Mark Beauregard’s whale of a tale

Aug 21, 2016

Credit Patrick Fort / Aspen Public Radio

Mark Beauregard was a reporter, but made a decision to write a book after thinking about Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Melville had a close relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne, another American writer. They wrote letters to each other that suggest that they were more than friends. Melville’s writing was often about his life, yet Moby Dick is almost always seen as an allegory. Beauregard was struck by this comparison and decided to write about the relationship between Melville and Hawthorne.

 


On the ethics of reading personal letters…

“It was astonishing that the surface of the letters — just what they said — had not  been dealt with by scholars before. They’re very provocative letters. That’s what struck me. Not violating a trust, but that I couldn’t believe that people hadn’t seen what seemed so obvious to me.”

How being a reporter helped him research…

“It made me very suspicious of myself. When we read back, not just our contemporaries’ letters, but other people’s, we seem them through our own lens. The farther back in history you get, the more that lens might shape your interpretation. When I first read the letters...I didn’t want to take it at face value. I’m a 21st century reader.”