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Does the artwork and production value of a thing affect your judgement of that thing?

It always does.

I am always affected by beauty and beautiful proportions.

The way that a lot of people phrase or frame the question on BGG usually implies that a game is garbage unless it has eye-popping art or painted miniatures. None of that matters to me so much. A Go board is pleasant to my eyes. A staunton chess set is about as close to gaming perfection as it gets.

Really, this post is not about games. It's about a book.

From gallery of trawlerman


Before last week, I had avoided Moby-Dick for my entire life. It had been encrusted with a century of claims for its "classic" status, most of which focused on its brooding angst and existential despair, its depictions of mad obsession. I expected it to be heavy, to be a lot of work, something to be plowed through out of duty, delightful only to a crackpot few. I was not interested.

No one ever told me that Moby-Dick is a comedy, that it's sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.

I never even suspected this.

I should have. I've loved Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener for 20+ years, finding each "I'd prefer not to" quietly hilarious.

From gallery of trawlerman


Why did I suddenly change my mind about Moby-Dick and want to give it a try? Book design.

A week ago, I was at the Books-A-Million shop in the Scranton, PA area, spending some time looking at books while waiting to pick up two of my friends at the local airport in the afternoon.

I was going on vacation. I have a weakness for buying new books while on vacation. Even if I've packed several books with me, the thought of getting a new one associated with that vacation appeals to me.

I wandered all around the store, considering several books for purchase.

I stumbled upon Moby-Dick. I thought that it'd be humorous to try to finish Moby-Dick during the four days of drinking and gaming known as Mancation, knowing that that was an impossibly stupid thing that would never happen. I picked up a paperback copy, either Signet or Bantam, one of the cheap mass market paperback editions. Eh. I picked up the paperback Modern Library edition (as seen in the photo above, which was taken the day I bought the book). I almost instantly fell in love.

The cover is great. The colors and the design. It's a fat paperback that looks like it was made for reading and not for collecting.

Opening up the book, I knew that I had found the copy of Moby-Dick that would make me a Moby-Dick reader if not a Moby-Dick lover.

Below, I'm posting a series of pictures comparing the edition of Moby-Dick that I purchased (and am currently reading) to a Dover edition of the same book that is carried by my local library.

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman
From gallery of trawlerman

Those last two are the beginning pages of chapter 1 of my edition. Take a look at the margins. If that's not Golden Canon, it's close. The font and the layout on the page invites engaged and joyous rating. Everything about it is welcoming.
I also love the illustrations by Rockwell Kent. When I first picked it up, I joked with myself that they helped me treat this as a Children's Version that made it more approachable. A joke, but the images do make it more approachable, more pleasant to read. There is something solid but also whimsical about them that communicates that this book is full of meaning but not to be taken too seriously.

For contrast, here are the first few pages of the Dover edition. Basically, a wall of dense text.

From gallery of trawlerman


Opening to this, I immediately want to close it. Maybe it's still great, but the way that the text is formatted on the page indicates a painful slog rather than a joyous jaunt.

And that's what I discovered for myself. Moby-Dick is, so far, a joyous jaunt. So unexpected. Such a pleasant surprise.

And there are all sorts of ways that I could connect this back to board games, the drab browns of the OG era disguising cutthroat take-that action; the pastels of our current era doing the same, and so on. Presentation forms expectations, for better or for worse, and presentation also does, most of the time, affect the way that we engage with and are able to enjoy any work of art.

Eh, here are a few more photos of Moby-Dick, highlighting those Rockwell Kent pictures.

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman


But no more of this blubbering now, we are going a-whaling, and there is plenty of that yet to come.
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