The Whale: A Love Story
by Mark Beauregard
Viking. 281 pages, $26.
ON NOVEMBER 17, 1851, Herman Melville wrote a long letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne. Melville had recently given his friend a copy of Moby Dick and had received a letter describing Hawthorne’s very positive reaction to the novel. Melville’s reply is filled with unmistakably sexual imagery: I felt pantheistic then—your heart beat in my ribs and mine in yours, and both in God’s. … Whence come you, Hawthorne? By what right do you drink from my flagon of life? And when I put it to my lips—lo they are yours and not mine. … Ah! it’s a long stage, and no inn in sight, and night coming, and the body cold. But with you for a passenger, I am content and can be happy.”
Melville’s letter, in its entirety, forms the conclusion of The Whale, a novel based on the brief, intense relationship between the first truly great writers of fiction in America.