individual blocks corresponds to that of individual sunburst shards of the diagram below; here too there is no definable pattern to the alteration in the colors used: 3 blocks of the band toward the right of center are colored purple; 1 wide block near the left end of the band and the narrowest block on the right are colored yellow; there’s a square of the grass green on either side of the band; and the rest of the blocks comprising the band are turquoise or ocean green. Above the band, inked in the same black capital lettering as the words written in the sunburst shards of the diagram below, appearing like a label: “M.D. APHORISM #1:” 

8:47pm

These two elements of the illustration are tied together by the presence of language on the canvas: MK’s own autography writing out the quote from MD on the multicolored shard array, and identifying it as an aphorism with the words inked above the multicolored band. The latter works as a sort of legend or key for interpreting the aphorism’s mapping upon the former. The band of colored blocks serves like a designer’s mood board, establishing the tones and palette that will be carried over in the spacialization of the aphorism upon the shard array. The colors chosen to establish this mood are predominately cool and soothing, shot through with a bright, illuminative highlight of yellow: evoking the literal light Coffin is supposed to have brought into the room and also the more sober and rationalist frame of mind of which Ishmael is suddenly possessed. The palette aptly captures the rapid calming of Ishmael’s elevated mood that results from the genteel manner in which Queequeg invites him back to bed after frightening him out if it and the clarity with which Ishmael’s registers it in the text as a sort of decision or resolution on his part to accept the invitation: “What’s all the fuss I have been making about…[?]” 

Conspicuously, the only color featured in the shard array that is not reproduced in the legend-band above it is red; the sole red shard also happens to be the one upon which the word “CANNIBAL” is written. The associative meaning of the word, triggered by the color MK uses for its background on the canvas – red – does not match the established palette – cool, calm, and clear – but sets it off as an accent is said to “pop,” that is, only on condition it doesn’t pop the predominant mood of the defined space. The difference between the legend-band of “M.D. Aphorism #1” and the spacialization of the quotation on the shard array is a difference between Ishmael’s understanding of the import of his words and their unchecked meaning. If Ishmael were a Catholic, say, instead of a proud Presbyterian, he might discern a fault in the logic of the syllogism – “Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.” – if a Christian is understood to be a sort of cannibal. (“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me…”) Unless “cannibal” and “Christian” are regarded as opposites in some regard, then the aphorism amounts to Ishmael making a passing subjective preference known (to himself): “I’d rather not bed down with a drunk person.” All well and good, but how is he certain Queequeg is not drunk anyway? The sobriety of his religious observances before sleep, perhaps? That’d be another stab at the supposed oppositional meaning. For now, Ishmael rests on the compromise that Queequeg not smoke in bed – “This being told to Queequeg, he at once complied, and again politely motioned me to get into bed.” – and he claims to have never slept better in his life.

Not every aspect of the experience distilled in the aphorism, which MK illustrates in the shard array, is internalized by the meanings assumed or authorized by the aphorism’s speaker, which MK makes a color swatch of in the legend-band. Questions remain about how Ishmael reconciles his relationship with Queequeg and his own spiritual worldview. This was only their first meeting, after all. The icebreaker, as it were. In fact, once the thought occurred to me I could never escape it again, that the shard array with which MK spacializes the aphorism he’s isolated at the terminus of his long residence in “The Spouter Inn” (he’s been living in these rooms more than three weeks, remember, by the time Ishmael’s stayed one night), resembles the visual effect a bullet or sharp, pointed object hurled at great force would produce on a pane of glass or rather of ice. Perchance its the frozen November in his soul Ishmael perceives melting in him when he takes Queequeg for his “bosom friend,” where notably the word “cannibal” has been replaced in its (il)logical opposition to the the word “Christian”: “I’ll try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy.” Ishmael may be learning and changing, but his lessons never seem done.


*It should be noted that the word “cannibal” is first introduced by the Ishmael narrating not the Ishmael speaking to the other characters in the scene, though Ishmael does call Queequeg a “cannibal” aloud when addressing Coffin after the landlord enters the room. Moreover, the word has been used three times previous to this moment in “The Spouter Inn”: first instance, when Ishmael is observing some of the “hacking, horrifying implement[s]” in the entryway upon first entering Coffin’s establishment and wondering what “monstrous cannibal and savage” might have gone “death-harvesting” with them; 2) second instance, when Ishmael is paraphrasing his considerations to himself upon learning that Queequeg is out engaged in the “cannibal business [of] selling heads of dead idolators” and on a Sabbath’s (very early) day; 3) third instance, when persisting in assuming his roommate is a white man even though Coffin has told him otherwise, Ishmael recollects a case he heard of a man being taken captive by cannibals and tattooed by them as an explanation of the circumstances in which Queequeg was tattooed. Death, religion, and race: those are certainly the big three for Melville’s Ishmael at this point in MD.

Matt Kish
MOBY-DICK, Page 024

Title: Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.
(7 inches by 9.5 inches; ink on found paper; August 29, 2009)

Every Page of Every Page of Moby-Dick, 20

20

5:41pm

MK’s first illustration of Queequeg is a portrait of the character as he (a veteran reader) sees the beloved harpooneer first entering the door to his room in the Spouter Inn, not as Ishmael reports seeing him. In this respect it’s a rather radical departure from any of the illustrations that have come before it or those that immediately follow it.

When Ishmael first sees Queequeg he’s still got that nightmare of a tangled black yarn of a bloodthirsty deadheader on the brain, and Queequeg “himself” – one of the most fully developed and memorable characters of the early portions of MD – only becomes known in bits and pieces. Like the painting in the entryway to the Spouter Inn, he’s only accessories, parts, and individual features – decontextualized fragments seen, heard, and felt – before becoming a fully-fledged personage to Ishmael, or to the reader. Indeed, Ishmael introduces Queequeg into the book almost precisely as he does the harpooneer’s poncho: as something he can’t quite recognize but nonetheless brazenly examines and meticulously describes. In this first portrait of the “infernal head-peddler” Queequeg is seen wearing the poncho so laboriously and lovingly drawn by MK in the illustration previous (reproduced here in all its wonderful detail), and since we know that poncho to have been left in the room while he was out on his errand, this should be the first clue that MK is deliberately stepping out of the seductive, overwhelmed reporting of Ishmael and making his own vision of Queequeg known, in its own time.

8:01pm

At the same time, some of the striking first impressions that overwhelm Ishmael’s faculty to recognize Queequeg seem to influence MK’s more developed and contextualized vision of the character: especially, Queequeg’s tattooing. The first sight of Queequeg’s face Ishmael gets in MD is conspicuously registered as one of those moments where the narrator’s confusion and, in this case, alarmed wonderment is passed on to the reader: “good heavens! what a sight! Such a face! It was of a dark purplish, yellow color, here and there stuck over with large, blackish looking squares.” Ishmael concocts a theory that the dark squares are “sticking-patches,” that the harpooneer has been in a dreadful fight and has had to see a surgeon, before realizing they’re tattoos. MK’s first rendering of this face not only differs in terms of the colors chosen to echo the markings – in MK’s illustration they’re resolutely blue – nor in their shape – here they’re drawn as a collection of overlapping scales, each comprised of concentric scallop-shaped lines rather than as squares – but, more importantly, the mood the figure of Queequeg strikes on MK’s canvas is serene and gentle, not threatening. The figure is stooped, the ovular head hung forward atop the steeply sloped body.

Queequeg’s tall harpoon stands prominently to the left of the figure occupying the whole left margin of the canvas, black at the handle and awash in red, which is also flecked across the top left quadrant of the canvas: another anachronism from this page of MD, since the harpoon was left in the room along with the poncho. There are two other distinguishing features of this canvas, however, that should indicate that this is a more deliberate, contextualized portrait of Queequeg than Ishmael provides at this point in the book.

  1. The choice of found page on which the illustration is made features a legible map of Pacific isles, situating the character in more of a concrete geographic and cultural locale than he ever is in MD; 
  2. In the upper right hand corner of the canvas there’s inked an uppercase thickly lettered Q, in red, just above a thinly drawn infinity symbol. This pair of marks becomes a signature of sorts, as we’ll see inspired by Queequeg’s own, which is featured on many of the canvases depicting the harpooneer. 

In comparison to the abject terror the appearance of Queequeg first instills in Ishmael, the only vaguely ominous feature of the figure MK illustrates is its lidless eyes, their red pupils pointilated about the edges, giving them a glaring, strained, and hazy look. 

I’ve ventured before the surmise that red eyes in MK’s illustrations of MD indicate a character in extremity, and the only theory that will answer for what extremity Queequeg might be said to be in – this character who never cringed and never knew a creditor – suggests that those blue markings shown all over as his face do not represent Queequeg’s artificial bodily markings as much as his natural bodily medium that it will be the arc of MK’s illustrations to render (back) unto infinity.

Matt Kish
MOBY-DICK, Page 020

Title: Lord save me, thinks I, that must be the harpooneer, the infernal head-peddler.
(8.5 inches by 11 inches; acrylic paint, ink and marker on found paper; August 25, 2009)

Every Page of Every Page of Moby-Dick, 11

9/2/21, 12:49pm

11

After his contemplation of the beguiling painting that hangs to one side of the entryway to the Spouter Inn, Ishmael turns to regard some “storied” retired tools of the trade the landlord Coffin has on display on the opposite wall. One of these implements is a lance reputedly wielded by one Nathan Swain to “kill fifteen whales between a sunrise and sunset” some fifty years prior (it’s said) to Ishmael’s visit to the Inn. 

MK illustrates this lance – oriented vertically, just left of center canvas – with a marked realism: the head of the lance is spade-shaped and set atop a thinly tapered rod, which at a length about six times that of the height of the lancehead is bored into a thick rounded handle, complete with a handgrip and a stray span of whale-line corded haphazardly about the tool and dropped dangling out the bottom of the frame. The lance is painted in silhouette, all black, and cut off by the bottom edge of the canvas at about half the length of what the handle would measure in life. Apropos Ishmael’s description of this lance as “wildly elbowed,” the rod to which the lancehead is affixed is angled stiffly to the right at about a 40 degree angle relative to the vertical axis of the canvas, putting the diverted lancehead center-canvas in the upper third of the found page.

Most of the circuitry schematic that would be visible on the left hand side of this sheet is obscured by a crudely painted, dark ruddy backdrop to the lance, unevenly rounded off at the top and broader at its base; the blunted shape and coloring of this feature lends a stillness and deadness to the appearance of the lance that it might otherwise lack. The bent implement appears closeted in the redbrown cavity or rather embossed black on the face of a muddied, titled tombstone. 

Movement and dynamism is brought to the canvas not by the bend in the retired lance but by the hot candy-red lightning-bolt entering the foreground of the illustration from the middle-right and extending to its lower-left extremity. The initials “N.S.” appear prominently on the broadest span of the red lightning-bolt on the far right side of the canvas, slightly askew. The effect is that of a flashing tag or pennant announcing that it’s the supposed “honor and glory” of Nat Swain that quickens Ishmael’s (and, in turn, MK’s) attention to this relic, more than the lance itself.

It would be very like Ishmael to say that this “‘once […] bravest boat-header out of all Nantucket’” inked his name to the beadroll of the immortal fishery in the blood of his monstrous foe (that is, before he “‘joined the meeting’” and got worried about his “‘plaguy soul,’” as Capt. Peleg later recalls Swain’s conversion to Quakerism and pacifism). MK is more sensitive and (perhaps like Swain) more attuned to the living legacy of all this bloodshed than the number of dead whales in one day that it happened to dart from. In his illustration, the initials N.S. aren’t written in the hot red flash but carved out of it as it were, nothing in themselves: an emptiness made legible by what surrounds it.

Matt Kish
MOBY-DICK, Page 011

Title: With this once long lance, now wildly elbowed, fifty years ago did Nathan Swain kill fifteen whales between a sunrise and a sunset.
(7.75 inches by 11 inches; acrylic paint and ink on found paper; August 13, 2009)

Every Page of Every Page of Moby-Dick, 8

8

The peglike buoy figure of the water gazers in 2 returns in MK’s rendering of the “black Angel of Doom” Ishmael witnesses “beating a book” before a congregation in the “negro church” whose service he rudely interrupts then cruelly mocks before eventually finding his proper place at the Spouter Inn in New Bedford. The water gazers in 2 appear sexless and featureless apart from their beaky noses, hazy grey eyes, and multi-colored, -patterned wrappings. This canvas suggests that the figures are racialized, as this one is painted jet flat black from its smooth rounded head to the point where its tubular body vanishes behind a small brown pulpit uplifting a small book. The hazy, pointilated eyes are red, and a pair of large wings extend lifted from its sides, composed mostly of neatly layered small scallop shapes colored in various shades of maroon, grey, pink, black, and white (The wings have another texture where they meet the figure’s body: long slender U-shaped forms are colored in various shades of grey and black). A light, metallic grey spray-painted cross appears afront the black figure and a likewise painted nimbus crowns its head, framed between the uplifted wings.

The peglike figures seem to be MK’s answer to rendering the nameless landlubbers who populate the early pages of MD. This one is given prominence as the sole occupant of the canvas and by its great wings, but its most distinguishing and important feature is the one that differentiates it from the water gazers in 2: its blackness. Ishmael’s attitude (mock-revolted, dismissive) toward the congregation and pastor at the Black church is far from generous – indeed it’s dehumanizing – and MK chooses his moment on this cringeworthy page of MD to wrest some compromise between what Ishmael reports seeing and what he sees Ishmael seeing. Such compromises are fraught under the weight of US history. I’m anxious to witness how and where he chooses to grapple with illustrating Ishmael’s (and Melville’s) often racist characterizations of Black persons especially as the book goes on, having only begun myself with this “Angel of Doom” to sense the burden of (ir)responsibility that follows hard upon returning them into words. What is “doing justice” to a book like this, when it’s an injustice to some?

On the very edges of broad horizontal arms of the cross, where they extend past the tubular black body, you can make out traces of the scalloped lines composing the Angel’s wings beneath: a clue to the order in which the elements were created to compose this canvas – a detail I love.

Matt Kish
MOBY-DICK, Page 008

Title: …and beyond, a black Angel of Doom was beating a book in a pulpit.
(7.75 inches by 11 inches; ballpoint pen, colored pencil, ink and spray paint on found paper; August 13, 2009)

Every Page of Every Page of Moby-Dick, 7

8/24/21

1:11pm

7

First collage of the book, by virtue of yellowish green, rectangular cartoon affixed to the bottom of the found page (finally figured out from the printing on this page that the book being repurposed for these canvases is a systems manual for a Philco Chassis radio). The cartoon shows a man with his hand glued to a cabinet or window with another person (maybe a woman) behind, grasping his shoulders, trying to help him pry it off, the glue stretching between the man’s palm and the object’s surface: he appears panicked and pained, both appear strained. The cartoon forms a kind of band across the wrist of a rudimentary hand outlined with a medium-thick black pencil line, shaded grey, which occupies the majority of the canvas. Three irregular splotches of silver spray paint are added to the center of the canvas, representing the “few silver pieces” Ishmael retrieves from his pocket as he considers lodging options upon first arriving to wintry, tempestuous New Bedford.

Without the cartoon, the painting would register as a rather literal rendering of this page of MD compared to the canvases that have come before. The comical image of the man in a sticky situation belies the seriousness of Ishmael’s predicament – arriving to an unfamiliar place after nightfall with “little to no money in [his] purse” and facing a icy, restless night on the city street unless he finds shelter soon – but this is precisely the aptness of the collage. For all his vulnerability upon arriving to New Bedford, Ishmael casually, jokingly, even mockingly surveys his prospects before finally finding hospitality in the Spouter Inn.

MK’s illustrations are keenly attentive to the humor of MD; his choice of line often reveals his attraction to it. The line from the book that inspired this illustration is not the most overly funny line in the book up to this point, but this is one of the first overtly comical illustrations owing mainly to the element of collage.

Matt Kish
MOBY-DICK, Page 007

Title: With anxious grapnels I had sounded my pocket, and only brought up a few pieces of silver…
(7.75 inches by 11 inches; collage, colored pencil and spray paint on found paper; August 12, 2009)

Every Page of Every page of Moby-Dick, 1

8/22/21, 8:14am

1

In “Loomings” the narrator we’re told to call Ishmael makes himself known to the reader obliquely. Between the lines as it were, we learn that Ishmael is a former schoolmaster, steeped in the Classics, who perennially gets so “hazy about the mouth” to go asea to alleviate his “spleen”: to avoid doing a-harm to others or to himself, his “substitute for pistol and ball.” 

In MK’s first rendering of the narrative apparatus or conceit of Moby-Dick the name Ishmael appears atop the page of “found paper” drawn in blocked capital letters, outlined with thick black strokes. The original printing of some circuitry manual is still legible beneath the painting, revealing that the name “ISHMAEL” isn’t painted on but rather merely formed as a preserved space of the canvas, projected as if on a screen – or perhaps as the screen itself – by a beam of prismed light parting a cloud formation, jaundiced as if backlit by the sun. A figure of Ishmael that will recur throughout MK’s MD as a major motif appears painted large in the lower-right quadrant of the page: the shape is vaguely head-like with two blue, glaring eyes spaced widely apart. The upper portion of the head-like shape is bedaubed grey and the lower portion of the figure is blue, the line between these two hues drawn as two peaking waves that give the head-like shape a sort of grimacing expression to my eyes.

Since “Loomings” is composed mostly as a poetic meditation on the magnetic virtues of water – the most abundant substance on Earth: at once the most vital of its life-giving elements and its most destructive force – it’s fitting that MK first renders Ishmael as a sort of baghead, tied off neatly at the top, half filled with the stuff. Ishmael’s head looks to me like the sack of water a child would be seen carrying away from a fair as a prize, only this bag has eyes and no fish inside.

Matt Kish
MOBY-DICK, Page 001

Title: Call me Ishmael.
(8.5 inches by 11 inches; colored pencil and ink on found paper; August 5, 2009)

Every page of Every Page of Moby-Dick

Dedicated to Matt Kish

By Seth Wood

Experiment commenced: August 2021

I first encountered the art of Matt Kish by coming across Moby-Dick in Pictures (Tin House, 2011) on a bookstore shelf and was immediately captivated by it. I had been struggling with my own relationship to Melville’s Moby-Dick, or the Whale. As an aspiring scholar of American literature I knew I had to contend with it. As a graduate student instructor I told one of my first audiences of students that “Poe [was] my ocean [the ocean I was castaway upon, honestly], and Moby-Dick [was] my mountain.” It was a mountain which I couldn’t say honestly I’d climbed until after I saw it through the lens of Matt Kish’s illustrations (and at first with no little help from Frank Muller’s masterful reading of the book, too, I’ll admit). 

Within a year of finding Moby-Dick in Pictures I was presented with my first opportunity to teach an American literature course as a post-graduate with a doctorate at Oklahoma State University. I decided to teach Moby-Dick and that Matt Kish’s art would be involved, but I little expected how the events of that year would bring me into a much more personal and profound connection to his work. I’m sure those events will be referred to in the pages to come, so leave it… keep it simple as he did getting underway (as it turns out, 12 years ago this month).

Because I consider Matt Kish’s project of creating an original illustration for every page of Moby-Dick to be one of the greatest interpretations of the book ever made, I am now going to write a page (or thereabouts) for every one of his 552 (or thereabouts) illustrations. Any references or quotes of Moby-Dick that are made are done from memory, unless referencing the individual lines from Melville’s book with which MK titles his illustrations. 

Here is the first page: 

8/19/21, noonish

First lines are trouble. In Moby-Dick that trouble is at least double. What is the first line of the book anyway? Ask anyone who knows anything about it, and they’ll know: “Call me Ishmael.” – like the bartender who recently overheard me lording some knowledge of the book myself and declaimed the sentence aloud to the nearly deserted bar. It’s the book’s famous first line, maybe one of the most famous first lines of all time, but is that the book’s first line? Even after the customary front matter of the title page and dedication to Hawthorne, after the Table of Contents, the first word is “Etymology” (no punctuation) then that odd little bit about the “pale,” “consumptive,” “threadbare” Usher/grammarian, and then there’s the catalogue of “Extracts,” decontextualized words on whales from a sort of greatest hits of Western civilization (with a few notable exceptions).

But MK draws none of these pages at first*, set awkwardly and strangely between the Table of Contents and Loomings, paginated with Roman numerals. It’s not how he sees it, not at the time of commencing his experiment anyway. By the time I hit Chapter 1, the warp is already mounted on the loom.

*In 2015, 4 years after completing his “task,” MK composed a series of illustrations of the Extracts that can be viewed on his website here.