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Legislators: ‘Moby-Dick’ is a whale of a tale

The question of whether to choose an official book for the state of Massachusetts made for a whale of a debate.

The state House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill naming “Moby-Dick” the state's official “epic novel.”

That was a compromise after some lawmakers questioned Rep. Christopher Speranzo's proposal to dub Herman Melville's 1851 classic the "official book," given the state's rich literary history.

“It really did open a lively discussion,” Speranzo said.

Rep. Cory Atkins said she was "appalled" and contended her district in Concord has "more authors per square mile than any other."

“What about Louisa May Alcott? What about (Nathaniel) Hawthorne? How am I going to face my constituents?” she said.

The bill needs to pass the Senate and get the governor's signature.

Speranzo, who read the book in college, sponsored the bill at the urging of elementary school students in his Berkshires district. Melville wrote the book about a ship crew's confrontation with the elusive white whale in Pittsfield.

“As a representative from Pittsfield, I am very proud 'Moby-Dick' was written in Pittsfield,” Speranzo said.