In Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, a young man named Ishmael leaves his home in New York for several years of adventures aboard a whaling ship. After sailing the seas collecting sperm oil, when it comes time to head home, the ship's maniacal captain, Ahab, refuses to turn back before he finds and kills the infamous Moby Dick, an enraged, white whale who, years earlier, cost the captain his leg. 

Melville's contemporaries didn't much care for it, but modern readers are as obsessed with it as Ahab was with the white whale. Melville's cult followers regularly put on Moby-Dick-inspired performances and art shows, and now Portland's Independent Publishing Resources Center (IPRC) is hosting a 24-hour reading to raise funds for the beloved DIY literary hub. 

So why is a 200-year-old novel such a common excuse to party? IPRC Executive Director Justin Hocking has quite a few ideas. "Moby-Dick is always timely. It's about the lengths we go for oil. The whaling industry died because we discovered petroleum. Also, the book is really experimental and polyphonic. It's told through many voices, with parts written like a screenplay, monologue, song and poem."

The first five hours are free, beginning at Powell's at 5 pm Friday. A total of 135 local writers and performers, from Kevin Sampsell to writer and exotic dancer Viva Las Vegas, are slated to read, first at the book shop and later at a private home open to IPRC members through 5 pm on Saturday. A three-month membership to IPRC will be sold at the Powell's reading for $25.

GO: Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St., 228-4651. 5-10 pm Friday, Feb. 11. Free. Info at