Herman Melville didn’t see this one coming.
The Library of Congress welcomed its first ever emoji book into its collection. Yes, Emoji Dick tells Melville’s epic of obsessive whale hunting, Moby-Dick, exclusively in those Japanese emoticons that brighten up your little sister’s text messages.
Much like Captain Ahab, data engineer Fred Benenson embarked on an ambitious journey with his re-imagining of the 200,000-word epic. He hired Amazon Mechanical Turks to translate the book, and took to Kickstarter to raise the cash. In 2009, 83 backers helped the project surpass its $3,500 goal.
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On Tuesday, Bensenson announced the Library of Congress acquisition on that same Kickstarter page, telling backers “as of very recently, Emoji Dick is now officially part of the Library of Congress’ catalog.”
There’s a definite parallel between his new media venture and the Moby-Dick plot, Benenson told the New Yorker in 2009.
“The story behind Moby-Dick is about this huge, seemingly insurmountable challenge, told using metaphors and stylized language,” he said. “And in a way, that’s what translating a book into emoji is—a weird, huge challenge told in metaphors and stylized language. I also really like the whale emoji, so that seemed like a good fit, too.”
Using his knowledge of the emoticons for the good of mankind, Benenson also wrote a piece for Esquire on the dos and don’ts of using emojis (highlights: do taunt your parents who have iPhones, but still don’t know what emoji is; don’t use the purple Star of David emoji to refer to your Jewish friend).
At least in Benenson’s story, the captain and the whale get along.