Fun With Moby-Dick

Professor’s bawdy card game harpoons idea that classic lit can be fun

Professor's bawdy card game harpoons idea that classic lit can be fun

Dick the card game
Tim Cassedy is selling his card game on Etsy for $19.75. Photo courtesy of Tim Cassedy

Even if you've never read the book, you probably still know the opening line of Herman Melville's literary classic Moby-Dick: “Call me Ishmael.” But how familiar are you with the rest of Melville's writing? Would you recognize passages or lines from the 200,000-word novel out of context?

SMU assistant English professor Tim Cassedy is hoping that you won't, because that's the crux of what makes his new card game so funny. Called — appropriately, yet hilariously — Dick, it's a Cards Against Humanity-style party amusement that uses actual phrases from the 164-year-old novel paired with semi-innocent questions. 

Available on Etsy, the game includes 400 white cards and 100 green cards. Each player starts with 12 white cards (the answers), and the judge of each round chooses a green card (the question) for the players to pair with their funniest white card. The judge determines a winner, the white cards are replenished, and the player with the most green cards at the end wins.

The answers by themselves are not meant to be naughty. However, when singled out and paired with questions such as “Dearly beloved friends, we are gathered here to join together these two persons in ...” or “A therapist asks you why you're there ...” answers such as “a low sucking sound” and “the midnight spout” suddenly seem uproariously filthy.

Cassedy told the Washington Post he was first struck with the idea for the game while teaching at SMU. “Moby-Dick,” he says, “questions everything and holds nothing sacred. It’s weirder, funnier, much more irreverent than you think. It would be an exaggeration to say that the book is nonstop sex jokes, but it is nonstop playfulness and irreverence.”

His hope is that people playing his game might discover “that Moby-Dick isn’t the sober tome they had been led to expect and feel empowered to read it.”