A Quest for Meaning and Moby-Dick—A Whale of a Tale

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An ancient house built in 1873, a developmentally delayed boy, and a hidden manuscript combine to create the perfect treasure hunt—securing Herman Melville’s famous Moby-Dick manuscript, its value rising with each casualty.

The Moby-Dick Blues (Roundfire Books) by Michael Strelow chronicles the hunt for not only literary treasure, but the search for admiration and purpose: “The story of Arvin and his family and the manuscript for Moby-Dick, [is] the unlikely tale of unlikely characters just like Melville’s story.”

Arvin Kraft is used to being left out. His family talks about him as if he can’t hear them. He knows his brain isn’t as quick to process as theirs, as his older brothers, Ben and Carl, always remind him.

“My two fast brothers maybe were faster than me, but each of them had something that made them slower than me sometimes… I realized I needed to find what I could to make my own way.”

Arvin is so proud when he discovers there is one thing only he can do—his superpower. He can almost make himself invisible, small enough to disappear between the walls of the old house his family has lived in for more than a century. Not only is he happy to have a private place all his own, but he can also eavesdrop on conversations he hears through the walls. And when he discovers an old wooden box filled with ancient papers, he knows he’s hit the jackpot.

Professor Thorne is an expert in all things Herman Melville. Almost a recluse, Thorne craves solitude with only books for company, preferring the tranquility of a library to the messiness of marriage. “My life [is] an affair of rooms—libraries, classrooms, conference rooms, meeting rooms and eventually bars.” He’s intrigued when asked to verify a long-lost manuscript of Moby-Dick. But once interested buyers mysteriously turn up dead, he thinks the “curse of Ahab” might surround the draft. As each death happens, the price of the manuscript rises, the curse surrounding it causing intrigue and avarice.

Salome Kraft, Arvin’s controlling older sister, will use the manuscript to the family’s advantage. “She was like a clean, sharp knife blade drawing through surrounding logic. She had this all figured out.” Salome strikes a deal with Thorne—he will not only certify the authenticity of the manuscript, but he’ll find a buyer. The Kraft family desperately needs money to save their failing construction business; the sale of the manuscript will restore their family fortune.

But there’s a problem—Arvin only gave his sister part of the manuscript; the rest he’s hidden away, his ace in the hole. As it turns out, Arvin has plans of his own.

Thorne sees in Arvin what is in himself, “… that damaged but valiant remnant of a god that sucked a deep breath every day and got on with the hard business of living…” Arvin, knowing the value in these aged pages sees “the same pile of papers had meant buying off his sister’s wrath, escaping his brothers’ tyranny, and finally a surfeit of meatball sandwiches… some recompense for all he yearned for in life.” Arvin uses the talents he’s given to secure, if not admiration, at least respect for what he can do, which for a brief period outweighs everything he can’t.

So a warning to all—beware the curse of Ahab and be wary of a young boy scorned.

The Moby-Dick Blues is now available to purchase.

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ABOUT MICHAEL STRELOW:

Michael Strelow was an educator, having taught in the English Department of Willamette University from 1980 to 2015. His first novel, The Greening of Ben Brown (2005), was a finalist for the Ken Kesey Novel Prize (Hawthorne Books).  His second novel, Henry: A Novel of Beer and Love in the West (2014), is based on the life of 19th century brewer and entrepreneur, Henry Weinhard.  His third and fourth novels, Some Assembly Required (2017) and The Moby-Dick Blues (March 2018), are published by John Hunt Books, Roundfire imprint. He has published poetry, short stories and creative non-fiction in many literary and commercial magazines such as: Orchid Magazine, Oregon Quarterly, Sou’wester, Cutbank, Northwest Review, Kansas Quarterly, Mid-west Poetry Review, Poetry Midwest, Bellingham Review, Willow Spring. His non-fiction academic books include: Kesey and An Anthology of Northwest Writing: 1900-1950. He lives in Salem, OR.  Visit https://michaelstrelow.wordpress.com.

K. L. Romo writes about life on the fringe: teetering dangerously on the edge is more interesting than standing safely in the middle. She is passionate about women’s issues, loves noisy clocks and fuzzy blankets, but HATES the word normal. Visit KLRomo.com or @klromo.

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