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Moby-Dick or, The Whale PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: Moby-Dick or, The Whale
Author: Herman Melville
Publisher: Published February 21st 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published October 18th 1851)
ISBN: 9780142437247
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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"It is the horrible texture of a fabric that should be woven of ships' cables and hawsers. A Polar wind blows through it, and birds of prey hover over it." So Melville wrote of his masterpiece, one of the greatest works of imagination in literary history. In part, Moby-Dick is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and da "It is the horrible texture of a fabric that should be woven of ships' cables and hawsers. A Polar wind blows through it, and birds of prey hover over it." So Melville wrote of his masterpiece, one of the greatest works of imagination in literary history. In part, Moby-Dick is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopaedia of whaling lore and legend, the book can be seen as part of its author's lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humour, Moby-Dick is also a profound inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.

30 review for Moby-Dick or, The Whale

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    “Where the White Whale, yo?” Ah, my first DBR. And possibly my last, as this could be a complete shit show. Approaching a review of Moby-Dick in a state of sobriety just wasn’t cutting it, though. So let’s raise our glasses to Option B, yeah? I fucking love this book. It took me eight hundred years to read it, but it was so, so worth it. Melville’s writing is impeccable. The parallels he draws, even when he’s seemingly pulling them out of his ass, which I swear to God he’s doing, because who can f “Where the White Whale, yo?” Ah, my first DBR. And possibly my last, as this could be a complete shit show. Approaching a review of Moby-Dick in a state of sobriety just wasn’t cutting it, though. So let’s raise our glasses to Option B, yeah? I fucking love this book. It took me eight hundred years to read it, but it was so, so worth it. Melville’s writing is impeccable. The parallels he draws, even when he’s seemingly pulling them out of his ass, which I swear to God he’s doing, because who can find this many parallels to draw when talking about a whale, are just perfect. He can compare any and every aspect of the whale—did you know this whole book is about a whale?—to the human condition. And he does so in a way that is humorous and poetic. It is pretty remarkable, I tell you. So here’s the thing: I had zero interest in whales before starting this book. But holy hell if I haven’t been googling the crap out of them lately. I mean, it’s the mark of a superior writer (isn’t it?) to command one’s attention—not just to hold it but to carry it forth hither and thither—for seven hundred pages of a book about a whale. It’s impressive, really, when you think about it. And yet, this book suffers a severe level of under-appreciation on TEH GOODREADS. It has an average rating of 3.33, which is extraordinarily dismal by this website’s standards (and with almost a quarter million ratings so far, it is unlikely to migrate much from that figure). So in an attempt to understand what it is people hate about this book, I filtered the community reviews to show 1-star results, and here is what I’ve discovered: • This book would have been great, admits Anulka, if it weren’t for that darn tootin’ whale interfering with the story. • The language is too much for Gil Michelini, who believes words have their place (after all we are not heathens!), but they simply do not belong in this novel. • Marlan’s complaint is that there is too great a lack of story here, so much so that it feels crammed in. It’s like trying to squeeze a cookie into a breadbox. • Some have experienced extreme aversions to this book. It has made Colleen seasick, quite frankly; it has totally messed up Edwin’s mind; and it has made Robert want to light himself on fire. Even Liz has acknowledged a preference for drowning if such an option existed as a substitute for reading Moby-Dick. • Tracy Dunning would recommend renting the cartoon version, which far surpasses the actual text in storytelling capability. • Still others have been befuddled by this novel’s ability to hoodwink its readers into thinking they like it (when in fact they don’t), a bizarre phenomenon Esther Hansen can personally attest to. • Finally, Keya offers a sobering perspective, which is that people are only reading this book to read it, meaning that if they weren’t reading it, then it would simply be a book not being read. Truly, Yogi Berra couldn’t have put it better himself. But Keya does bring up an interesting point here: why doesn’t Ahab just “get over it” and live his life? I mean, should that be so hard? In some sense, the White Whale is nothing more than a stand-in for everything that has gone wrong in Ahab’s life. He mounts this campaign against the stand-in but isn’t that sort of disingenuous? After all, it’s not the whale that’s responsible for his miserable life. Ahab claims to be an instrument of fate, but fate in this case seems nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy. Oh, fuck, my fingers hurt from the backspace. Look, here’s the bottom line. I was afraid this book would be long and boring. And now I wonder how many people hesitate reading it because of its bad rap. Well I’m here to tell you, Potential Reader, this book might be long but it is by no means boring. (Therefore, it is long and exciting? TWSS?) I implore you to ignore the negative reviews! Melville has a talent for flowing, humorous prose, and there is so much of it here to enjoy. So go find your White Whale. (P.S. Gin rules.)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    LISA: Dad, you can't take revenge on an animal. That's the whole point of Moby Dick. HOMER: Oh Lisa, the point of Moby Dick is 'be yourself.' -- The Simpsons, Season 15, Episode 5, “The Fat and the Furriest” There, there. Stop your crying. You didn’t like Herman Melville’s Moby Dick? You didn't even finish it? I’m here to tell you, that’s okay. You’re still a good person. You will still be invited to Thanksgiving dinner. You won’t be arrested, incarcerated, or exiled. You will not be shunned (exce LISA: Dad, you can't take revenge on an animal. That's the whole point of Moby Dick. HOMER: Oh Lisa, the point of Moby Dick is 'be yourself.' -- The Simpsons, Season 15, Episode 5, “The Fat and the Furriest” There, there. Stop your crying. You didn’t like Herman Melville’s Moby Dick? You didn't even finish it? I’m here to tell you, that’s okay. You’re still a good person. You will still be invited to Thanksgiving dinner. You won’t be arrested, incarcerated, or exiled. You will not be shunned (except by English majors; they will shun you). Your family and friends will still love you (or at least stand you). Your dog will still be loyal (your cat, though, will remain indifferent). Moby Dick can be a humbling experience. Even if you get through it, you may be desperately asking yourself things like “why didn’t I like this” or "am I totally missing something” or "how long have I been sleeping?" See, Moby Dick is the most famous novel in American history. It might be the great American novel. But in many ways, it’s like 3-D movies or Mount Rushmore: it’s tough to figure out why it’s such a big deal. I suppose any discussion about Moby Dick must start with thematic considerations. It is, after all, “classic” literature, and must be experienced on multiple levels, if at all. So, what’s the point of Moby Dick? Is it about obsession? The things that drive each of us in our ambitions, whether they be wealth, hate, prejudice or love? Is it a deconstruction of Puritan culture in colonial America? Is it a Joseph Campbell-style hero’s journey? Is it a good ol' yarn of men against the sea? Is it all of these things? Perhaps. Is it a colossal bore? Decidedly. Now, I hate to use that word, the b-word. Boring. It means so little. It means nothing. It is the ultimate grade-school criticism: subjective; vague; and expressing annoyance at having been forced to experience the thing at all. To say something is boring implies that nothing happens, when in fact, something is always happening. Whether or not that happening is exciting is another question. Having said all that, I found Moby Dick boring in the purest sense of the word. On just about every page, I felt a distinct lack of interest. And this is not a response to the subject matter. I love sea stories. I enjoyed Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea and Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Jaws. Normally, a novel about an obsessed man trying to harpoon a terrifying monster would be right in my wheelhouse. What was the problem? More specifically, what was my problem? (Because despite what I say, most people are going to blame me rather than Melville). It all comes down to density. I’ve never actually harpooned a whale (or anything, for that matter), but I can only assume that it is slightly easier than finishing this turgid, mammoth work of literature. I found it almost impenetrable. Like reading Hawthorne, except it doesn't end, ever. I tried reading it three different times, and failed. In a meta turn of events, the novel became like my white whale, elusive and cagey, an arch opponent. I would get through the first few chapters all right. The dinner at the Spouter-Inn. The homo-erotically charged night two men share in bed. Melville’s exquisitely detailed description of his breakfast companions: You could plainly tell how long each one had been ashore. This young fellow’s healthy cheek is like a sun-toasted pear in hue, and would seem to smell almost as musky; he cannot have been three days landed from his Indian voyage. That man next to him looks a few shades lighter; you might say a touch of satin wood is in him. In the complexion of a third still lingers a tropic yawn, but slightly bleached withal; he doubtless has tarried whole weeks ashore. But who could show a cheek like Queequeg? which, barred with various tints, seemed like the Andes’ western slope, to show forth in one array, contrasting climates, zone by zone. Somewhere in the neighborhood of the fortieth page, when Father Mapple starts to give his sermon, I’d start to get a little restless. A few pages into his fire-and-brimstone screed, my mind would wander. By the end of the chapter, I’d realize that instead of paying attention to the text, I’d actually started to amuse myself by trying to calculate my income taxes in my head. And then I’d quit. During one of my periodic bouts of self-improvement (which I regularly intersperse with bouts of day-drinking), I decided to finish this damn thing once and for all. To do this, I hit upon a plan: I brought it to work and forced myself to read twenty pages a day at lunch. No more surfing the internet or listening to podcasts. No more chatting with coworkers. Until I finished, I would dedicate the hour to 20 pages of Melville. As a result I: (1) finished the book; and (2) grew to hate lunch (which is really quite a sad turn of events). What did I learn? Not too much. Moby Dick is about a milquetoast named Ishmael who sets out on a whaling ship called the Pequod. Like many literary heroes, he is a bit of an outcast. Also, following in the tradition of Charles Dickens’ tedious first-person narrators, he is a bit of a cipher. Ishmael doesn't do much, except offer endless exegeses on every aspect of whaling, as well as stultifying digressions on topics too numerous to count (don’t miss the chapter about how the color white can be evil!). Ishmael's pedagogic ramblings will soon have you pleading for the whale – or a squid or an eel or a berserk seagull – to eat him, and eat him quickly (but painfully) so the book will end. The Pequod is commanded by Captain Ahab, the one-legged nut who is obsessed with finding the whale that ate his now-absent limb. He's sort of the 19th century version of the psycho ex-boyfriend who just can't seem to let go the past. Ahab is an interesting character in the abstract. Profoundly, almost suicidally driven. The obvious progenitor of Robert Shaw’s captivating performance as Quint in Spielberg’s Jaws. However, in the context of the book's thees and thous and utterly excessive verbiage and arcane sentence structure, the sheen wears off mighty quick. It’s one of those instances in which I’d much prefer someone to tell me about Ahab, rather than read about him myself. (In other words, I need an interpreter to translate from Ye Olde English to English). The challenging language permeates Moby Dick. Melville writes in a overly-verbose, grandiloquent style. His book is packed with symbols and metaphors and allusions and nautical terms. There were very few pages in which I didn't have to stop reading and flip to the back of the book, to read the explanatory notes or consult the glossary. There are digressions and soliloquies and even, at certain points, stage directions. It is also a primer on whaling, in case you wanted to learn: The Pequod’s whale being decapitated and the body stripped, the head was hoisted against the ship’s side – about half way out of the sea, so that it might yet in great part be buoyed up by its native element. And there with the strained craft steeply leaning over it, by reason of the enormous downward drag from the lower mast-head, and every yard-arm on that side projecting like a crane over the waves; there, that blood-dripping head hung to the Pequod’s waist like the giant Holofernes’s from the girdle of Judith. Maybe you are familiar with the giant Holfernes and Judith’s girdle. Maybe you want to be familiar with them. If so, by all means, proceed. Melville’s other notable character is Queequeg, the South Seas cannibal with whom Ishmael shares a bed at the Spouter-Inn (a scene that has launched a thousand dissertations). Ishmael’s best friend on the Pequod, Queequeg expresses the duality of man: outwardly a tattooed savage, he is also purveyor of what might be termed Christian ethics (he gets along with people; he turns the other cheek; and he’s willing to jump into the ocean to save a stranger’s life). The rest of the cast is too large to get into. Besides, they all run together in my mind. For example, I can’t tell you off the top of my head whether Starbuck or Stubb was the first mate. Frankly, I don't really care. They all end up in the same place. Hint: think Jonah. (Melville really harps on this Biblical allusion, as he harps on everything). None of this is to say that Moby Dick lacks any charms. There are passages of great beauty. For instance, there is a moment when Pip, the black cabin boy/court jester, falls out of one of the longboats and is left in the ocean. Upon being rescued, Pip is changed: The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up, but drowned the infinite of his soul. Not drowned entirely, though. Rather carried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes; and the miser-merman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded heaps; and among the joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile eternities, Pip saw the multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs. He saw God's foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmate's called him mad. I’m not going to lie and say I have the slightest idea of what that all means, but it sure is pretty. I suppose that was part of the allure that Moby Dick held for me. Even though I often wanted to quit, every once in awhile, a passage would jump out at me and smack me across the face with its classicalness. Unfortunately, you have to wade through so much, the mind becomes numb. Moby Dick is quite simply a slog. It is tedious. Detail-laden. Attention-demanding. Then, after 56 billion pages, the climax comes in an instant, and in a matter of a few pages, everything you learned about the ship, the knots that held the sails, the crewmembers, Ahab – everything – is for naught, because it's all gone, and the sea rolls on, as it has for a thousand years. In a way, it's kind of cool to do it that way; I mean, that's life. You don't always get a great death scene. But on the other hand, what a gyp! I realize my tone is preemptively defensive. After all, I consider myself a high functioning individual. Like you (I assume), I don’t like being told: “You just don’t get it.” Oh no, I get it. At least, I tried very hard to get it. I just didn't like it. And I’ll admit, I didn't like having to try so hard. This complaint is not simply a function of having my brain rotted by soda pop, candy, and first-person-shooter video games. Rather, there is an important argument to be made for clarity. Some say Melville’s stylized prose is elegant; I think it’s tortured. Some find his allusions illuminating; I find them hopelessly outdated. Some discover a higher pleasure in unpacking each complex theme; I just wanted to push Ishmael over the gunwale or hang him from the yardarm. Melville can gussy things up as much as he wants. He can toss off references to 19th century prizefighters, Schiller’s poetry, and the Bible; he can discourse on civilization and savagery, on man and God; he can teach you every knot needed to sail a whaler; and he can draw out enough metaphors to keep SparksNotes in business for the next hundred years. Melville can do all these things, but he can’t hide the fact that this is a story about some guys going fishing. That’s it. That simple story is the vessel for Melville’s explorations. Upon this he heaps his complications. Whether Melville’s technique is effective or not, or whether Melville has convinced you that it’s effective, is an open question. Well, not to me. I think I’ve answered the question. In short, I would rather be harpooned, fall off my ship, get eaten by a great white shark, and then have the great white shark swallowed by a whale, then read this book ever again. I can’t get any clearer than that.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    I re-read Moby-Dick following my research trips to the whaling museums of New Bedford and Nantucket whaling museums. The particular edition I read from University of California Press is HIGHLY recommended as the typeface is extremely agreeable to the eyes and the illustrations are subtle and instructive without ever interfering or drawing attention away from the story. Perhaps that’s where the latent interest grew deep in my soul as regards the whaling museums and since life offered me recently I re-read Moby-Dick following my research trips to the whaling museums of New Bedford and Nantucket whaling museums. The particular edition I read from University of California Press is HIGHLY recommended as the typeface is extremely agreeable to the eyes and the illustrations are subtle and instructive without ever interfering or drawing attention away from the story. Perhaps that’s where the latent interest grew deep in my soul as regards the whaling museums and since life offered me recently the opportunity to see and enjoy both, I grabbed at the chance and am so glad to have done so. This reading of Melville is so much more interesting having now a lot more background on the various factors (social, economic, and physical) that informed the writing and structure of the story. Many modern readers have been turned off of the unabridged Moby-Dick due to the many chapters of background information that Ishmael feels compelled to pass us about whales and whaling. I can understand that some folks want to get on with the story and don’t want to have all this detail. Personally, the whole book seems so much more real to me now. When I try to imagine the life of the 21-28 people on a 3-5 year whaling mission with a back-breaking job punctuated with long periods of boredom and intense periods of turmoil (whether from ocean storms or from the hunt and ensuing processing of blubber), I can appreciate how the story moves at its own pace and during those long hours at sea while the sailors are working on their scrimshaw or scanning the horizon for spouts, that Ishmael is in his cabin writing all this detail down about this job that he is so incredibly proud of. If you remove this description, it removes much of the texture of the book and reduces it to an adventure story rather than a more universal chez d’oeuvre. Several moments merit mention: Father Mapples’ sermon on Jonah (Chapter 9) which sets the tone for most of the book, the speech of Ahab in recruiting his crew into his diabolical mission against Moby-Dick (Chapter 36) and the heart-breaking acquiescence of Starbuck, and my favorite part so far, The Grand Armada (Chapter 89). The description of the whale nursery with the mothers and children looking up through the water at their hunters was spectacular writing and makes one dream of being out there in one of those flimsy boats to see it. The writing is by turns ironic, serious, violent, and tender. On one hand is the famous Shark Massacre (Chapter 66) where Melville weaves in an image of the sharks actually eating themselves in their frenzy – amazing realism and exceedingly violent. On the other hand, the cleverness of Stubb as he manages to steal the sick whale with the ambergris away from the hapless French captain of the Rose-Bud (Chapter 91) was hilarious and I laughed out loud. Even the seemingly dry description chapters often have some high degree of tongue-in-cheek such as the suggestion that the Kings and Queens were all coronated in whale-oil (Chapter 25). All of these add a certain unique texture to Moby-Dick and seem to me indispensable to the overall majesty of the book. It was a breathless ending as one would expect, but there was also a feeling of anti-climax. I think that despite the excitement of the chase and the apocalyptic ending, I enjoyed the build up of the suspense all during the book to the end. There was a bit of sentimentality towards the end that was not really present during the rest of the text...almost as if Melville was impatient to get to the end, to get the end of Ahab out of his system or something. And the whirlpool that swallows everything but Ishmael is a bit supernatural which shocks after having such vivid realism for the previous 550 pages. It was also strange that after occupying such a central (and tender) role for Ishmael through the first 100-200 pages of the book, Queequeg just disappears from the action. And how is it that, as a green hand, Ishmael suddenly replaces Fedallah in Ahab's boat? That seems like a bit of a stretch to me. But then, I am nit-picking on one of the greatest literary masterpieces of all-time and that probably sounds ridiculous and pretentious perhaps. What I loved about this book: the atmosphere, the excruciating detail, the variety of dialogs...you feel like you are also on the deck of the Pequod when Starbuck and Ahab converse...ok that reminds me of another thing I found annoying. Albeit, the last soliloquy of Ahab is one of the best in Moby Dick, it seems almost out of character for him: the whole book he is this dark, moody almost one-dimensional character and suddenly we seem him shedding a tear and opening his heart to the one that nearly shot him, the First Mate Starbuck. Perhaps I am too influenced by television but it seems a bit incongruent this time around. One aspect that just stuck out for me this time around was the latent homosexuality of the narrator, Ishmael. Besides the obvious coziness between him and Queequeg, the description of his hands deep in spermaceti squeezing pieces of oil but also friends of other sailors performing the same task seemed highly sexualized to me. I really hadn't thought about this aspect of Melville at all and upon doing a bit of research learned that he and Nathaniel Hawthorne of Scarlet Letter fame and to whom Moby-Dick is dedicated may have been lovers. Here is a letter from Melville to Hawthorne. It doesn't actually change my perception or understanding of the book, it is just a curious aspect that added a certain depth or texture to some of the passages such as the one I cited. There is definitely something universal about this story where Ahab clearly feels above morality and is brutally crushed by his pride. The sad thing is that the entire crew pays the ultimate price for their adherence to his obsession. The last two encounters that are described with other boats are masterful: the contrast with the wild abandon of the Bachelor and the rejection of the forlorn Rachel were both perfect set up for the final acts of this tragedy. I'll put this aside for now and come back to it in a few years. If this inspired you to reread this masterpiece, please let me know in the comments...and if I have any further thoughts, I'll be sure to share them here my mateys! This is still one of my favorite books but I also read Bartleby the Scrivener, The Confidence Man, and Billy Budd from Melville which were so great! Need to re-read this one yet again. And please don't bother with the unabridged version - go for the whole whale!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    So, Herman Melville's Moby Dick is supposed by many to be the greatest Engligh-language novel ever written, especially among those written in the Romantic tradition. Meh. It's not that I don't get that there's a TON of complexity, subtlety, and depth to this book about a mad captain's quest for revenge against a great white whale. And on the surface it's even a pretty darn good adventure story. And, honestly, Melville's prose is flowing, elegant, and as beautiful as any writing can possibly be. I So, Herman Melville's Moby Dick is supposed by many to be the greatest Engligh-language novel ever written, especially among those written in the Romantic tradition. Meh. It's not that I don't get that there's a TON of complexity, subtlety, and depth to this book about a mad captain's quest for revenge against a great white whale. And on the surface it's even a pretty darn good adventure story. And, honestly, Melville's prose is flowing, elegant, and as beautiful as any writing can possibly be. It's magnificent, actually. It's just that any enjoyment or satisfaction I got out of the book was overshadowed by the tedious, largely pointless stretches of encylopedic descriptions about the whaling industry. Melville strikes me as one of those people who would corner you at a party and talk incessantly about whaling, whaling ships, whales, whale diet, whale etymology, whale zoology, whale blubber, whale delacies, whale migration, whale oil, whale biology, whale ecology, whale meat, whale skinning, and every other possible topic about whales so that you'd finally have to pretend to have to go to the bathroom just to get away from the crazy old man. Only he'd FOLLOW YOU INTO THE BATHROOM and keep talking to you about whales while peering over the side of the stall and trying to make eye contact with you the whole time. Look, it's not that I don't get it. Or at least some of it. I get, for example, that Ishmael's description of the absurdities of whale classification systems provide a backdrop against which to project the recurring theme of mankind's doomed quest for complete understanding of truths that are ineffable and forever hidden (sometimes literally) under the surface. I get that. I just wish the guy didn't feel like he had to take it to such absurd lengths. I do not need twenty pages about how to properly coil a harpoon line! I can see why most people don't make it through this book without judicious skimming. Still, I feel like I accomplished something and that I can now nod sagely the next time someone makes an oblique reference to Captain Ahab, mentions the Pequod, or refers to something as "that person's Great White _______." And chances are they skimmed more than I did, anyway.

  5. 4 out of 5

    karen

    i tried. Both ends of the line are exposed; the lower end terminating in an eye-splice or loop coming up from the bottom against the side of the tub, and hanging over its edge completely disengaged from everything. This arrangement of the lower end is necessary on two accounts. First: In order to facilitate the fastening to it of an additional line from a neighboring boat, in case the stricken whale should sound so deep as to threaten to carry off the entire line originally attached to the harpoo i tried. Both ends of the line are exposed; the lower end terminating in an eye-splice or loop coming up from the bottom against the side of the tub, and hanging over its edge completely disengaged from everything. This arrangement of the lower end is necessary on two accounts. First: In order to facilitate the fastening to it of an additional line from a neighboring boat, in case the stricken whale should sound so deep as to threaten to carry off the entire line originally attached to the harpoon. In these instances, the whale of course is shifted like a mug of ale, as it were, from the one boat to the other; though the first boat always hovers at hand to assist its consort. Second: This arrangement is indispensible for common safety's sake; for were the lower end of the line in any way attached to the boat, and were the whale then to run the line out to the end almost in a single, smoking minute as he sometimes does, he would not stop there, for the doomed boat would infallibly be dragged down after him into the profundity of the sea; and in that case no town-crier would ever find her again. Before lowering the boat for the chase, the upper end of the line is taken aft from the tub, and passing round the loggerhead there, is again carried forward the entire length of the boat, resting crosswise upon the loom or handle of every man's oar, so that it jogs against his wrist in rowing; and also passing between the men, as they alternately sit at the opposing gunwales, to the leaded chocks or grooves in the extreme pointed prow of the boat, where a wooden pin or skewer the size of a common quill, prevents it from slipping out. From the chocks it hangs in a slight festoon over the bows, and is then passed inside the boat again; and some ten or twenty fathoms (called box-line) being coiled upon the box in the bows, it continues its way to the gunwale still a little further aft, and is then attached to the short-warp - the rope which is immediately connected with the harpoon; but previous to that connexion, the short-warp goes through sundry mystifications too tedious to detail. i tried. but any book with that passage, and thousands of passages just like it, can never get five stars from me. and probably not even four. not because i think it is shitty writing, but because when i was growing up, i was told that girls just wanna have fun, and that was not giving me any fun at all. everyone said, "nooo, karen, you were eighteen when you read this the first time, and you just didn't give it your all - you are bound to love it now, with your years of accumulated knowledge and experience." and that sounded valid to me, and it's like when i turned thirty, and i decided to try all the foods i had thought were "from the devil" and see if i liked them now that i was old. i thought that revisiting this book might have the same results and discoveries. but this book remains like olives to me, and not like rice pudding, which, have you tried it? is quite good. but no. turns out that when i was eighteen, i was already fully-formed. and it's not that i don't understand it - i get the biblical allusions, i understand the bitter humor of fast fish loose fish, i am aware of the foreshadowing and symbolism - i went to school, i learned my theory and my close-reading, but there are passages, like the one above, that i could not see the glory in. all i could see was the dull. and the bitch of it is that it started out fine - good, even. i was really getting into the description of the docks and the nantuckters, and it was giving me good new-england-y feelings. and then came that first chapter about whale-anatomy, and i was laughing, remembering encountering it during my first reading and being really angry that this chapter was jaggedly cutting in on the action. and, honestly, it was really good at the end, too. but the whole middle of this book is pretty much a wash. a sea of boredom with occasionally interesting icebergs. at the beginning, he claims that no one has ever written the definitive book about whales and whaling, so - kudos on that, because this is pretty damn definitive. it's just no fun. maybe i would like it better if it had been about sharks?? i like sharks. i know you wouldn't know it to look at me, but i don't have a problem with challenging books. i prefer a well-told story, sure, and i am mostly just a pleasure-reader, not one that needs to be all snooty-pants about everything i read, but i've done the proust thing, and while he can be wordy at times (hahaahah) his words will, eventually, move me, i understand them, and i appreciate being submerged into his character's thought-soup. viginia woolf - dense writing, but it is gorgeous writing that shines a light into the corners of human experience and is astonishing, breathtaking. thomas hardy has pages and pages of descriptive nature-writing, but manages to make it matter. i just wasn't feeling that here. the chapter on the way we perceive white animals, the whale through various artistic representations, rigging, four different chapters on whale anatomy; it's just too much description, not enough story; it seemed all digressive interlude. and you would think that a book so full of semen and dick and men holding hands while squeezing sperm and grinning at each other would have been enough, but i remain unconverted, and sad of it. maybe if i had read this one, it would have been different: oh, no, i have opened the GIS-door: i am only including this one because i totally have that shark stuffie: maybe i am just a frivolous person, unable to appreciate the descriptive bludgeoning of one man's quest to detail every inch of the giant whale. or maybe all y'all are wrong and deluded. heh. dick. come to my blog!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bookdragon Sean

    I hate this book so much. It is impossible to ignore the literary merit of this work though; it is, after all, a piece of innovative literature. Melville broke narrative expectations when he shed the narrator Ishmael and burst through with his infinite knowledge of all things whale. It was most creative, but then he pounded the reader with his knowledge of the whaling industry that could, quite literally, fill several textbooks. This made the book so incredibly dull. I’m not being naïve towards I hate this book so much. It is impossible to ignore the literary merit of this work though; it is, after all, a piece of innovative literature. Melville broke narrative expectations when he shed the narrator Ishmael and burst through with his infinite knowledge of all things whale. It was most creative, but then he pounded the reader with his knowledge of the whaling industry that could, quite literally, fill several textbooks. This made the book so incredibly dull. I’m not being naïve towards this book’s place in the literary cannon, but I am sharing my agony for a book that bored me half to death with its singularity of purpose and expression: it’s obsession with whales. I’m just sick of them I understand that this is the main motif of the book. Ahab becomes fuelled with his need to slay the leviathan, but it wasn’t Ahab who droned on for three hundred pages about the properties of whales. Despite the allegorical interpretation between the relationship, and the comparisons between man and fish, the book is unnecessarily packed out. There are passages and passages that add nothing to the meaning or merit of the work. Melville explains every aspect of the whaling industry in dry, monotone, manner. There are entire chapters devoted to describing different whale types, and even one even discussing the superiority of the sperm whale’s head: "Can you catch the expression of the Sperm Whale's there? It is the same he died with, only some of the longer wrinkles in the forehead seem now faded away. I think his broad brow to be full of a prairie-like placidity, born of a speculative indifference as to death. But mark the other head's expression. See that amazing lower lip, pressed by accident against the vessel's side, as as firmly to embrace the jaw. Does not this whole head seem to speak of an enormous practical resolution in facing death? This Right Whale I take to have been a Stoic; the Sperm Whale, a Platonian, who might have taken up Spinoza in his latter years. It is just so agonising to read. This is quite possibly the most painful book I’ve ever read in my life. I’ve never hated a book more than I hate this behemoth. I just felt there was no purpose to so many of the chapters; they didn’t add to the narrative or increase Ahab’s obsession. Also, at times it wasn’t entirely clear who the narrator was. There would be the occasional glimpse of Ishmael, and his aspect of the story, and then this all knowing entity with an unfathomable depth of whaling knowledge would begin up again. Tedium defined The writing gives new breath to the definition of mundane, monotonous and tedious. It is repetitive, expressionless and soul destroying. I became more and more annoyed the further I got into this book, as soon as some semblance of plot would come through, and some small degree of progress, I would be hit with another fifty pages or so describing the properties of whale bubbler, and even on one occasion a chapter devoted to rope. How fun. I began to hate this book with a passion that made me almost scream every time the word “whale” came up. Now, this was some tough reading. Moreover, I could never understand how Melville could consider whaling such a noble profession. There is nothing noble about it, it may have once been a necessity, but it has always been cruel and brutal. It may have been a means for communities to survive and people to eat, but there is no honour in it. How can shoving a pole through a whale, cutting its head off, slicing away its blubber and desecrating its body be considered in any way praiseworthy? It’s an aspect of life that is comparable to man today slaughtering a cow. There is simply no glamour to be had in the deed. You’d think Melville was describing the life of a group of chivalrous knights; they were whalers not heroes. This book is awful in every sense of the word. It has achieved literary fame, but I still personally hate it. I found everything about it completely, and utterly, detestable. Never again will I go within five feet of anything written by Herman Melville. I think a part of me died whilst reading this book; it was just that disagreeable to me.

  7. 5 out of 5

    David

    There once was a grouchy alpha whale named Moby Dick who -- rather than being agreeably shorn of his blubber and having lumpy sperm scooped out of his cranium like cottage cheese -- chose life. Unlike so many shiftless, layabout sea mammals of his generation, Moby Dick did not go gentle into that good night. This whale, in short, was not a back-of-the-bus rider. He assailed a shallow, consumerist society, which objectified him only as lamp oil or corset ribbing, with the persuasive argument of h There once was a grouchy alpha whale named Moby Dick who -- rather than being agreeably shorn of his blubber and having lumpy sperm scooped out of his cranium like cottage cheese -- chose life. Unlike so many shiftless, layabout sea mammals of his generation, Moby Dick did not go gentle into that good night. This whale, in short, was not a back-of-the-bus rider. He assailed a shallow, consumerist society, which objectified him only as lamp oil or corset ribbing, with the persuasive argument of his thrashing tail, gaping maw, and herculean bulk. In his seminal (in more ways than one) animal rights saga, Herman Melville conjures an aquatic, rascally Norma Rae out of an elephantine albino whale. Reasonably enough, Moby Dick (hereafter M.D., despite possible confusions with the profession) is irritable when people are chasing him, stabbing him with harpoons, and trying to kill him. Thus, in an act which would be protected by law as self defense in most enlightened nations, M.D. bites off part of the leg of one of his many hunters, the humorless Captain Ahab. Gall alert! Gall alert! Ahab has the nerve to hold a fucking grudge against the whale for this entirely ethical dismemberment. (He also holds a grudge for some incidental damage incurred to Lil' Ahab as a very weak corollary of his lost limb, but I'm not even getting into that. Judge Wapner would've never stomached that half-baked reasoning, so neither will I.) Now mind you, M.D. doesn't, like, come ashore in Nantucket, rent a lowrider horse-drawn carriage, and try to put a cap in the ass of that one-legged old bitch-ass captain who wanted to decapitate him. So, I mean, who's really the petty one in this equation? The novel Moby-Dick eschews a first-person whale narrator in favor of Ishmael, a bit of a rube who shows up in New Bedford with big dreams of a whaling career. (Whaling was the Hollywood of that era.) He meets this reformed cannibal harpooner named Queequeg who hails from the South Seas, has lots of tattoos, and moonlights as a decapitated-human-head salesman. So basically he's rough trade. Ishmael and Queequeg become fast-friends and do all kinds of jovial homoerotic things together, like cuddle in bed and curiously espy each other undressing -- despite their pronounced cultural differences. I think Ishmael acts as a keen ethnographer when he highlights the variances: Queequeg, the savage, idol-worshipping, hell-condemned, unenlightened, "oogah-boogah" heathen, and Ishmael, the... white guy. Yet their love endures. It's as if all the sexual currents in Neil Simon's Odd Couple were suddenly foregrounded. Ishmael and Queequeg find employment on the whaler Pequod, helmed by none other than the killjoy Captain Ahab himself -- he of prosthetic whalebone leg, abbreviated schlong, and legendary grudge-holding. So the Pequod embarks upon a three or four year whaling adventure around the globe, ostensibly in search of valuable whale oil, but in fact -- as we later learn -- to bring about Ahab's vengeance against the Marxist whale M.D., who refuses to be expropriated by the Man. Interestingly enough, as the journey goes on, Ishmael's character seems to evaporate. In other words, he gradually shifts from a compartmentalized first-person narrator to an omniscient third-person narrator. He seems almost to have rescinded his identity (or he only rarely invokes it) in the latter part of the novel, as if -- while we have been distracted by gloppy whale sperm and passing ships -- he morphed into the Star Child. This transformation is, of course, intentional and creates a sense of broadening perspective throughout the novel -- of transcending the menial and specific to embrace a grand, universal tragedy. Here's the bottom line. Moby-Dick is an American classic that sounds as though it would be absolutely torturous to read. A six-hundred-page nineteenth-century novel about the pursuit of a whale? You've got to be kidding. Did I mention that there are chapters after chapters that merely detail the processes and (often gory) procedures of whaling? I know. Try to control yourself before you run out to the bookstore or library, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. This novel is magnificent. It proves what I have held true ever since I started writing myself -- that any subject at all, from whittling to colonoscopies to Riverdance to bagpipe playing, can be enthralling in the hands of a competent writer -- a writer like Melville, who simultaneously locates the universal in this seemingly very particular narrative and makes even the occasionally perplexing rituals of whaling seem fascinating. Also, it's a captivating historical document chronicling M.D.'s groundbreaking role in the nascent Whale Power movement. Eat tailfin, honkies!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Fernando

    “¿Y si Ahab abandona de súbito la búsqueda? Es probable que la pierna inexistente le duela para toda la vida." "Moby Dick" fue, es y será mi libro preferido de toda la vida. Esta es en realidad la tercera vez que lo leo dado que la magia que se desprende de sus páginas me hechiza sin soltarme. Más allá de que en la cima de mis escritores preferidos se yergue solitariamente y sin competencia mi admiradísimo Franz Kafka y que le sigue muy de cerca Fiódor Dostoievski, quien me enseño muchas maneras “¿Y si Ahab abandona de súbito la búsqueda? Es probable que la pierna inexistente le duela para toda la vida." "Moby Dick" fue, es y será mi libro preferido de toda la vida. Esta es en realidad la tercera vez que lo leo dado que la magia que se desprende de sus páginas me hechiza sin soltarme. Más allá de que en la cima de mis escritores preferidos se yergue solitariamente y sin competencia mi admiradísimo Franz Kafka y que le sigue muy de cerca Fiódor Dostoievski, quien me enseño muchas maneras de ver la inmensidad de la vida, es Herman Melville también uno de mis autores predilectos y siempre recurro a sus libros para leerlos constantemente. Es mi manera de sostener mis horizontes literarios en un estándar alto. Este gran autor fue parte fundamental del incipiente despegue literario de los Estados Unidos a principios del siglo XIX junto con Nathaniel Hawthorne o Edgar Allan Poe, por nombrar algunos, y aunque ya tenía varios libros publicados en su haber como "Taipí", "Omú", "Mardi" o "Redburn", todos ellos muestra fiel de su pasado como tripulante de barcos balleneros (en los que hasta llegó a convivir entre caníbales), es a partir de este libro en el que adquiere el desarrollo total de sus facultades narrativas para plasmarlas en un libro épico, único e inolvidable. Cuando terminó de escribirlo, dentro de una de las tantas cartas que le escribía a su fiel amigo Hawthorne (a quien le dedica "Moby Dick"), le expresa: "He escrito un libro perverso, pero yo me siento tan inocente como un corderito". Evidentemente, Melville sabía que había tocado la cuerda justa de su genialidad y que sólo era cuestión de tiempo para que su libro fuera recordado por siempre. También sostuvo una idea durante el proceso de escritura de "Moby Dick" en la que afirmaba que "Para escribir un libro de proporciones importantes hay que elegir un tema de proporciones importantes" y no se equivocó. Lo que comenzó como el esbozo de una novela corta fue transformándose en un volumen poderoso y extenso. Se le fue de las manos hasta transformarse en una mole equivalente a la Ballena Blanca que surca los mares en los que el Pequod de Ahab la persigue. En cierta forma, este libro es de esos que yo denomino "universales", puesto que son tantos los temas que trata acerca de todo aquello lo que nos define como seres humanos y estas características nos son mostradas desde mil ángulos distintos. "Moby Dick" es una novela polifónica y con esto me refiero a ese estilo de novelas que inventó el gran Fiódor Dostoievski en donde cada personaje funciona como un ente independiente con su voz y sus ideas dentro de la novela, pero que a la vez, unido a los demás hacen funcionar el argumento de la novela de manera conjunta mientras el autor por momentos los deja actuar, quedándose en un costado. Como toda novela de esta naturaleza genera adhesiones y rechazo en el lector. Ya en su momento (1851) cuando fue publicada, "Moby Dick" naufragó en el olvido casi instantáneamente empujando a Melville a un auto exilio del que nunca se recuperaría. Al año siguiente publicaría "Pierre, o las ambigüedades", que hace fiel eco de su nombre por lo inclasificable y de manera post mortem se publica "Billy Budd, marinero", esta sí muy bien recibida por la crítica. Para ese entonces, Melville, que prácticamente estaba fuera de la literatura, se dedicó a escribir poesía mientras trabajaba como un siempre empleado administrativo (casi bartlebiano) en la Aduana de Nueva York. Si uno eliminara los capítulos a los que podríamos llamar "descartables", nos quedaríamos con una novela de menos de trescientas páginas en vez del ladrillo de más de setecientas treinta que uno tiene que leer. Melville se toma gran parte del libro para contarnos acerca de todo lo que rodea al mundo de los barcos balleneros y es esto lo que hace que muchos lectores lo abandonen. Los capítulos como "Cetalogía", en donde Melville hace un detalle de todas las ballenas que existían en esa época, parecen interminables como también en, "De las ballenas pintadas", "La ballena como plato", "La cabeza de cachalote: estudio comparativo", "El gran tonel de Heidelberg", "Cisternas y baldes", "La cabeza del cachalote: estudio comparativo", que son algunos que enumero, aunque estimo que deben ser más de veinte. En cierto modo es una lástima, dado que la historia narrada es maravillosa y estos apartados distraen o aburren al lector que no está al tanto de la obra melviana. Yendo precisamente al libro, lo más importante de él son sus personajes, y a mi modo de ver, junto con Moby Dick es fundamentalmente Ahab el motor de la historia. Es el personaje más logrado de Herman Melville e iguala a otros grandes de la historia literaria. Ahab, es un personaje forjado por Melville con todo el andamiaje trágico de Shakespeare y la profundización psicológica de Dostoievski. De hecho es que fuera de Dostoievski el personaje más dostoievskiano de los que me he encontrado. De todos modos, el nombre de Ahab ha sido escrito en la literatura con letras de oro. Este poderoso personaje tarda bastante en aparecer en la novela (más precisamente en el capítulo 28), para mostrarse con intermitencias en la mitad del libro y hacerse omnipresente durante los capítulos finales en donde se desata la tragedia, dado que en realidad "Moby Dick" es una novela de fuertes connotaciones trágicas pero dotadas de muchas capas en las que Melville inteligentemente trabajó para darle un concepto de obra total. Su constante inclusión de alegorías y simbolismos son incontables y lo más curioso es que los simbolismos son generados en forma inconsciente por el lector. Cuando Ahab descarga con profunda circunspección filosófica sus soliloquios existencialistas lo que hace es generar un clima de negros presagios y esperanzas funestas, puesto que íntimamente sabe que si bien Dios dispone las cosas, es el Destino el que sellará su suerte. Dos de los capítulos más elevados y filosóficos del libro son un monólogo existencialista maravilloso de Ahab en el capítulo "La sinfonía". El otro es "La blancura de la ballena", el más metafísico de todo el libro, en el que Melville nos ofrece estudio profundo sobre la simbología del color blanco. Así como Ahab es una de las piezas fundamentales del libro, Ismael, quien es el narrador casi omnisciente, es el que llevará la batuta y el ritmo de la narración. Él abre la historia con esperanza y él la concluye con melancolía y nostalgia y en el medio, desfilan otros tantos personajes maravillosos como los son su fiel amigo Queequeg, ese salvaje tatuado y experto arponero que se transformará en su hermano del alma así también como los tres oficiales principales, el primero Starbuck (de quien la gran cadena internacional de cafés fundada en Washington toma su nombre agregándose una "s"), quien es el que más enfrenta a Ahab, Stubb con su inseparable pipa y Flask, quien tiene toda la pinta de no estar en su sano juicio. Junto con Queequeg conoceremos a los otros dos famosos arponeros del Pequod, Tasthego, un indio de complexión colosal y Dagoo, un negro enorme dispuesto a enfrentarse a todo y a todos. También en un uno de los capítulos iniciales, antes de que Ismael se embarque, nos encontraremos con el Padre Mapple, quien da su sermón desde un púlpito transformado en la quilla de un barco y como no puede ser de otra manera, nos hablará del único personaje bíblico que tiene relación directa con una ballena, Jonás, del que además Melville utilizará un capítulo para que su parábola sea considerada históricamente, o sea que el autor intenta demostrar cuál fue el periplo real de Jonás a partir de su huida. Volviendo al padre Mapple y a Ahab, un dato muy interesante es ver la más famosa película basada en el libro, dirigida por John Houston en 1954 y para la que el gran autor norteamericano Ray Bradbury escribió el guión, nos encontraremos con el afamado Orson Wells haciendo el papel del sacerdote. La película cuenta con el mejor Ahab fílmico de toda la historia, me refiero a Gregory Peck con su potente voz y su traje de cuáquero. Es imposible no asociar esa voz a la del "viejo trueno" de la novela cuando uno la lee. Peck actuará nuevamente en una serie de Moby Dick de 1998 como el Padre Mapple y en donde el actor Patrick Stewart encarna el papel de Ahab. Para no irnos por las ramas, no quiero dejar de mencionar a un extraño y misterioso personaje que se llama Fedallah, un parsi fantasmal que aparece de la nada y que oficia de socio inseparable de Ahab o del negrito Pippen, "Pip", el grumete del Pequod que aporta la cuota de frescura e inocencia a tanta tragedia. En muchos capítulos del libro son constantes las referencias de Melville a personajes bíblicos y a la propia Biblia en sí. Por ejemplo en un contrapunto entre Peleg y Bildad, quienes son los propietarios del Pequod con Ismael le hacen saber a este que Ahab fue un rey bíblico muy poderoso. Pero también muy cruel, a punto tal que cuando fue asesinado, los perros no lamieron su sangre. Pareciera que este rey influye sobre el capitán Ahab quien por momentos es despótico, cruel y cínico respondiendo a su obsesión monomaníaca: la de cazar y dar muerte a Moby Dick, la temible Ballena Blanca que le arrancó una de sus piernas. Para la creación de este cachalote asesino, Herman Melville se inspira en suceso real en el que un cachalote también albino hunde al Essex en 1820, frente a las islas de Mocha en Chile (Melville fantaseó con el nombre de Mocha Dick para su libro) luego de una cruenta persecución. Moby Dick que es la representación del mal en esta novela es el partenaire perfecto para Ahab, a quien le arrancó la pierna para disparar todo el odio y rencor ilimitado de este capitán que recorrerá el mundo con el objetivo de la venganza que enceguece sus días a bordo del Pequod, cuyo objetivo era la de cazar ballenas para comercializar su esperma, o sea el aceite que se aloja en la cabeza del cachalote y que era el medio para iluminar las casas del siglo XIX, aunque también son muchos los productos que se extraían de las ballenas. De este modo el Pequod zarpará de la ballenera isla de Nantucket (en la cual hoy se emplaza un museo ballenero), siguiendo hacia las Islas Azores, las Islas Canarias, Cabo Verde, el Río de la Plata, el Cabo de Buena Esperanza, el Mar meridional de China, la zona ballenera de Japón, para encontrar su destino final en los Mares del Sur, luego de tres días de intensa caza a Moby Dick en donde la novela alcanza su punto más álgido y fatal. "Moby Dick, o la ballena", esta novela imponente, eterna, inabarcable, enorme, la que Faulkner quiso escribir y nunca pudo, que se desarrolla durante tres tercios del libro a bordo de un barco, que posee la más bella y rica narrativa que Herman Melville pudo sacar de sus entrañas es hoy una recompensa a este autor que cuando la publicó pasó inadvertidamente para ser re descubierta recién 73 años después de su publicación, quedará para siempre entre los mejores clásicos de la historia. Herman Melville, que escribió casi siempre libros sobre historias de barcos, como sus colegas Robert Louis Stevenson y Joseph Conrad tiene hoy el sitial que se merece en la historia de la literatura. Dijo una vez Jorge Luis Borges sobre Moby Dick: "En el invierno de 1851, Melville publicó Moby Dick, la novela infinita que ha determinado su gloria. Página por página, el relato se agranda hasta usurpar el tamaño del cosmos: al principio el lector puede suponer que su tema es la vida miserable de los arponeros de ballenas; luego el tema es la locura del capitán Ahab, ávido de acosar y destruir la ballena blanca; luego, que la Ballena y Ahab y la persecución que fatiga los océanos del planeta son símbolos del Universo". Supo reconocer su gran amigo Nathaniel Hawthorne: "Es una obra épica digna de Homero. Será una epopeya americana". Me quedo con esta última frase. Creo que resume notablemente lo que Herman Melville y "Moby Dick" significan para la literatura mundial. La profecía de Hawthorne se hizo realidad y es por todo ello que siempre será mi libro preferido.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nataliya

    I was that precocious brat who first read the whale-esque sized Moby-Dick at the age of nine. Why? I had my reasons, and they were twofold: (1) I was in the middle of my "I love Jacques Cousteau!" phase, and this book had a picture of a whale on the cover.(2) It was on the bookshelf juuuuust above my reach, and so obviously it was good because it was clearly meant to be not for little kids, and that made my little but bloated ego very happy. So, in retrospect, were War and Peace and Le Père Gori I was that precocious brat who first read the whale-esque sized Moby-Dick at the age of nine. Why? I had my reasons, and they were twofold: (1) I was in the middle of my "I love Jacques Cousteau!" phase, and this book had a picture of a whale on the cover.(2) It was on the bookshelf juuuuust above my reach, and so obviously it was good because it was clearly meant to be not for little kids¹, and that made my little but bloated ego very happy.¹ So, in retrospect, were War and Peace and Le Père Goriot and The Great Gatsby. In retrospect, there may have been an underlying pattern behind my childhood reading choices. From what I remember, I read this book as a sort of encyclopedia, a bunch of short articles about whaling and whale taxonomy and many ways to skin a whale and occasional interruptions from little bits of what (as I now see it) was the plot. It was confusing and yet informative - like life itself is to nine-year-olds. What do I think about it now, having aged a couple of decades? Well, now I bow my head to the brilliance of it, the unexpectedly beautiful language, the captivating and apt metaphors, the strangely progressive for its time views, the occasional wistfulness interrupted by cheek. The first third of it left me spellbound, flying through the pages, eager for more. Just look at this bit, this unbelievable prose that almost makes me weep (yes, I'm a dork who can get weepy over literature. I blame it on my literature-teacher mother. So there.) "Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship." Bits like this is what made me stay up at night, pouring over the pages. I could finally see what my nine-year-old past self did not care about (and appropriately so, in the light of literal-mindedness and straightforwardness that children possess) - Melville's constant, persistent comparison of whaling to life itself, using bits and pieces of whaling beliefs and rituals to illuminate the dark nooks and crannies of human souls, to show that deep down inside, regardless of our differences, we all run on the same desires and motives and undercurrents of spirit. "Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler form." The elusive White Whale is what we are all chasing, in one form or another, different for all of us, different in how we see it and approach it and deal with it. It's what we all pursue - the difference is how. Melville gives us one of the extremes, the views of a single-minded fanatic, of one who puts everything aside, sacrifices everything (and everyone else) for the sake of a dream, of a desire, of a goal; the person who is capable of leading others unified in his focused, narrow, overwhelmingly alluring vision. We can call Ahab a madman. We can also call him a great leader, a visionary of sorts - had he only used the charisma and the drive and the single-minded obsession to reach a goal less absurd, less suicidal less selfish. Had he with this monomaniac single-mindedness led a crusade for something we think is worthwhile, would we still call him a madman, or would we wordlessly admire his never-altering determination? Isn't the true tragedy here in Ahab focusing his will on destruction and blind revenge, leading those he's responsible for to destruction in the name of folly and pride? Is that where the madness lies? "...For there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men." Moby-Dick, the elusive and largely symbolic whale - until, that is, the last haunting three chapters where the chased idée fixe becomes terrifyingly real and refuses to humor Ahab's life goal - is a force of nature so beautiful, so majestic and breathtaking, so lovingly described by Melville over pages and pages (even though, in all honesty, he breaks up the fascination but trying, unsuccessfully, to persuade the reader that the amazing whale is just a fish). Really, the idea of a mere human considering it his right, his goal to stand up to the majestic nature force, armed with a destructive deadly weapon, and bring it to the end after a long chase in the ultimate gesture of triumph - that idea is chilling in its unremarkability. Humans taming and conquering nature, bending it to our will and desires, the world being our oyster - all that stuff. It is not new. It is what helped drive the industrial expansion of the modern society. It is what makes us feel that we are masters of our world, that our planet is ours to do whatever we, humans, please. But Moby-Dick, finally abandoning his run from Ahab and standing up to him with such brutal ease is a reminder of the folly of such thinking and the reminder that there are forces we need to reckon with, no matter how full of ourselves we may get. ------------ Why only three stars, you ask, when clearly I appreciate the greatness of the classic? Because the metaphors and parallels and meandering narration at times would get to be too much, because I quite often found my mind and attention easily wandering away in the last two-thirds of the book, needing a gargantuan effort to refocus. This what took of a star and a half, resulting in 3.5 sea-stars grudgingly but yet willingly given to this classic of American Romanticism. "Buoyed up by that coffin, for almost one whole day and night, I floated on a soft and dirgelike main. The unharming sharks, they glided by as if with padlocks on their mouths; the savage sea-hawks sailed with sheathed beaks. On the second day, a sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last. It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Esteban del Mal

    Everyone eventually comes across the White Whale in one form or another. The trick is to not keep its attention for too long. ***** Avast! Dost thee have a five spot thou can see thyself parting ways with? No? Jibberjab up the wigwam! Cuisinart the poopdeck! What's that ye say? Thou canst not make heads nor tails of what I sayeth? Here then. Let me take this pipe outta my mouth and stop menacing you with this harpoon. Better? Good. Huh? No, no! Ho-ho! I wasn't asking for money! I was asking if you've Everyone eventually comes across the White Whale in one form or another. The trick is to not keep its attention for too long. ***** Avast! Dost thee have a five spot thou can see thyself parting ways with? No? Jibberjab up the wigwam! Cuisinart the poopdeck! What's that ye say? Thou canst not make heads nor tails of what I sayeth? Here then. Let me take this pipe outta my mouth and stop menacing you with this harpoon. Better? Good. Huh? No, no! Ho-ho! I wasn't asking for money! I was asking if you've seen the White Whale! Ha-ha! No? Okay, okay…well then, do you know who famously wrote, "The world seems logical to us because we have made it logical"? Here's a hint: his bushy visage and even bushier philosophies have launched a thousand heavy metal bands. Take your time. I'll just hone the point of this harpoon… No again? No biggie, I'm happy to report that it is none other than one Friedrich Nietzsche. But we know what became of that crusty old phrenologist, don't we? He went nuts. Why? Because he grew up in a house full of women, of course. But guess what? Turns out that hanging out with a bunch of guys doesn't work out too well, either. Especially when they're so monomaniacal about Dick. Moby-Dick. You know? The White Whale? Of course that's what I meant. What else did you --- ? You what? Put away all that sophomoric homoerotic stuff, won't you? Let us turn to the thrust of the plot. The long and hard plot, whose veiny, undulating, ruminative tributaries all lead back to the all-consuming desire for globulous sperm…aceti. I know what you're thinking, "Who the hell does this guy think he is, reviewing a canonical work like Moby-Dick? What aplomb!" Aplomb? Really? Who says aplomb any more? Just for that, I'm gonna tell you what happens -- EVERYBODY DIES AT THE END! Jerk. Yeah, yeah. You're right. I should put the harpoon back down. Sorry. I just get worked up sometimes. Now. This is the fourth time I've read this weighty tome, and I ain't gonna lie -- I may not be able to bend spoons with my mind, but I'm not as scared of clowns as I used to be. For reals. You see, Melville gets me. I'm a little outta my depth arguing epistemology, but a guy who challenges the conceit that any sort of absolute truth can be apprehended already has my sympathies. Then when he opens a book of exhaustive -- and exhausting -- prose, itself like so much chanting by a humble pilgrim before his incomprehensible and terrible god, with a casual, "Call me Ishmael." Well. One thinks that he would be just as comfortable with the moniker The Dude. What's in a name, man? It's all relative. Fucking hippie, right? Right! And guess what? The hippie's the only one to make it out alive! (So I lied, everybody doesn't die.) There's a mad man at the helm of this rapacious project we call Life and you've got to be a bit of a hippie yourself if you plan on enduring it. Yet, there's nothing you can do about your participation in said project -- where would you go? Jump in the ocean? HERE BE SHARKS. And what's worse, what else would a guy like our mad man do than captain a doomsday machine? It's impossible for the mad man to do anything else. What? Ahab as gourmand? "Damn thy eyes for a Cossack but if this not be the most succulent baked halibut in ten counties!" Maybe it's a sort of inertia: certain professions attract certain types. Just look at Wall Street. Or the latest amateur video of a cop beating some innocent senseless. Or those child-molesting priest assholes. Or clowns. We're doomed! Still, if you can channel your inner hippie, you might just be okay. "Oh man! admire and model thyself after the whale! Do thou, too, live in this world without being part of it." Not bad advice. The whale's lack of humanly reason isn't just dumb animalism, but is really a sort of supra-reason. The whale, like our hippie, is a wanderer that is never going to complete a journey. Welcome incompleteness! It'll ensure that you survive those brushes with the White Whale. Surrender to the idea of "Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither believer nor infidel." To mistake that mossy crust of reason gathered on the back of Schopenhaurean WILL as the conclusion of the Self instead of mere technique available to the same is to invite what D.H. Lawrence calls the "mystic dream-horror" of Moby-Dick. Come again? You can't wait for Hollywood to suck the last bit of marrow from America's bones with something directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Bruce Willis as Ahab? Keanu Reeves as Ishmael, George Lopez as Queequeg, and Vin Diesel as Starbuck? With the whale rendered in vainglorious CGI? Me? Oh, nothing. Just setting the pipe so, hefting my harpoon, and --- THAR SHE BLOWS!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    “Call me Ishmael.” – OK, even those who have not read Melville’s words, know about this iconic beginning. Why Ishmael? Why not. “Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalis “Call me Ishmael.” – OK, even those who have not read Melville’s words, know about this iconic beginning. Why Ishmael? Why not. “Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began” – This is first and foremost a novel about the sea and men upon the sea. Melville, like Conrad, spent a fair amount of time on a boat and his prose has that sea going quality about it. He has stood mid-watches and he has stood on the deck in heavy seas and he’s not pretending to know. “Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunk Christian” – Like my good friend Apatt observed, this is also a book about friendship and loyalty. There is loyalty amongst the crew, some taken by Ahab’s charismatic leadership, but more importantly, there is a strong loyalty between Ishmael and Queequeg. "I am game for his crooked jaw, and for the jaws of Death too, Captain Ahab, if it fairly comes in the way of the business we follow; but I came here to hunt whales, not my commander's vengeance. How many barrels will thy vengeance yield thee even if thou gettest it, Captain Ahab? it will not fetch thee much in our Nantucket market." – Starbuck’s classic protest to Ahab sets a tone for the book. Is this capitalism? Is this business? Nope, this is revenge, this is an atavistic, almost pagan quest for unreasonable vengeance. Here is where Melville earns his star. He spends a lot of time describing the economics and logistics about whaling, and then throws it out the porthole. This is something else. "Speak, thou vast and venerable head,” muttered Ahab, “which, though ungarnished with a beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head, and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou hast dived the deepest. That head upon which the upper sun now gleams, has moved amid this world’s foundations.” – Like Milton’s Satan, Melville’s Ahab is the most interesting character. Moby-Dick without Ahab is just a book about whaling and a hundred and fifty years later we would not be talking about it. Ahab is Conrad’s Kurtz, and Ishmael is his Marlowe, he is the Hollow Man, the one who has disregarded both his modernity and his soul. A modern classic, the great American novel, all that and Gregory Peck. And of course it inspired John Bonham's memorable drum solo

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nayra.Hassan

    قد تعتبره دكتاتورا غبيا استعبدته فكرة واحدة للنهاية او تعتبره مجرد "غلبان"آخر فاقد الإيمان و الرضا انه كابتن ايهاب العنيد البائس ...مرهوب الجانب ذو الساق الواحدة ..الذي وهب حياته لقتل الحوت الأبيض العظيم الذي افقده ساقه هى قصه أخرى عن المصير الذي تدخره لنا الأقدار🔚 ..و عن الرضا بالمكتوب تحثنا موبي ديك على توسعة افقنا و النظر للامور بعين "الاخر" ..إنها قصة أخرى عن الفهم الذي يأتي بعد فوات الأوان. . عن العمر الذي يضيع في سبيل رغبات و هواجس هامشية⏳ ..تلتهم أيامنا و تلقي بنا سجناء في جب الحقد و البؤس و قد تعتبره دكتاتورا غبيا استعبدته فكرة واحدة للنهاية او تعتبره مجرد "غلبان"آخر فاقد الإيمان و الرضا انه كابتن ايهاب العنيد البائس ...مرهوب الجانب ذو الساق الواحدة ..الذي وهب حياته لقتل الحوت الأبيض العظيم الذي افقده ساقه هى قصه أخرى عن المصير الذي تدخره لنا الأقدار🔚 ..و عن الرضا بالمكتوب تحثنا موبي ديك على توسعة افقنا و النظر للامور بعين "الاخر" ..إنها قصة أخرى عن الفهم الذي يأتي بعد فوات الأوان. . عن العمر الذي يضيع في سبيل رغبات و هواجس هامشية⏳ ..تلتهم أيامنا و تلقي بنا سجناء في جب الحقد و البؤس و الضياع قرأتها مختصرة و كانت أول رواية إنجليزية جادة اقراها ..تركت لدى انطباع رجالي خشن بلسلوب ميلفل الفلسفي الكثيف .. و لكني صنفتها ضمن رف الانتقام المفضل لدي ..ثم قراتها بالعربية مختصرة ايضا...لافهم هدفها اخيرا. .هناك نسخ نادرة تزيد على الف صفحة للقراء الصبورين المخضرمين فقط بالطبع بالنسبة لي سيظل موبي ديك يرمز للطبيعة التي مهما انتصرنا عليها ستنتصر علينا في النهاية

  13. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    So... I just finished it a couple of days ago and pretty much everything else pales in comparison. About three hundred pages in, it was already in my top ten favorite novels of all time, and it didn't disappoint (much)as I continued reading. I actually deliberately drew out getting to the ending so I could savor the last few hundred pages or so. Damn. What a doozy. What can really be said about this book which hasn't been said before? A couple of major points that bear mentioning... * It's dense. So... I just finished it a couple of days ago and pretty much everything else pales in comparison. About three hundred pages in, it was already in my top ten favorite novels of all time, and it didn't disappoint (much)as I continued reading. I actually deliberately drew out getting to the ending so I could savor the last few hundred pages or so. Damn. What a doozy. What can really be said about this book which hasn't been said before? A couple of major points that bear mentioning... * It's dense. The language is deeply referential, complex, allusive and encyclopedic, poetic in almost an archaic way. You have to slow down a bit and reread the sentences in order to get their maximum impact. You can read it, it just means that if you really want to get the full experience, you should kick the can more slowly down the road. I'd heard about the whaling chapters getting tedious and academic, and to a good degree they are, but honestly I didn't find that form of density that bad a reading experience. Melville's pretty good at keeping that part of the writing suitably compelling and informative, even if you're not terribly interested in the digressions into the specific subject matter. * It's funny. there's a sort of slapstick humor in places, some rough and curt observations and one-liners. Ishmael, to the extent that he is in fact the narrator (more of a cypher, really, as things wear on) is a picaresque for sure. I found him charming, somewhat goofy, adventuresome, good natured, and rather high-spirited, which was a bit of a surprise. I liked him quite a bit. I also noticed part of the way through that he doesn't actually 'say' his name is Ishmael, he merely suggests (or demands) that you call him by that name. Interesting, no? And there's some back story on him but really not very much. You draw some inferences by his speech and his circumstances and his range of references, but like I said he's more or less ephemeral. * It's gay. Not in that annoying, overly-politicized kind of reading, but there is a strong, rather overt current of homosexual...uh...tension? preoccupation? Interest? I'd heard some sarcastic remarks before about the kind of interaction between Ishmael and Queequeg in the beginning, when they meet by accident in a room at an inn, but I was struck by how sort of undisguised it was. I have no issue or particular disapproval with it, morally or whatever, it was just surprising how unexplained and irreducible the homoerotic overtones were. There's an entire chapter, much later on, which can, in all honesty, be referred to as a kind of circle-jerk. I'm not kidding. Andrew Delbanco, in his brilliant and eloquent biography, quotes one of Melville's critics on this particular point. It's not hyperbole. O and, for what it's worth, there are no women whatsoever. Not even as cameos, at least that I noticed. It's a bit of a shame, actually, since this would have been interesting. But yeah, not a woman in sight- occasionally the family of one character or another might be mentioned, but nobody makes a flesh and blood appearance. * It's postmodern as all hell. The references to external texts are heavy, complex, and do create a sort of meta-reading experience of its own. Ishmael is a sort of neo-Platonist, it's true, and this is represented at various points. But nothing in this book is left to cool for very long, part of the tale involves his deep reckoning with that very philosophy, as applied to the perils and concrete realities of the world as experienced in an everyday way. The awareness on the part of Ishmael (and Melville himself, more on that in a moment) of his predecessors, literary and historical, is profound and constantly at play. Melville has a very interesting and difficult balancing act in terms of the narrative voice. Ishmael is the host for about a third or more and then it sort of becomes an invisible, 'Melvillean' voice leading you along. Not to mention the deepening presence of Ahab as the story starts to heat up. He definitely becomes the central voice for much of the narrative and textual fabric of the story. And then there's quite a few extremely de-centered, Joycean passages where you aren't exactly sure what is real and what is taking place in a kind of polyphonic ensemble of dislocated, more or less decontextualized voices yammering on about god-knows-what. And then there's the profound, unsettling meditation on the very whiteness of the whale itself.... * It's American, all right. I wouldn't necessarily want to pin the Great American Novel medal on it, much as I loved it. I'm not convinced that there is, or can be such a thing. It is essentially an American novel, though, and so much of our national identity is contained herein. There's the concern for the everyman, the relentless obsession with personal freedom and individuality, the drive for economic power and mercantile processes, the sort of omniscient Darwinism that pervades the ostensibly democratic structures and mentality of the participants- I know Ahab's autocratic, that could hardly be in doubt, but he's not the only one giving orders, even if he's the top dog. There's a really deep sense of raw nature as an all-against-all on the boat itself, besides the fact that they are in direct competition with other ships for a possibly very lucrative and by no means guaranteed payday. There's some very interesting and complicated racial dynamics, and the almost unconscious tacit acceptance of charisma as the main selling point for political power. The religious overtones are heavy and loaded in all possible meanings of the term, though, as Harold Bloom is wont to say, America (or Ishmael or Ahab or the narrator Melville himself as he appears perhaps separately from the author-ness) is, very much like the Pequod, obsessed with religion, even thinks its religious, though it is not itself a religious country. And if there's any religion as a guiding light, it's decidedly of the Old Testament kind. The god of Moby-Dick ain't handing out any loaves and fishes, that's for sure. * Ahab's Ahab. He was everything I thought he'd be and more. I was actually impressed by what a complex character he turned out to be. I knew he'd be monomaniacal but there's some very interesting, tender moments he has both alone and with others which I was not expecting. * It's...gasp...Shakespearean. You know how Shakespeare's language has that same rich density, that chiming music of cognition where the metaphors stream by like scales of notes as the characters soliloquize themselves into being? Yeah. It's got that. And there's even, as the story continues, quite a few stage directions, to boot. Melville had freshly discovered Shakespeare right around the time he'd begun work on it and it shows. A friend of mine had read it recently and we agreed that Moby-Dick sort of makes it so that you almost can't really read any novels after it. In its wake, if you will. I personally am still feeling the reverberations. It's like an atom bomb for your brain. If that's the kind of thing you think you might enjoy, by all means please do give it a whirl.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    This was the first CLASSIC I ever read strictly for pleasure... And I really, really enjoyed it...for the most part (see below). While recognizing its hallowed place among the canon of world literature, I was still surprised, pleasantly so, at how captivated I became with the novel from the very beginning. Instantly, I loved the character of Ishmael and was amused by his unconventional introduction in the novel. Forced for economic reasons to share a room at in inn with a complete stranger, descr This was the first CLASSIC I ever read strictly for pleasure... And I really, really enjoyed it...for the most part (see below). While recognizing its hallowed place among the canon of world literature, I was still surprised, pleasantly so, at how captivated I became with the novel from the very beginning. Instantly, I loved the character of Ishmael and was amused by his unconventional introduction in the novel. Forced for economic reasons to share a room at in inn with a complete stranger, described by Melville in a manner that completely takes for granted the normality of the situation, was wonderful. It really sucked me into the story. From that unusual beginning, I was lost in the narrative. Of course, Ahab is our central focus. Larger than life, focused beyond the point of madness, single-mindedly bent on tracking and killing Moby Dick. Ahab is the personification of the destructive obsession. I was awed reading about the reckless, casual manner in which Ahab used his men and risked their lives in his relentless pursuit of his "white whale." it was chilling and I found the final resolution of the quest to be amazingly well done. On the downside, the descriptions of whaling and the day-to-day drudgery of the ship board activities did get a little tiresome and I found chunks of the book a bit of a difficult slog. However, I would gladly wade through some of the detritus to get to the gold, which this has aplenty. In sum, a true classic, worthy of its reputation and its mystique. Memorable characters, amazing language and an unforgettable story of madness and obsession. 4.0 stars. Highly Recommended!!!

  15. 5 out of 5

    J.G. Keely

    In 1819 in Manhattan, a strange trial was commencing. A merchant of that great city had been found in possession of barrels of spermacetti, the fine-quality oil which may be obtained from the head of the Sperm Whale. When an inspector demanded he pay the proper taxes on his goods, the merchant, who apparently made a hobby of science, declared that he had no fish product in his possession, and so the tax did not apply. He was duly arrested and, contending the charges, a trial was begun to determi In 1819 in Manhattan, a strange trial was commencing. A merchant of that great city had been found in possession of barrels of spermacetti, the fine-quality oil which may be obtained from the head of the Sperm Whale. When an inspector demanded he pay the proper taxes on his goods, the merchant, who apparently made a hobby of science, declared that he had no fish product in his possession, and so the tax did not apply. He was duly arrested and, contending the charges, a trial was begun to determine, once-and-for-all, if whales were indeed, fish. This was becoming an increasingly important question in the wake of Linneaus' great work and the recent codification by numerous biologists of the many families in which plants and animals numbered their descent, which would soon culminate in the great discovery of Darwin. Is it possible there was some familial connection between whales and dogs? Or more troublingly, between these alien monsters of the deep and humans? It was important to determine an answer, but it is singularly strange that the venue chosen to answer this question was not the halls of academia, or even the wild world of the working naturalist, but a courthouse, with judge, lawyers, and jury arguing the question. Certainly, numerous scientists were brought in to testify, and so were experienced whale-hunters, who tended to give contradicting accounts. As D. Graham Burnett puts it, in his book on the trial, Trying Leviathan , these were men with 'lay expertise'--they dealt everyday with the subject at hand, but had no grasp of the history or theory behind it. One might point to the difference between the man who drives a car every day to work, and the man who knows how a car is built. So it is somewhat strange that, thirty-two years later, Moby Dick seems to show us relatively little progress on this question. Melville first declares that whales are definitely fish (though he does not discount their mammalian structures), laments the many futile attempts to depict them accurately, and then embarks on an attempt to classify members of the species which is hardly scientific. His approach was not a modern, thoroughly-researched analysis of the subject as it stood, but a conceptual exploration, and in the end, a flawed one, a failed experiment, and not the only one in Melville's great work. There are mistaken details, dropped plotlines and characters, vast shifts in style and tone, changes in point-of-view, as if several different sorts of book were combined together. This is not a classic lauded for its narrow, precise perfection, but for its wide-reaching, seemingly-fearless leaps into waters both varied and deep. Reading Melville's letters, it is clear he knew his experiment was not an entire success, but he pressed on boldly despite his doubts, refusing to write anything less grand just because he feared it might, in some parts, fail. It is a difficult thing for an author not to give in and write something smaller and safer, something certain. It is Achilles' choice: to live a small and easy life, which will be long and passing pleasant, or to strike at the skies, to die in the flame of youth, and become a song. Like Ahab, Melville attempts something grand, dangerous, and unknown. 'Like Ahab'. It is a phrase we hear, which we understand, something pervasive. There are a number of reasons that Melville's great work, ignored and sneered at in his lifetime, is now preeminent. For all the flaws of his book, it is still full of remarkable successes. It begins with several strange, ominous notes, like a Beethoven symphony, calling us to attention, with the mystic and dark theology of "There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within". But then it strikes away--there are still some dark shadows which flit across the scene, but for the most part, we are following Ishmael, in all of his funny, bumbling, pretentious, self-deprecating little adventures. It is, at the first, fundamentally a Sea Story in the old tradition, and we should not forget that it is a grand Romance, not serious-minded realism. One thing I was not prepared for was this book's often subtle and sometimes uproarious humor. Sadly, that part seems to be missing from its great reputation. As a Romance, it is not precisely concerned with developing holistic character psychology, it is enough to have types and archetypes, though they are often twisted. The individual pieces on the board act less like individuals and more like different aspects of one mind, the central mind of the book itself, of which each character forms a small part. So if relationships are sometimes rushed, or lapse, or are unfinished, those may be flaws in pacing, but each relationship is building together, contributing to the vision Melville gives us of his little world, so they are hardly pointless elements. It is more that Melville takes shortcuts here and there to tell the central story, for as he himself points out, to tell the whole story of Moby Dick is more than any one author could do. Much has been made of the vast symbology of the book, probably too much. It is not an allegory, there is no one thing that the whale stands for, or Ahab, or the ship. They are all parts of a story, and while we may understand them by thinking about evil, or good, or fate, or faith, to try to boil them down to some simple meaning is to miss the point, and to turn a great story into nothing more than a fable. It is a mistake to go in asking 'what does this represent', it does the book a disservice. Asking this question is not necessary for us to understand the work. Melville's bleak vision captured the imagination of the emerging post-modern thinkers who had seen the world wars tear apart concepts and assumptions which been long unchangeable and taken for granted. But it is not that this is a dark, hopeless book, but rather that it is a book which lacks simple, familiar answers. It does not wallow in the notion of hopelessness, but rather seems troubled by the fact that hope so often leads us to an inescapably hopeless place. In the thirties and forties, this book became a sort of 'test' for intellectuals. It gives no easy answers, yet it displays a wide array of ideas, conclusions, conflicts, and worldviews. So when one literary critic asked another what he thought of Moby Dick, he was asking what he was able to create from this basic toolset of ideas which had no simple, right answer. Unfortunately, this open-endedness has given the book an undeserved reputation of being inaccessible and requiring some vast store of knowledge in order to 'get' it. It is fundamentally a story about characters, and the only thing required to get it is to be a human being with an interest in other human beings. In fact, at one point, Melville makes a parody of the idea of the text which is full of allusions that only experts will understand, with the tale of 'Darmonodes and the elephant', which is not actually a real reference to anything, but was made up by Melville to tease those who are obsessed with dissecting every allusion. Certainly, it does slow down around the middle, when we start getting various explanations about the history and methods of whaling, but the book is not a series of dry explanations, these are the collected stories and ideas of men. Though Melville, himself, only worked as a whaler for less than two years, he researched and compiled many different accounts to create his book. And these explorations of whaling, like the characters, all contribute to our understanding, they build meaning and help to color certain words and actions. There are some terms which Melville likes to re-use throughout, and some of these seem to be stylistic oversights, but his repeated use of the term 'monomania' (monomaniacal, monomaniac) is a reference to a specific psychological condition, which is how Melville intends it to be taken, instead of as a simple description, so I don't count this as a 'favored word' of the author's but an example of specific use of a term. Another of his experiments is to play around with the voice of the book, which starts as a first-person narrative by Ishmael, but also includes Shakespearean soliloquies and choral scenes (complete with stage directions) and a number of scenes which it seems impossible for Ishmael to have witnessed. As with most of the book, these are not obscure, nor do they make the action difficult to follow, they are just more example of Melville's playful experimentation. Indeed, there is much of Shakespeare here, from the speeches of personal intent to the broad humor, the crew's sing-song banter, the melodramatic, grandiose characters, the occasional half-hidden sex joke, and the references to Biblical and Greek myth. But being a modern author, Melville's writing is easier to comprehend, particularly because much of his styling and pacing has passed into the modern form of books, movies, and television. There are also some particularly beautiful passages where the prose begins to resemble poetry, and between the grotesque, funny characters and the thoughtful, careful writing in some scenes, I began to compare the work to The Gormenghast Novels, though while Peake maintains this style throughout, Melville often switches back and forth between styles and tones. So, with all his mad switching about, his vast restlessness, Melville reveals that his own is more of a 'polymania'--an obsession with varying things--and while this does mean that his work has many errors, many experiments which didn't quite pan out, it also means that the book as a whole is completely full of remarkable, wonderful, funny, poignant, charming, exciting, thought-provoking, philosophical, historical, and scientific notions, so that even taking the flaws into account, there is just such a wealth of value in this book, so much to take away from it. And yet, don't worry about taking everything away--that's a fool's errand--Melville did his best to write what he could, trying not to worry about whether it was all perfect, so the least we can do is to be bold enough to read it as it is, and take what we can from it, without worrying whether we've gotten all of it. Walk the beach, and do not worry about picking up every stone you see, but take a handful that please you and know that it was worth your while.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    "Aye, aye! And I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up. And this is what ye have shipped for, men! To chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out." - Captain Ahab Stripped of its multitude of digressions, Moby-Dick is at heart a fantastic adventure and literary treasure brimming with symbolism and some of the most colorful and me "Aye, aye! And I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up. And this is what ye have shipped for, men! To chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out." - Captain Ahab Stripped of its multitude of digressions, Moby-Dick is at heart a fantastic adventure and literary treasure brimming with symbolism and some of the most colorful and memorable characters ever encountered. So why only 2.5 stars generously rounded up to make a full 3? Well, simply because the departures from the main narrative were often mind-numbing and effectively brought the momentum of the plot almost to a stand-still for me. Interspersed at frequent intervals among the compelling, fictional aspects of the book are a plethora of non-fictional descriptions of the whaling industry, the various species of whales, the anatomy of the whale, descriptions of whaling lines, whale processing (gruesome but sometimes interesting), whale paintings, whale writings, and whale ships. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m as interested as the next whale enthusiast (insert a bit of sarcasm here) in the real, nitty gritty details of this magnificent beast and the fundamentals of the trade, but I felt like I was reading a textbook half the time. So, maybe I’m not a non-fiction kind of gal and true facts are not my cup of tea? Well, I don’t think this is the case. What initially prompted me to read Moby-Dick – aside from being able to say I actually accomplished this feat – was my reading of In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick. A little over a year ago, I hesitantly picked up this non-fiction book as part of a group read. I didn’t really think I would make it through that one, much less actually enjoy it. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how engrossed I became in that true account of another fated whaling expedition. I learned a lot without ever feeling like I was dozing off in the middle of a grand lecture hall. When I realized that Herman Melville was inspired by that tragic story to write his own mythical tale, I was convinced to give it a try. All grumbling aside, there is much to admire and even enjoy in Moby-Dick. For one, when in the moment, the chase is one of the most thrilling scenes in all of literature. I couldn’t get enough of this and it seemed so short-lived compared to how long I waited for it to arrive. It’s not to be missed, however! As I mentioned from the start, the characters are wonderful – so well-drawn and easily identifiable. Captain Ahab, Queequeg, Starbuck, Stubb, Flask, Ishmael, Pip, Fedallah and the rest won’t soon be forgotten. Then, of course, there’s Moby-Dick. "It was the whiteness of the whale that above all things appalled me… yet for all these accumulated associations, with whatever is sweet, and honourable, and sublime, there yet lurks an elusive something in the innermost idea of this hue, which strikes more of panic to the soul than that redness which affrights in blood." Many scenes are comic in nature, especially one in the beginning involving a couple of very unlikely bedfellows! Last but not least is perhaps the whole point of the book – Captain Ahab’s obsession with the White Whale. His single-minded determination to seek revenge on one of nature’s creations at the expense of the entire crew is extraordinary. Like a man possessed, Ahab is consumed by this destructive purpose despite the vehement forewarnings of the scrupulous first mate, Starbuck. "Vengeance on a dumb brute! That simply smote thee from blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous." I won’t say much more here, in case you succumb to your curiosity and venture to pick up this tome. I will say that the climax of the novel is stunning and I truly did enjoy the ending! I can’t really recommend this book to any particular group of readers. If you feel the urge to read this, I won’t discourage you. If you begin and throw in the towel, I won’t blame you. If you perchance reach the last page and proclaim this a masterpiece, then I’d congratulate you! My idea of the most rewarding experience would be to read Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea (My Review), combined with the abridged version of this book – I wish I had thought of that before!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    OH MY HOLY MOTHER FUCK. This novel, this FUCKING novel. Phenomenal. Astounding. Groundbreaking. One of the greatest novels ever written. Yeah there's like 200 pages of whale anatomy and the history of whales in literature and whales in art and whale classification and I LOVED EVERY SINGLE WORD OF IT. So it's five-stars. Yes, five-stars. A five-star rating here is as rare as seeing the White Whale itself! READ THIS RIGHT FUCKING NOW. NOW. NOW. NOW.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Agnieszka

    Ishmael, as now we finally got to know each other I allowed myself to scribble some words to you. At first, I wanted to thank you for your fascinating report from your voyage. I had heard, always from second hand, many accounts about that what happened to you and your companions. Some claimed that it was stupidity and unbelievable bravado to chase after that Moby Dick. Others maintained that it was manful adventure and any landlubber would never be able to understand that. Anyway, I’m glad that I Ishmael, as now we finally got to know each other I allowed myself to scribble some words to you. At first, I wanted to thank you for your fascinating report from your voyage. I had heard, always from second hand, many accounts about that what happened to you and your companions. Some claimed that it was stupidity and unbelievable bravado to chase after that Moby Dick. Others maintained that it was manful adventure and any landlubber would never be able to understand that. Anyway, I’m glad that I eventually could form my own opinion about it. Man, you really can write. I still hear roaring of the ocean in my ears, my skin is as sunburned and covered with salt. I'm walking with a stagger like on the rocking deck of Pequod and that climbing to the crow's nest ... gosh, it was real challenge to me because, you know, I’m scared of heights. Your attention to even minor detail, your masterly narration, I’m truly impressed. I admire your meticulousness, even pedantry in precise description of each and every wave, each sea creature, all colours and scents of the sea, all the good side and the bad side of sailor's life. I’ve learned quite a lot about whaling now (I’m not saying I needed that but it was very informative, though, now and then, well … a bit fatiguing ? ). Like you, I sometimes dangerously fall in too, as I say, autumnal moods or as you put it growing grim about the mouth , I’ll borrow that phrase, hope you don’t mind, so am I supposed to set off to the sea ? Probably not, woman at my age … With all my imagination I can’t visualize myself even as a deckhand not to say a harpooner ( though I can perfectly imagine myself knocking people’s hats off; fortunately, nowadays people, at least in my country, do not often wear hats ). Of course what interested me the most was your boss, captain Ahab and his motives for all that mad escapade. Did I say mad ? With due respect, but there was something wrong with him. And I’m not saying about his leg now. His bloodlust, his need for revenge, his arrogance, his I’d strike the sun if it insulted me attitude – it was quite out of this world, I think. I can understand his anger, his despair because of lost health, I can feel how his ambition had suffered, how his self-love was harmed but I'm afraid I can not fully comprehend his fixation about that whale. And though the psychological portrait of the captain you painted to me was truly prominent and convincing I still can’t get it why you all let yourself in for it. Moby Dick was Ahab's nemesis, his destiny, his obsession and curse, I see it that way but you … His officer for instance, Starbuck, that one who advised Ahab to beware of Ahab, he seemed to be so reasonable man. And brave, because prudence doesn’t exclude courage, does it ? To finish this longish letter I wanted to mention your pal, Queequeg. I had such a fun reading about your first encounter and growing friendship. That was really something to see how your attitude developed and how you rooted for this cannibal . I felt truly heartened especially now when people are so negative and disrespectful to each other. It makes me think that everyone needs savage on own side to learn from each other some kindness and respect. So long, Ishmael or as you sailors say, Happy boating . Yours, A. PS. I would love to know something about Ahab’w wife, you barely mentioned her. Don’t you know, by any chance, how I could contact her ?

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Ebaid

    موبي ديك أو الحوت الأبيض, رائعة الكاتب الأمريكي هيرمان ميلفيل "هل الحوت يفكر؟ هل لديه خطة!!" يقول السيد ميكافيللي في كتاب الأمير بأن الرجل لا ينتقم إذا ظلمه ذو بأس شديد, ويخبرنا علماء الحيوان الآن بأن القرود والذئاب والحيوانات الأخرى, عندما تدخل في قتال مع أعضاء من نفس النوع تقاتل بكل شراسة, ولكنها عندما تشرف على الهزيمة تخنع وتنحني أمام الفائز الذي يتقبل انسحاب الطرف الآخر. وبهذه الآلية يحافظ النوع الواحد على أفراده. ويبدو أن البشر ورثوا هذه الآلية أو القانون أيضاً. ولكن هناك بعض البشر يستخدمون س موبي ديك أو الحوت الأبيض, رائعة الكاتب الأمريكي هيرمان ميلفيل "هل الحوت يفكر؟ هل لديه خطة!!" يقول السيد ميكافيللي في كتاب الأمير بأن الرجل لا ينتقم إذا ظلمه ذو بأس شديد, ويخبرنا علماء الحيوان الآن بأن القرود والذئاب والحيوانات الأخرى, عندما تدخل في قتال مع أعضاء من نفس النوع تقاتل بكل شراسة, ولكنها عندما تشرف على الهزيمة تخنع وتنحني أمام الفائز الذي يتقبل انسحاب الطرف الآخر. وبهذه الآلية يحافظ النوع الواحد على أفراده. ويبدو أن البشر ورثوا هذه الآلية أو القانون أيضاً. ولكن هناك بعض البشر يستخدمون سلاحهم الأكبر المتمثل في عقلهم, ليلتفوا على هذا القانون. فينظر الإنسان إلى الآخرين على أنهم حيوانات, حتى وإن كانوا حيوانات بيضاء رائعة الجمال بعيون زرقاء هادية. وكحيوانات يعطي لنفسه الحق في استغلالهم كما يشاء, فيمكنه أنه يقتلهم متى أراد ذلك ليستولي على خيراتهم وشحومهم. وإذا عارضوا ذلك وقاوموه, يعاود قتالهم بهستريا حتى وإن تمخض القتال عن فقدان إحدى ساقيه. عند هذه المرحلة أو قبلها بقليل, تقوم الحيوانات فاقدة العقل بالانسحاب لألا تفقد حياتها أو تصاب إصابة خطيرة. ولكن صاحب العقل الكابتن "أهاب" بعقله يشقى. فقد استخدم عقله ليرسّخ في نفسه فكرة أنه لن يهزم أمام ذلك الحيوان, ويوماً ما سيستطيع الانتقام. فلقد اعتبر نفسه سابقاً -كما يخبرنا الكاتب- في مصاف الآلهة, فأطلق الوعود لرجاله وغامر بحياة كل من حوله للانتقام ممن رفضوا حريته في تسليم حياتهم الخاصة له. وكما رأيتم, فالرواية رمزية بامتياز عن مالكي الحقيقة المطلقة كالآلهة, الذين يحقدون ويفرحون بالانتقام ممن يرفض الانصياع لهم كطفل سعيد في صباح يوم عيد الكريسماس. والنهاية التي يتنبأ بها الكاتب, هي مقتل مدّعي الألوهية, وخسارة كل رجاله وأحبابه الذين ورّطهم معه لإشباع نزواته من كبرياء وغرور لا يقبل الاعتراف بالهزيمة, ولا بحق الآخرين كبشر مساويين له في حرية تقرير مصيرهم. "ولأن رجلاً يكره شخصاً, فينتقم منه ويقتل نفسه ويقتل الجميع." ** قرأت نسخة مختصرة من القصة, لأن العمر أقصر من أن أحيط بكل الروايات الكلاسيكية السابقة التي فاتتني. وأنا أريد فعلاً أن ألم بهم. يوجد ترجمة كاملة للرواية بالعربية بعنوان "موبي ديك" لمن أراد الاستمتاع بها كاملة.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ahmed

    في مرّة سألوا هيتشكوك عن الفرق بين المفاجأة والإثارة؟ فرد عليهم قائلًا: إن المفاجأة هي اتنين قاعدين في مكان وتقع عليهم قنبلة، والإثارة هي إن نفس الاتنين قاعدين في نفس المكان وتحتهم قنبلة زمنية وبتعدّ قدامك. الفكرة كلها إن المتعة بتكون موجودة حتى في الحاجات اللي انت متوقعها أو عندك خلفية عنها، يعني أكيد انت عارف إن( موبي ديك )ودا حوت، وبيطارده (آخاب أو إيهاب) واللي الفوا بينهم مصطلح مشهور(إيهاب وحوته)، لكن رغم معرفتك بكل دا إلا إنك بترتبط بالرواية ارتباط غريب على مدار كل صفحة منها. كموسوعية عمل مث في مرّة سألوا هيتشكوك عن الفرق بين المفاجأة والإثارة؟ فرد عليهم قائلًا: إن المفاجأة هي اتنين قاعدين في مكان وتقع عليهم قنبلة، والإثارة هي إن نفس الاتنين قاعدين في نفس المكان وتحتهم قنبلة زمنية وبتعدّ قدامك. الفكرة كلها إن المتعة بتكون موجودة حتى في الحاجات اللي انت متوقعها أو عندك خلفية عنها، يعني أكيد انت عارف إن( موبي ديك )ودا حوت، وبيطارده (آخاب أو إيهاب) واللي الفوا بينهم مصطلح مشهور(إيهاب وحوته)، لكن رغم معرفتك بكل دا إلا إنك بترتبط بالرواية ارتباط غريب على مدار كل صفحة منها. كموسوعية عمل مثل عوليس، واستهلالات وتداخل مواضيع كاتب مثل إيكو، وسرد لا ينافسه فيه حتى ماركيز وساراماجو، بكل ذلك قدّم لنا ملفل روايته التي تستحق كل ما قيل في حقها من مديح، بل إنها حتى تستحق ما قاله عنها برنارد شو: منذ عرف الإنسان كيف يكتب لم يوجد قط كتاب مثل هذا ،وعقل الانسان أضعف من أن ينتج كتابًا مثله. نحن أمام عمل رائد بكل ما تحمله الكلمة من معنى، شامل من حيث موضوعاته،متفرد بأسبقيته، صعب أن يُصنف التصنيفات المتداولة أو لتقل متشعب التصنيف، فهو واقعي كل الواقعية، رمزي كما يجب للرمزية أن تكون، حتى أنك قد تعتبره أدب رحلات، نحن أمام كتاب يتكلم عن صيد الحيتان، لا بل هو كتاب يتحدث عن الإنسان، بل يتحدث عن الدين والرغبة العمياء في الانتقام، إنها رواية تتحدث عن كل ذلك ، رواية خلطت وقدمت لنا عالم فريد متكامل يضمن لك الاندماج فيه بكل خلاياك. استهل ملفل روايته بحديث عن الماء وسحره ويبدو فيه عشق خالص برع في توصيفه فنجده يقول فيما يقول: لمَ يكاد كل غلام جزل سليم ذو روح جزلة سليمه يتوق -بين الحين والحين-توقان المجنون للذهاب إلى البحر؟ لم كان الفرس القدماء يعدون البحر مقدسًا؟ لم جعل الإغريق للبحر ربًا عدوه أخًا لرب الأرباب نفسه؟ حقا إن لذلك كله مغزى، وأعمق من هذا مغزى قصة الفتى (نرجس) فإنه حين عجز على أن يمسك خياله الوديع المتمثل أمامه في النبع، وعذّبه شعوره بعجزه، ألقى نفسه في الماء وآثر الغرق،ونحن أنفسنا نرى ذلك الخيال في كل نهر وكل بحر،ذلك هو خيال شبح الحياة، الخيال الروّاغ الذي لا تستطيع أن تضم عليه جميع اليد، وذلك هو السر في كل ما هنالك. ثم انطلق يصول ويجول عبر جوانب مختلفة من الحياة، تارة يسرد لنا مواقف بسيطة ذات دلالات عميقة وتارة يحدثنا عن شعوب مختلفة وطريقة معيشتهم وتارة يصوّر لنا الصداقة كما يجب أن تكون ولا سيما بين اسماعيل (الراوي) وبين كويكوج (الحوّات) والذي كان بينهما من التناقضات ما تحكم بعداوه وكره بيّن، فهذا مسيحي متدين وذاك وثني يعبد صنم، الأول منهما (متحضر) والآخر بدائي متوحش، فتآلفت القلوب بينهما وتحابت بل وفهم كل منهما الآخر كما يجب أن يكون الفهم، ومن هذا الفهم المنولوج الذي دار بين اسماعيل ونفسه لمس في صديقه رغبته في مشاركته صلاته: (كيف اتحد مع هذا الوثني البدائي وأعبد قطعة خشب؟ ماهي العبادة؟ أتظن يا اسماعيل أن إلهك العظيم رب السموات والأرض-خالق الوثنيين وغيرهم- يمكن أن يغار من قطعة تافهة من الخشب الأسود ؟ مستحيل، لكن ما العبادة ؟ الامتثال لإرادة الله، تلك هي العبادة ، وما هي إرادة الله؟ أن أعمل لإخوتي بني الإنسان ما أحب أن يعمله بنو الإنسان من أجلي، تلك هي إرادة الله، وكويكوج أخ لي في الإنسانية فما الذي أرغب أن يعمله من أجلي؟ أن يؤدي العبادة معي على حسب المذهب المشيخي ، إذا فعليّ أن أتحد معه، إذن عابد صنم.) أي معنى ومقصد عظيم يتحدث عنه الكاتب وما أعظم عرضه وتقديمه لهذا المقصد النبيل، ذلك المقصد الذي نوّه إليه وأشار أكثر من مرّه فيبدو من العمل دراية ملفل الواسعة بعديد الطقوس والمعتقدات كما أفاض على ضرورة احترام مختلف المعتقدات: (ذلك أنّي أكنّ أبلغ احترام نحو الفروض الدينية التي يمارسها أي إمرئ كان، مهما تكن مضحكة ، ولا أجد في قلبي نزوعًا إلى التهوين من شأن عُباد أي دين حتى لو كان أولئك العُباد قرية من النمل يعبد أهلها الكمأة، أو لو كانوا بعض المخلوقات التي تعيش في نواح من أرضنا وتنحى على نحو من العبودية غير معهود إلا على هذا الكوكب) المهم إن الرواية عظيمة بحق، عظيمة بغزارة معلوماتها وحيوية أحداثها ورسم شخصياتها ولاسيما القبطان(آخاب) الذي دمّر حوت أبيض سفينته وتسبب في فقدانه لرِجله ،لينذر ذلك القبطان حياته ليقتص منه والقضاء عليه، فرسمه أمل حياته المفقود ورغبته التي ملأت عليه نفسه حد الجنون، برع ملفل في رسم شخصيته حتى لتراها روحًا تائهة تسير أمامك، بدأ ظهور آخاب الحقيقي في الرواية بعد قرابة ربعها تقريبا، ليكون ربع الرواية الأول ديباجة فخمة ومقدمة فذّة تنجح باقتدار في ربطك برباط سحري لا ينحل مع الرواية. (كل الأشياء المرئية أيها الرجل ليست إلا أقنعة من الورق المقوّى ، ولكن في كل حادث ،في العمل الحي، في الفعل اليقيني-يقوم شئ مجهول إلا أنه متعقل، فيخفي طابع ملاحمه وراء ذلك القناع غير المتعقل، فإذا كان للمرء أن يضرب فليضرب من خلال القناع، كيف يمكن للسجين أن ينفذ إلى الخارج إلا إذا اخترق الجدار؟ وآخاب كان السجين والحوت كان الجدار، فظل يبحث عنه ليتحرر من قيده وهو يعلم أنه قد يُنهي حياته وهو يحاول. كانت رحلة صيد الحيتان هي الحياة بالنسبة لملفل وبرع أيّما براعة في تصويرها فهو يراها زحمة مختلطة وفي هذه الزحمة المختلطة الغريبة التي نسميها الحياة أوقات ومناسبات عجيبة يرى المرء فيها الكون كله نكتة عملية ضخمة ،وإن كان لا يستبين فيها براعة التندر إلا استبانة باهتة ولعله أن يكون على مثل هذا اليقين بأنه هو نفسه محور النادرة،ومع ذلك فإنه لا يرى فيها ما يثبط همته، ولا يجد ما فيها جديرًا بالتنازع، فهو يزدرد كل الأحداث والنحل والمعتقدات والحجج وكل الأمور العسيرة مرئية كانت أو خفية لا يهمه أن تكون من الأساس ، كأنه نعامة ذات قدرة على الهضم فهي تزدرد الرصاص أو شظايا الصوان، أما العقبات والهموم الصغيرة وما قد يحل به من مصائب مفاجئة تعرض حياته للخطر، أما هذه جميعا وأما الموت نفسه فإنه لا يرى فيها إلا دعابات ماكرة في الجنب يمنحه إياها الساخر الأعظم المحجوب عن الأبصار. تفاصيل الرواية كانت من العظمة بمكان ، تفاصيل مملة ولكنها لا تدفع أبدًا إلى الملل فالكاتب نجح باقتدار في تحويل الملل إلى قن ممتع، وكان ناجح في التركيز على جميع النواحي الحياة ولا سيما حياة الحيتان، فقد تحدث عن كل ما يخصها، عن طريقة صيدها والشعوب التي احترفت تلك المهنة، وخصائصها،تحدث عن كل جزء بالتفصيل، أحجامها وأنواعها وما يثيرها، تحدث عن لحومها وكيف تُؤكل ،تحدث عن ألوانها، بل إنه حتى خصص فصل كامل للتحدث عن اللون الأبيض وفضائله لأن موبي ديك حوت أبيض. ولا ننسى رسمه للشخصيات والجانب النفسي لها، فقد كان أعظم ما في الرواية على الاطلاق،كل شخصية مهما صغر دورها قُدمت لنا بكامل جوانبها، تعايشها وتعيش معها من فرط دقة رسمها ، ولا سيما شخصية القبطان(آخاب) ، والذي بحق واحدة من أعظم الشخصيات الروائية التي قرأتها في حياتي، شخصية ذات وجود حقيقي (صغير على صفحات الرواية) ولكنه في الوقت ذاته فلك الرواية الذي تدور حوله فأضفت على الرواية بريق لا يُنافس ، شخصية تعشقها وتكرهها ،تحترمها وتحتقرها لدرجة أنك تنتظر ظهوره في الرواية وماذا سيفعل وماذا سيقول؟ وقد عبر الكاتب عن عظمته ببعض من المنولوجات التي تنافس مونولوجات شكسبير نفسه، فمثلا كان يخاطب رأس حوت معلق على جانب السفينة : تحدث أيها الجبار وخبرنا عن السرّ فيك، أنت بين القامسين أبعدهم قمسا،ذلك الرأس الذي يتلألأ الآن فوق الشمس العلوية قد جاب قرارة الكون حيث أسماء غفل وأساطير مجهولة يعلوها الصدأ،حيث آمال حبيسة ومراسي كثيرة يدركها البلى، حيث هذه الأرض قد تطرمت في وقفتها المهلكة بعظام الملايين الذين غرقوا،هنالك في دبيا الماء الرهيبة هنالك كان موطنك خير موطن تألفه ، لقد كنت حيث لا يبلغ صوت جرس أو جسم غاطس، كنت تنام إلى جانب كثير من البحارة بينما الأمهات مسهدات يمنحن حياتهن رجاء أن يلحدن جثثهم، ولقد رأيت الحبيبين يقفان من السفينة المحترقة ،غرقا والقلب على القلب بين الأمواج المصطفقة، صدقا العهد تبدت السماء لهما كاذبة ..رأيت الضابط القتيل يقذف به القرصان في منتصف الليل على ظهر السفينة،ساعات قضاها وهو ينحدر في ظلمة الفلك الناهم وما يزال قتلته يبحرون سالمين، آه أيها الرأس لقد رأيت ما يكفي ليشق الكوكب ويجعل من ابراهيم الحنيف حانقا ولم تنبس بحرف واحد. ولكن كل الحوارات والمونولوجات لا تصف خطاب آخاب الأخير بعد ان رأى موبي ديك يدمر سفينته الأثيرة فوقف يخاطب نفسه قبل أي شئ آخر: يا سفينة مهيبة كالموت،هل تفنين إذن ولابد،دون أن أكون فيك؟ هل أُحرم من آخر كبرياء حمقاء ينالها أدنى القباطنة الذين تتحطم سفنهم؟ آه يا موتًا موحشًا يختم حياة موحشة ! أحس أن ذروة عظمتي تحل في ذروة حزني، هو ، هو ! من أقصى حدودك، انصبي إلى أيتها الموجات الجريئة، موجات حياتي الغابرة جميعا وطاولي موجة موتي، نحوك أتدحرج أيها الموت المبيد الذي لا يحرز غلبة، إلى النهاية أصاولك مصارعًا . من جوف الجحيم أسدد إليك الطعن ،من أجل البغض أبصق عليك آخر أنفاسي، كل التوابيت وعربات الجنائز تغوص في بركة واحدة. وبما أني لن أُحمل على تابوت أو عربة فلأنسحب مزقا وأنا ما أزال أطاردك أيها الحوت اللعين. ومات آخاب بيد شغفه المكروه وخوفه الداكن وضميره الذي إسوّد من كثرة الحقد قأعماه، رسم الحوت أمل حياته المعقود فقتله، عاش لأجل انتقام أعمى ورأى أن لا مفر من الحوت إلا قتله،رآه سيد الكون الذي لابد من غلبته فكان له الهلاك. موبي ديك لم يكن مجرد حوت أبيض، بل هو الوهم في حياة كل منا، فكل منا تعلق بشئ وأراد امتلاكه سواء كان قلب حبيب مستحيل وصاله، أو مال كثيف لن يغنيه أو مجد زائف، وفي النهاية آمالنا هي قبورنا الملحدة إن لم نتحرر منها ستقتلنا شر قتلة. الرواية عظيمة بكل ما تحمله الكلمة من معنى وتستحقه من تبجيل، والترجمة فائقة العذوبة، ترجمة رصينة جزلة لا ابتذال فيها.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Luffy

    Is there a polite version of saying 'I hope you're roasting in hell since you died Herman Melville!'? If there's not, there should be...Screw you, Melville. Once on Imdb (books section), I saw some yahoo saying to a naysayer of Moby Dick "It's your loss". The naysayer replied sarcastically. "My loss? On no. What will my boss and my wife and friends think of me when I tell them I gave Moby Dick 1 star?". That's my feeling as well. This book is only for the pedants, the elite of snootiness, many of Is there a polite version of saying 'I hope you're roasting in hell since you died Herman Melville!'? If there's not, there should be...Screw you, Melville. Once on Imdb (books section), I saw some yahoo saying to a naysayer of Moby Dick "It's your loss". The naysayer replied sarcastically. "My loss? On no. What will my boss and my wife and friends think of me when I tell them I gave Moby Dick 1 star?". That's my feeling as well. This book is only for the pedants, the elite of snootiness, many of whom will be real behemoths intellectually. I persevered with this book just to know how awful a classic can be. I can assure you folks, they don't make them like this anymore. I don't think I got it. Okay, I admit that. The problem with Moby Dick is not that it's boring. But it's that 99% of people will find it tedious enough not to read it entirely. It's hypnotic in its lack of actual plot. It wouldn't get published today. Has there been a movie adaptation of Moby Dick? The closest to it is Jaws. That was a masterpiece. Not this book. This book is an editor's nightmare. It is the type of book, that when part of a curriculum of a class will prevent the student from loving books. Unforgivable.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    896. Moby-Dick = The Whale, Herman Melville Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is a novel by American writer Herman Melville, published in 1851 during the period of the American Renaissance. Sailor Ishmael tells the story of the obsessive quest of Ahab, captain of the whaler Pequod, for revenge on Moby Dick, the white whale that on the previous whaling voyage bit off Ahab's leg at the knee. The novel was a commercial failure and out of print at the time of the author's death in 1891, but during the 20th ce 896. Moby-Dick = The Whale, Herman Melville Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is a novel by American writer Herman Melville, published in 1851 during the period of the American Renaissance. Sailor Ishmael tells the story of the obsessive quest of Ahab, captain of the whaler Pequod, for revenge on Moby Dick, the white whale that on the previous whaling voyage bit off Ahab's leg at the knee. The novel was a commercial failure and out of print at the time of the author's death in 1891, but during the 20th century, its reputation as a Great American Novel was established. William Faulkner confessed he wished he had written it himself, and D. H. Lawrence called it "one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world", and "the greatest book of the sea ever written". "Call me Ishmael" is among world literature's most famous opening sentences. عنوانها: مابی دیک نهنگ سفید، موبی‌دیک (نهنگ سفید) - هرمان ملویل (امیرکبیر) ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه دسامبر سال 2002 میلادی مترجمها: صالح حسینی در 776 ص؛ پرویز داریوش در 422 ص؛ ایاز خدادادی در 324 ص؛ علی فاطمیان در 240 ص؛ پروین ادیب در 209 ص؛ رضا روزبه در 200 ص، محمد شاطرلو در 183 ص؛ علی اصغر محمدزاده سال 1335 در 168 ص؛ نوشین ابراهیمی در 157 ص؛ خسرو شایسته در 133 ص، سهیلا احمدی در 120 ص؛ نفیسه دربهشتی در 120 ص، محمد طلوعی در 113 ص؛ مجید ریاحی در 113 ص؛ راضیه ابراهیمی در 111 ص؛ الهام دانش نژاد در 80 ص؛ کوثر محمود محمد در 72 ص؛ محمد همت خواه در 59 ص؛ نعیمه ظاهری در 48 ص؛محمدرضا جعفری در 32 ص، سیدرضا مرتضوی در 28 ص؛ راوی که خود را اسماعیل می‌نامد از منهتن برای پیوستن به کشتی شکار نهنگ به نیوبدفورد آمده‌ است. مهمان‌خانه‌ ای که او به آن مراجعه می‌کند بسیار شلوغ است و او مجبور می‌شود یک تخت را با مردی خالکوبی‌شده به نام کویکوئگ از پلی‌ نزی شریک شود. این مرد یک زوبین‌ انداز است و پدرش پادشاه جزیره ی روکوووکو ست. صبح روز بعد اسماعیل و کویکوئگ به خطبه ی پدر ماپل درباره ی یونس گوش فرا می‌دهند و سپس راهی نانتاکت می‌شوند. اسماعیل با صاحبان کشتی پکوئود، بیلداد و پلگ، قرارداد امضا می‌کند. پلگ درباره ی ناخدا ایهب می‌گوید: «احساسات انسانی خود را دارد». صبح روز بعد آن‌ها با کویکوئگ نیز قرارداد امضا میکنند. مردی به نام الیاس پیشگویی می‌کند که اگر اسماعیل و کویکوئگ به ایهب بپیوندند به سرنوشتی وخیم دچار می‌شوند. در حالی‌که مایحتاج در کشتی بارگیری می‌شوند چهره‌ هایی سایه‌ وار سوار کشتی می‌شوند. در یک روز سرد کریسمس، پکوئود بندر را ترک می‌کند. و ... ا. شربیانی

  23. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Clausen

    Chapter 1. Call Me Daniel Call me Daniel. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little money in my bank account, and nothing particular to interest me in the world of mortals, I thought I would pick up a classic book and see a little bit of the literary world. It is a habit I have of chasing away adulthood and the drudgery of office life. Whenever I find myself involuntarily thinking about ditching town or becoming a beach bum; whenever the temptation to live in a Winnebago by th Chapter 1. Call Me Daniel Call me Daniel. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little money in my bank account, and nothing particular to interest me in the world of mortals, I thought I would pick up a classic book and see a little bit of the literary world. It is a habit I have of chasing away adulthood and the drudgery of office life. Whenever I find myself involuntarily thinking about ditching town or becoming a beach bum; whenever the temptation to live in a Winnebago by the sea grips my soul; whenever I have the temptation to smack some smug coal-suited individual for his money barbarism, it's high time for another literary adventure. This is my substitute for a gambling addiction or alcoholism -- fine gentlemanly pursuits for some weary at heart, but not for me. With a cynical yet philosophical flourish, others go into the business world, I quietly start a new literary adventure, a new book review. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards words and literary adventures as me. Chapter 2. On the Dignity of Book Reviewers On behalf of the dignity of book reviewing, I would advance only the facts. But after employing the facts to their best effect, what reviewer would not be tempted, when such enabled with a not unreasonable surmise, to use conjecture to further their cause. It is well known that in the celebration of classic authors there is a process of ego-massaging that has become quite popular. The typical novice book reviewer might consult the cellar of his imagination, looking for well-oiled phrases of modesty ("Now, I don't have a grounding in the classics..." "Well, I'm no English major but..." "It's not like I'm the most knowledgeable person, but...") These salted and seasoned phrases, anointing as they do a book review, sugaring a negative comment or downplaying a good one, as the sugar-coating of such medicines are often done to help the passage of a pill from the mouth to the stomach, help to maintain the dignity of the profession and the reputation of the reviewer. But the question remains, does a dead man or woman's ego need any massaging? And are book reviewers really so dignified as their seasoned prose would make them seem? Having no facts at my disposal and nothing but conjecture, I surmise that many of those who use these well-oiled phrases ("Well, I'm no English major but...") might actually be English majors, may actually believe themselves giants comparable to the long-dead "Greats", and may, in fact, find greater joy in abandoning their dignity from time to time when taking up the noble-yet-vulgar art of the book review. Such a reviewer might say: "I am an English major AND the long, ponderous prose often left me brain-dead for hours at a time. The book should be subtitled: BRAIN DAMAGE FOR READERS." I am not such a reviewer, but let me give some vulgar praise not meant to massage any egos. My apologies in advance if the praise is lightly salted: "After living cheaply on the thrift of modern prose, I enjoyed the long, ponderous writing the way someone might enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet. And like an all-you-can-eat buffet, it often gave me diarrhea." Chapter 3. Chasing the Literary Masterpiece "Do you know the literary masterpiece, reader? Have you seen it? If you skinned your eyes twice daily to sharpen their focus, would you be able to see clearly a literary masterpiece in a sea of vulgar paperbacks? Are you game for the chase? Are you game to wade through detail after detail...the boring details of nineteenth-century whaling that make schoolchildren eat their desks and scorn their teachers, put M80s in their mailboxes out of spite or flaming bags of dog manure on their porches? Are you game for the game of hunting the great literary masterpiece?...Well, I am, reader. Aye, aye! and I'll chase literature round Good Hope, and round the horn, and round the Norway maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give it up. And this is what ye have shipped for, reader! to chase that fabled story on both sides of land, and over all sides of the earth, till it spouts golden prose. What say ye, reader? Will ye sharpen your eyes, hone your wit, hold fast to your pages, and have your bookmarks on ready? Are you brave enough to weather the rough pages of a thousand useless details to find that literary masterpiece? Are you game for the chase?" Chapter 4. The Old Used Bookstore Entering that gable-ended used bookstore, you found yourself in a narrow room, crowded with bookshelves, book stacks, boxes of books, more a place for discarded paper than a repository of knowledge. Such unaccountable masses of paper, must, mold, it seemed the nostalgic creation of some book-loving-or-hating Damien Hirst. But what confounds you the most in this bookstore is the heavy weight of unread and unloved things in the world, an orphanage for the dreams of liberal arts majors, and the used bookstore owner, some dreary soul, burdened with the lumpy, soggy, blotchy forms of the world's unloved. Yet was there a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it that you find yourself marveling before. "Buy something?" "Huh?" "Do you intend to buy something?" You stare at the man, deaf and dumb at his question. Of course, you don't intend to buy anything. That's not the purpose of the used bookstore. Instead, you intend to stare, sympathetically at this monument to human failure...as one would a Damien Hirst exhibit. "Buy something?" Isn't your sympathy enough? And when the winter comes and the flowers freeze and die, the bookshop-keeper too will pass away, and another, equally old and pitiable sapling will spring forth to take its place. The old man holds up an old, moldy copy of Moby Dick. "How about this one?" You hold up your e-Reader, and as you do, the old bookstore keeper appears to you suspended perpendicular, dissected into three pieces, in three adjacent boxes with his mouth open, as if to be saying perpetually into a void, "Buy something?" Chapter 5. 30 Years to the Chase! "Oh, reader! It is a mild, mild day. On such a day, I did write my first short story. An elementary student, yes, an elementary student. Thirty, yes, thirty years ago! Thirty years of continual writing! Thirty years of privation, peril, and solitary penmanship! Thirty years of making war on the mysteries of the human condition! Since then I have not spent one week without a short something being written. How for thirty years I have feasted upon nothing but concise prose and weary, used pages of long abandoned books. Ah, ah, Daniel has furiously, foamingly chased his prey -- the literary masterpiece -- more a demon than a man. A fool--fool--old fool Daniel has been. Why the chase? Why palsy the hands with this foolish chase? Behold, reader, locks of grey in the hair and nothing to show for it but tears and rejection slips. I feel deadly faint, bowed, and humped, as though every rejection had seeped into my bones. Stand close to me, reader! Look into these eyes. Do you see the imaginary worlds waiting to get out? Branded, I am with such imaginary world! And thusly, do I give chase to the great literary masterpiece!" "Oh weary writer, grand old soul, after all your toil, why do you still give chase to the literary masterpiece? Away with me! Let us fly to a pub or some other diversion to get your mind off of this foolish chase! Away! let us away!—this instant let us go for a pint or a snack, some delirious debauch to sooth the savage writer's soul." But the writer's glance averted. Like a palm tree in a hurricane, he shook. "What nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing drives me forward; what hidden lord and master; that against all inclinations to just chill and share a beer with a bro or take time away to play some X-box, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself toward that far off creature -- literary masterpiece? Aye, thirty years to the chase...and thirty years more if need be!" Chapter 6. Post-Review Interview Interviewer: So, how do you feel about this book review? Do you feel you nailed it? Daniel: Perhaps...I think the review was fine. The book at times was a slog, so it was nice to do a creative review that mixed some of the elements from various chapters...and doing it in five or six sections helped keep me fresh throughout. Interviewer: Was it a good book? Anything lacking? Daniel: More Ishmael and Queequeg, please! I wish I had gotten a bit more of them at the end. The book started off strong with these characters, so I was disappointed that it was more of Ahab and Starbuck's story at the end. I also wish someone had listed all the chapters that were just about whaling that I cold cut out and still enjoy the book. Interviewer: Are you going to do another long review like this soon or do you plan to take some time off? Daniel: I think before I take on another long book review like this, I'm going to do a training montage, Rocky 4 style, in a very cold place. I'm going to play the song "Hearts on Fire" continuously while staring down a copy of "War and Peace" and doing sit-ups. At the end of my training montage, I'll run up a mountain and yell at the top of my lungs..."Tolstoy!...Tolstoy!"

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    A public house in Pittsfield, Mass. Two men are at the bar: the bearded man stands, the mustachioed man sits. They take a drink of ale and the bearded man speaks. Melville: I'm doing it. I've decided. Hawthorne: Doing what? Melville: Writing my sodomy book. Hawthorne: Herman... Melville: Nathaniel... Hawthorne: It is unwise. Melville: Well...it's about sodomites more than sodomy. Hawthorne: Why would you do this? Melville: Sodomy exists, Nathaniel, and someone needs to write about it. It might as well A public house in Pittsfield, Mass. Two men are at the bar: the bearded man stands, the mustachioed man sits. They take a drink of ale and the bearded man speaks. Melville: I'm doing it. I've decided. Hawthorne: Doing what? Melville: Writing my sodomy book. Hawthorne: Herman... Melville: Nathaniel... Hawthorne: It is unwise. Melville: Well...it's about sodomites more than sodomy. Hawthorne: Why would you do this? Melville: Sodomy exists, Nathaniel, and someone needs to write about it. It might as well be me. Hawthorne: You will be crucified. Melville: (laughing) By whom? Hawthorne: Everyone! The critics, everyone. Your writing career will be over. Melville: I've already begun the writing. Hawthorne: It is a waste of time. You should stop. Write another sea tale. Melville: Aaah, but that's why this is genius. It is a sea tale. I'm writing about whaling, a giant sperm whale, shipboard camaraderie, obsession. There'll be a chapter dedicated to ambergris...or lovemaking depending on your perspective. But no one will ever know it's about sodomites. Hawthorne: Then why do it? If no one will know what you do then there is no point. Melville: We'll know. Hawthorne: I thought you were above such egotistical conceit. Melville: It isn't conceit. This is a story that needs to be told. You haven't been to sea, Nathaniel. It is part of the life out there. Even for those of us who do not take part, sodomy is always there. It is the secret life of sailors. And this story needs to be told for them, for everyone. Hawthorne: Yet they will not know. You say yourself that no one will know what you've written, just us. Just you and I. Melville: Some others will know. Literate sailors. Sodomites. Some will figure it out. Not everyone will miss the point. Hawthorne: That, then, is from whence the trouble will come. It is folly. Melville shakes his head and pulls an empty stool over to rest on. Hawthorne finishes his ale and calls for another. A fresh mug is set before him Hawthorne: So what are you calling it? Melville: Moby-Dick. Hawthorne: Subtle. Melville: (shaking his head wryly) Just for that, I'm dedicating it to you. Hawthorne: You wouldn't dare! (pause) Yes, yes you would. Melville: Mmmmhmmm. Hawthorne: What does Lizzy think? Melville: She doesn't know. Hawthorne: You are truly a fool, Herman. (Melville shrugs as Hawthorne raises his fresh ale in a toast) To folly. Melville: I'll drink to that.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Forrest

    Wanna know a secret? Lean over here and I’ll tell you: This is the first time I’ve read Moby Dick. No lie. 43 years old, never read it. That assignment in high school? Skipped it. Faked the report. Thank you, Cliff Notes. By that, I mean the guy named Cliff in my English class. He owed me a favor. A whale of a favor . . . And college? Bachelor’s degree in Humanities – I had to have read Moby Dick, right? Wrong. Just snippets. Excerpts. Then, feeling the guilt of being an educated American who ha Wanna know a secret? Lean over here and I’ll tell you: This is the first time I’ve read Moby Dick. No lie. 43 years old, never read it. That assignment in high school? Skipped it. Faked the report. Thank you, Cliff Notes. By that, I mean the guy named Cliff in my English class. He owed me a favor. A whale of a favor . . . And college? Bachelor’s degree in Humanities – I had to have read Moby Dick, right? Wrong. Just snippets. Excerpts. Then, feeling the guilt of being an educated American who had not read the book, I sat down to finally read it. This was, oh, about twenty years ago or so, I don’t rightly remember.   I started. But I didn’t finish. Why not? Because the book had a reputation, a monstrous reputation. It was big, boring, and scary, at least that’s what I was told. While I was reading comic books, fantasies, and role-playing game rulebooks in any spare time I had, my friends were reading Moby Dick. Or they had read it already and they were brooding on it. For years. I saw what that book had done to them. It didn't look very pretty from the outside.   But I have an addictive personality. Sometimes, I just can’t stop myself from reading. My curiosity – well, it gets me into a lot of trouble. And so it was that I was led, nay, possessed by some evil entity beyond myself (or maybe it was just embarrassment) to finally crack the spine and eat the marrow of, er, I mean, to read, yes, read what is considered by many to be Melville’s masterpiece.   Even then, I kept it a secret. I’m a multiple-book-at-a-time-reader (why does admitting that make me feel dirty?), so I’ve conveniently used the cloak of a few other books (even one, ironically, that involved whales) to disguise the fact that I’ve been covertly reading Moby Dick alongside these others. I know. I’m a creep, a literary lurker. Some kind of intellectual pervert. I can hardly help myself.   So it’s confession time. Time to repent and face up to reality. And the reality is: I really liked Moby Dick. It’s not nearly the daunting Leviathan that some led me to believe it was. Nor was it as boring as my little dalliances within its excerpts had initially indicated. No, actually, it was good. Really good. And the book is not as "heavy" as you might think, at least not all the time. Melville’s sense of humor comes through, from time to time, in the book, and is rather endearing. Here, for example, he describes a painting of a whale and a narwhale appearing in the 1807 version of “Goldsmith’s Animated Nature”:   I do not wish to seem inelegant, but this unsightly whale looks much like an amputated sow; and, as for the narwhale, one glimpse at it is enough to amaze one, that in this nineteenth century such a hippogriff could be palmed for genuine upon any intelligent public of schoolboys.   There’s a sort of learned snarkiness in the narrator’s voice, though it’s not sharply critical. The kind of thing you’d appreciate around a table drinking tea with close friends, rather than the public humor of a stand-up comedian. This sense of talking with a (very erudite) friend makes the book “warm” in just the right spots, such as the point where Ishmael is getting to know Queequeg a little better than he'd like to. In time the narrator’s accepting attitude help us to accept not only Queequeg, but Ishmael himself, as well. We learn to trust him as our narrator. Granted, there are moments, like the exhaustive (and exhausting) taxonomy of whales that tried the nerves (the optic nerves, in particular), and, yes, the language is archaic and even a bit esoteric at times. The alliteration can get a little tedious, too, even for a Dr. Seuss fanatic like me, as in this sentence:   It was while gliding through these latter waters that one serene and moonlight night, when all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude; on such a silent night a silvery jet was seen far in advance of the white bubbles at the bow.  But Melville – first off, the guy has chops. He can write a great sentence. Secondly, he weaves dimestore philosophy throughout almost seamlessly, and I love works with a bit of the philosophical in them. Even in the descriptions of decapitated whale’s heads, the narrator waxes philosophical:   Can you catch the expression of the Sperm Whale's there? It is the same he died with, only some of the longer wrinkles in the forehead seem now faded away.  I think his broad brow to be full of a prairie-like placidity, born of a speculative indifference as to death.  But mark the other head's expression. See that amazing lower lip, pressed by accident against the vessel's side, so as firmly to embrace the jaw.  Does not this whole head seem to speak of an enormous practical resolution in facing death? This Right Whale I take to have been a Stoic; the Sperm Whale, a Platonian, who might have taken up Spinoza in his latter years. Another example comes to mind, as the narrator holds a rope tied around his friend, Queequeg, who is rather busy working on a whale carcass in the water, all the time trying to avoid being bitten by the school of sharks that is feeding on the body atop which the poor laborer is walking. I love the implications of this "monkey rope", how we are, as humans in society, tied together and dependent on one another. There’s a simultaneous fear and warmth in the trust implied thereby. That tightrope between fear and warmth seems to be a comfortable spot for Melville. Not an easy trick! And third, his characters are incredibly detailed, alive, even. Take, for instance, this masterful description of the genesis of Ahab’s hatred toward Moby Dick: It is not probable that this monomania in him took its instant rise at the precise time of his bodily dismemberment. Then, in darting at the monster, knife in hand, he had but given loose to a sudden, passionate, corporal animosity; and when he received the stroke that tore him, he probably but felt the agonizing bodily laceration, but nothing more. Yet, when by this collision forced to turn towards home, and for long months of days and weeks, Ahab and anguish lay stretched together in one hammock, rounding in mid winter that dreary, howling Patagonian Cape; then it was, that his torn body and gashed soul bled into one another; and so interfusing, made him mad. That it was only then, on the homeward voyage, after the encounter, that the final monomania seized him, seems all but certain from the fact that, at intervals during the passage, he was a raving lunatic; and, though unlimbed of a leg, yet such vital strength yet lurked in his Egyptian chest, and was moreover intensified by his delirium, that his mates were forced to lace him fast, even there, as he sailed, raving in his hammock. In a strait-jacket, he swung to the mad rockings of the gales. And, when running into more sufferable latitudes, the ship, with mild stun'sails spread, floated across the tranquil tropics, and, to all appearances, the old man's delirium seemed left behind him with the Cape Horn swells, and he came forth from his dark den into the blessed light and air; even then, when he bore that firm, collected front, however pale, and issued his calm orders once again; and his mates thanked God the direful madness was now gone; even then, Ahab, in his hidden self, raved on. I find the crazed prophet Gabriel of the ship Jeroboam to be fascinating, as well. In fact, all the certifiably crazy people in the story (Gabriel, Ahab and, later, Pip) are fascinating in their ability to lift the reader beyond the mundane with their mad, eloquent ravings. I’d love to write Gabriel's full story, or a similar one. Maybe someday . . . is there such a thing as “Moby Dick fanfic?" Now, Melville’s seemingly erratic jump from 3rd to 1st person, back and forth, as well as his diversions into stage directions and drama would be considered the greatest taboo by many of the big-name book publishers today. Inconsistent narration? Crazy! Metafiction? No one will want to read that!   But they did. And they do. The popularity of Moby Dick attests to that. But if Melville were to submit his manuscript today, few agents would take it. “Too experimental,” they’d say, “try the small presses”. And some obscure small press, run from a kitchen table in a suburb on a shoestring budget, would eventually take it and publish it right into nothingness. Eventually, as word spread among a cult of readers, one of the larger presses might note that the book was getting some notoriety and ask for sales trends. “This is a whale of a tale,” they’d say as their pupils assumed the shape of dollar signs, “how did we ever miss it?”   If it was a whale, it would have bitten their corporate leg off. Maybe that's what makes this book so good. It's a tough read. It requires some stamina. You'll probably need to grab a dictionary from time to time. Some parts will read incredibly slow and you'll need to re-read them. Others will be over before you know it and you'll need to re-read them. This is not a book for the casual reader any more than the Pequod's quest was a casual fishing trip off the coast. This book is deep water. But like any challenge that requires great effort, the results are worth it. Some might consider this read a quest in and of itself, even memorializing their participation in the quest. I don't blame them. Moby Dick is a sort of readers' rite of passage. Now I can say, with some sense of pride, that I am one of the initiated, forever baptized in the depths along with Ahab, Queequeg, Starbuck, Stubbs, and all the rest. I know these people, or I knew them. I have smelled the blood of whales, the salt of the sea, tasted the iron of the harpoon, stood atop the mast and taken in the rolling immensity of the sea, seen the white whale rushing up from the watery dark toward my boat. I have served my time on the Pequod. And I say, welcome aboard!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    There's an old 1950s science fiction story in which aliens have taken over Earth and now wish to learn everything about the human race. But they can't tell what's important and what's trivial, yet. So to be on the safe side, they employ people to read every single book ever published and summarise its main points. And the story is a day in the life of one of these readers. And he's got Moby Dick. And what he writes on the file index card is : Nineteenth century knowledge about cetaceans, particul There's an old 1950s science fiction story in which aliens have taken over Earth and now wish to learn everything about the human race. But they can't tell what's important and what's trivial, yet. So to be on the safe side, they employ people to read every single book ever published and summarise its main points. And the story is a day in the life of one of these readers. And he's got Moby Dick. And what he writes on the file index card is : Nineteenth century knowledge about cetaceans, particularly physeter macrocephalus, was inadequate. Another way of summarising this one is boy meets whale, boy loses whale, boy gets whale back. And another way would be : brilliant, terminal, essential, outrageous, infuriating.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chloe

    I have to admit to a long-standing curiosity about Moby-Dick (not least of which is why the albino whale’s name is hyphenated in the title but just plain Moby Dick in the text itself). I read and loved a Reader’s Digest condensed version (gasps of dismay echo across the Metaverse at this news) of this book around second grade and have always wondered what the arbiters of taste at Reader’s Digest decided to leave on the cutting room floor. Could it have been an illicit love scene between Ishmael I have to admit to a long-standing curiosity about Moby-Dick (not least of which is why the albino whale’s name is hyphenated in the title but just plain Moby Dick in the text itself). I read and loved a Reader’s Digest condensed version (gasps of dismay echo across the Metaverse at this news) of this book around second grade and have always wondered what the arbiters of taste at Reader’s Digest decided to leave on the cutting room floor. Could it have been an illicit love scene between Ishmael and his cannibal harpooner Queequeg? A scene in which the first mate, Starbuck, purchases some coffee beans from an Islamic trader, thus finally making sense of that brand’s name? Did Ahab put aside his vendetta with Moby in order to form a chorus line of ivory-appendaged amputees? Sadly, none of those things came to pass. Instead I quickly learned that Moby-Dick is not one book, but two. The first is familiar to all of us: a sailor, let’s call him Ishmael, signs on to crew with the Pequod, a whaling ship from Nantucket (no word on whether the limerick is true) captained by the monomaniacal Captain Ahab. Want to know how I knew he was monomaniacal? Because that’s the only adjective that Melville uses through the course of the book to describe Ahab’s obsession with hunting and killing the whale that bit off his leg. I’m unsure of the timeline here, but I’m pretty positive that Melville was writing before the advent of thesauruses (thesauri?). Regardless, this half of the book is exactly what you would expect from a yarn of its sort. The sailors are a mixed bag of old sea dogs, young cabin boys enchanted by the glittering romance of the sea, and pagan harpooners living solely for the hunt. This segment of the story flies by like an albatross over the azure sea (prolonged exposure to this book has left me unable to make any non-nautical metaphors)- brisk, refreshing and nigh effortless. Mixed in among Melville’s ruminations of sea life and epic foreshadowing is another book, far more dense and infinitely more difficult of a road. The second is more in line with the Naturalist writings of the 19th Century and is nothing less than a complete history and biology of whales, whale hunting, gutting whales, refining their blubber into oil, and the unique structural adjustments made to ships to allow the processing to take place while at sea. I have to admit, I thrilled at reading the first few of these chapters. Melville writes them well with great description of the inner workings of the sperm whale and I laughed at his chapter on how the placement of their eyes meant that whales were effectively blind- he was obviously writing before the discovery of sonar. Little-old 21st Century me liked the idea of having a piece of knowledge that Melville, for all of his in-depth research (and trust me, it's in-depth), could not possess. The struggle came when these chapters extended for first twenty, then fifty, then finally a hundred pages. The pacing of the story fell off as I was treated to descriptions of the oxygen:water ratio in a whale's spume, descriptions of all known types of whales hunted by man, the bell tool used for scooping the valuable sperm from it's brain cavity or how the sperm whale possesses a thick and hard battering ram of a head with which it can defend against predators. I understood what Melville was doing- if he's not going to introduce the actual nemesis in this tale until the very end of the book then he's going to make damn sure that the reader knows just what this whale is capable of. It just dragged so slowly that by the time we did finally catch a glimpse of Moby, I greeted it with a sigh of "finally" rather than much excitement. I think that, in the end, I don't regret taking the time to read this tome. There are some absolutely rapturous descriptions of the ocean, a body I never tire of hearing about, and the hunger that the crew showed for the hunt (especially the antics of Stubb, the second mate, and the harpooners) made for some exciting reading. However, the endless treatises on whale physiology just went on too long for me to be able to rate this over two stars.

  28. 5 out of 5

    da AL

    the best opening line ever! & hey, one can always skip some of the whale pages...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Szplug

    Fuck me with a mincing knife such that I shit banana splits, but is this the most lushly, gorgeously written sea-skein of supernal and scotopic skaldic skill ever set to run before the trade winds for a voyage of six hundred and twenty-five pearlescent pages? Could aught be a more ariose attar of tars in cetological skin, a testimonial to the Old Testament wherein the primal and subcutaneous have pride of place and the canvas of the watery sprawl infinitely spread about the buffeted body shivers Fuck me with a mincing knife such that I shit banana splits, but is this the most lushly, gorgeously written sea-skein of supernal and scotopic skaldic skill ever set to run before the trade winds for a voyage of six hundred and twenty-five pearlescent pages? Could aught be a more ariose attar of tars in cetological skin, a testimonial to the Old Testament wherein the primal and subcutaneous have pride of place and the canvas of the watery sprawl infinitely spread about the buffeted body shivers the soul unto a pastiche derived from the plasmic furnaces and vermicular warrens of chasms in origin oceanic and earthly; obsessive and repulsive; solar and abyssal? Melville's great fluke has swept me from my perch amidships and cast me headlong unto a raging sea, what tempestuous, roiling vestments must carry me leagues afar ere a calm be found where I might gather my thoughts and bob in contemplation of both the evermore and nevermore, oblong and overwrought, whilst I await the succor of sails upon the horizon and curse Fedallah, that wizened Parsee flame vizier! Some thoughts (of which a few, particularly towards the end, contain minor spoilage): i: Best introductory sentence ever. ii: Best introductory bromance established ever. iii: Chapters like XXXVII: Sunset and XCIII: The Castaway , though brief, build to such a crescendo of sustained and impassioned exhortation that it asphyxiates mentally and physically—I'd actually found myself not breathing for the final stretch—while, in interior quarters, I damn well saw poniard-finned and sail-fluked starbursts and fainted dead away. iv: For all of Melville's rich and baroque timber to his words, his passionate embrace of the tale, each snippet panel of life is somberly interpreted and summarized, the banes and limits and dread tidal undertows of life assembled as a motte-and-bailey edifice against becoming carried away, whatever the desire attached to such vigorous enterprise. It's a rawboned force Man is up against, and he'd do well to heed the cautionary, well-lived words of the author, though the latter would not fain to rail against the living of life to the fullest—rather, that one must understand it's a thorny hedgerow to be traversed in breathed ways, under desert sun and polar stars, with many ghosts and chimeras set to whisper and cry and generally taunt one with cobwebbed doubloons cast upon the path; and tangled roots upthrust from ink-bound deeps to trip and lame one's progress. v: Moby Dick is brimming throughout with humor sourced from the full complement of its founts—even when the events of a chapter's active spread are collated and pressed, via the somber rollers of Melville's weighty voice, unto a brew of bitters speaking to eye-agonies of starlight wherein gravity triumphs, that mirthful spirit—sardonic brow arched, comical ears perked, ironic ocular twinkled, jocular lips awry—retains its presence; a cetological oil spilled upon the briny and benighted waters of tide-flowed life, refusing to be subsumed within the whelm of its pathos and pain, its peril and phantasms, portents and apostasies. vi: While his prophetic voice is timbered of the Platonic, his prognosticative agency blows from empirical quarters—and his sussing of how things would turn in the modern spin is remarkably acute and well-assessed. Even his calculation of the unlikelihood of the Leviathan being hunted unto evaporation from the boundless watery steppes, though erroneous in the end, struck much nearer to the truth than the pessimistic warnings cast about by his contemporary forecasters. There's little in the way of conventional discourse and relation, between Men together, or set opposite Nature and its incorporeal elements, that Melville failed to espy and set down, in glorious fictive exposition, at some point of unfolding within this wondrous book. Outstanding stuff. vii: Notwithstanding that the author delineates the conjoined operations of a whaling expedition to the most minute detail, as well as digresses, upon whatever subject falls either to hand or his mind, at will and at length; that some characters, immediately upon attaining a favored placement within the pantheon of the reader's estimation, are banished from the narrative flow for an hundred pages or more; that this voice is as apt to launch, in the space of a salty blink, upon speculations of a philosophic, pedagogic, scientific, prophetic, or didactic nature; I was never bored for the space of a second, did not skim one single sentence. As in the best such novels, Melville is concerned with more than the simple telling of an episodic story, progressed in temporal proportionality—he is trying to stretch his authorial hands around, and grasp sufficient to set forth with substantiality, as much of the whole what comprises our existential essence—assemble, in theatrical form, the greater part of the pageant in which we shall be assigned a role—as is humanly possible: and to strain his reach unto the most ineffable, but spiritually enveloping and materially affecting, of all that will stamp itself upon our performance. Much as John Ralston Saul remarked upon the difference between the early form of the novel, in which the author—having garnered a wide experience from trying his hand to many tasks in life—set about informing the public of this myriad, to relate to them all of its collective variety, through the creative tale; as against its modern evolution, in which a solipsistic interiority speaks to one mind's awareness of its existential environs divided between body and spirit, and efforts, at times, to convey that tunneled-vision to the degree it might become universal; so Melville is a transitional performer herein—accomplishing a bounty of the former, while yet garnering sufficient of the latter that the whole becomes a rich melding of styles current at that time and barely gestating in future form. A man for all seasons, then, with a similarly emplaced story to tell... viii: Death prevails throughout, and encapsulates the end. The first thing that struck me about Melville's style was how much it reminded me of Thomas Carlyle, with Emersonian flavoring—but there's also a direct link between Moby Dick and, say, Blood Meridian, particularly in the depiction of life as a hard and furious and magnetic interlude between the darkness eternal, and of how fates conspire, tragic flaws conflate, inexorable nature confound our efforts to stave off that irremediable end; indeed, hasten its reclamation because we are all—by dint of our awareness of its surceased claim—rendered mad in some way; not the least in that we shed so much blood on our own. Ahab's monomania is merely the most metastasized, in that his rage has warped him to try and make himself one with fate, a divine force of his own—he's a fascinating contrast with the similarly-maimed Captain Boomer, whose limb loss forged him in opposition to Ahab; or the captain of the Bachelor, a ship well-named in that none of its human crew are wed to aught but the pursuit of oil and profit (no White Whale as lethal bride for them—indeed, they believe that latter but a myth to detract from the true game at hand), and that their ship has voyaged immersed within merriment and joy, without any trace of the grim fanaticism that drives the Pequod forth under a permanent storm cloud; Puritans and fanatics are a force to keep the gravedigger well-employed in this world—though the White Whale shows how man's killing pursuit of Leviathan is just a microcosm, a mirror-play, of our own hunting by a world that lays all lifeforms low, and in which God is but a name we impose, with varying personal feeling and projected emotion and delusional imagining and despaired pleading, upon such a raw, unharnessed force that eludes our understanding and deceives us with a pride ere positioning the pair to be humbled. Somewhere (I can't precisely recall) I came across a reviewer discussing Moby Dick as a Gnostic work, which strikes me as a potent interpretation, though it requires an alien god whose light resides beyond our universe, and Melville proves himself quite able at snuffing out whatever hints of illumination send soulful beams from the music of the spheres. ix: The narrative arc is truly fascinating, in that the tale begins from the solid observational perspective of Ishmael, a flesh-and-blood figure whose thoughts and relations, as he positions himself for cetaceous adventure, are of his immediate awareness—and then slowly progresses such that he abstracts himself while the figure of Ahab emerges as the magnetic focal point, of whose solo thoughts and room-shuttered soliloquies Ishmael would fain need have conjured out of thin air. The charismatic presence of this rage-fueled, iron-willed man—a skipper become absolute tyrant over the superstition-veined decency of Starbuck, the laugh-addled ineffectuality of Stubb, and the common-man ductility of Flask, let alone the pagan otherness of the swarthy harpooner triad—seems of a seaborne Napoleonic type who imperil their dominated collective, whatever system they maneuvered through to attain their preeminence. There are many futilities and fatalities and frailties that Melville delineated through the course of the book, and of which the narrator's curiosity-driven, malleable-formed openness to new experience and being expanded by life—rather than consumed in its ravenous operation, and during which obsessions ever emerge, full-formed, to burn the fuel faster and truer—was the only one that, fortune-kissed, proved able to survive the climactic tempest. I loved how Melville ejected Ishmael from Ahab's doomed boat as a nameless oarsmen set adrift, a nondescript figure seemingly served up as a bobbing meal for the encircling sharks—and it is only once the seas have calmed, and the tragedy been fully laid-bare, that this cipher, in a succinct italicized voice, reclaims the name of Ishmael with which he more forcefully and assuredly greeted the reader in what seemed a lifetime past. A rather ghostly whisper set to close the book upon Ahab's inflationary, captivating madness.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Whitney Atkinson

    4.5 stars I definitely would not have read this had it not been for class, but I'm so glad I did. As often as it goes off on tangents about whaling and details I don't care about, somehow those chapters are short enough to not lose my attention entirely, and they always rounded back to a relevant point that made them integral to the story rather than background information. I think Ishmael and Ahab are two tremendously developed characters. I'm eager to delve into my research on this book because 4.5 stars I definitely would not have read this had it not been for class, but I'm so glad I did. As often as it goes off on tangents about whaling and details I don't care about, somehow those chapters are short enough to not lose my attention entirely, and they always rounded back to a relevant point that made them integral to the story rather than background information. I think Ishmael and Ahab are two tremendously developed characters. I'm eager to delve into my research on this book because there's a lot of interesting and relevant themes to work with. One last thing: Starbuck deserved better. That's all I'll say.

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