Friday, October 24, 2014

Moby Dick by Herman Melville


I did it!  I finished Moby Dick!  I’m half-tempted to spend the rest of this review patting myself on the back but I won’t.  I also won’t tell you much about the plot, not because I’d give something away or it’s difficult to describe but because you know what Moby Dick is about – there are dogs and cats that know what Moby Dick is about.  So, instead I will tell you what I expected.  When I thought about a 600+ page classic, I assumed it was going to be dense, bleak, and repetitive.  I was very surprised and happy to be wrong.  It is not overly dense, in fact, since it is written in the first person and Ishmael is an open character, it ends up being fairly conversational.  Just this past week was the 163rd anniversary of the British publication of Moby Dick, so of course a novel written over a century and a half ago isn’t written in my youthful, modern vernacular but other than some cultural references, I didn’t have much trouble.  It also isn’t bleak.  There is a lot of humor.  It’s a giant classic, so yeah, people die.  Also, it’s about whaling which isn’t the most pleasant enterprise.  But there is a lot of humor and not just from the gallows.  Plus, this book is anything but repetitive.  It has an extremely wide range.  There are chapters about types of whales, chapters about depictions of whales, stage directions, soliloquies, histories, legends, and the dark adventure of a man who seeks revenge above all else.

It’s a good book.  It really is.  Further along in the story, the sentences can start to lengthen with various asides but that’s just how Ishmael thinks.  It is a book that rewards attention.  Not to mention, the chapters are pretty much all self-contained so you don’t have to read it at one clip.  So give it a try.  I think you’ll be surprised like I was.  I’m glad I read it and not just because now I can say I’ve read it. 


You could try to match the epic scope of Moby Dick by listening to the Led Zeppelin song of the same name or you could listen to an entire heavy metal album inspired by the tome, Leviathan by Mastodon.

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