Well, since I talked about the “squitchy bog,” yesterday, I thought I would explain. The complete sentence is: “A boggy, soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough to drive a nervous man distracted.” [Yes, Virginia, it is a so-called ‘incomplete sentence,’ which delights me far more than it probably should — Melville would have plenty of green squiggles on his screen.] It comes early on in “The Spouter-Inn,” chapter 3 of Moby Dick. Like everything else in that fractal/novel, it metes out a level of moral certainty and passes judgment on whether that in and of itself is moral turpitude. In other words, the picture in question is dark and unclear, and anyone who isn’t supremely strong of convictions would get the heebie-jeebies from it because you can’t make out what’s depicted — what the truth is. Unfortunately, you can’t ever tell which side of the argument Melville is on — he baits and switches. Does he admire Ahab in his certainty of the need to chase the white whale? Here, early on, he seems to suggest that lack of clarity and truth =not a good thing. That’s always at stake in those nineteenth-century American novels and gets to be a yawner for us late-modern types. Although I must confess that I have of late begun to question the value of complete moral relativity — which I embraced earlier in life when I held that “to each his own.” Now that seems okay so long as no one gets hurt or loses an eye. But then, what is the moral equivalent of losing an eye? Oy, all roads lead to Charlie Hebdo today.
In any case, why to me, “boggy, soggy, squitchy world” is about as delightful as can be, I don’t know. I do know I frequently splash around Canada in Plainfield muttering it to myself in utter contentment. I equate it with the very wetness of water, the clarity and shine that wetness brings. The touchfulness of soggyness if you will. (By the way, I am experimenting with how to post photos and whether to watermark them. Watermarking simply tells anyone who looks whose photo it is. Sort of like the tattooing in Melvilles’ Typee. But that’s another story.)