I heartily recommend anyone who has any interest in this ASTONISHING work of literature to listen to the audiobook. The story comes alive.
I was more than impressed with the passion and drama that Melville presents in this oh-so-much-more than a determined captain chasing his nemesis, The White Whale. And it has comedy and wit, too.
Sure, I will freely admit, that parts might be considered BOOOORRRRINNNG; Herm tediously offers every describable biological inch of the whale, every huge and minute detail of the whaling industry, and all sorts of facets about creatures of the deep to astound and fascinate and bore. Also thoughts on the Great Questions of philosophy & religion. But the language could also be delightful and poetic and lyrical and it was a lot of fun to listen to. Most of the time.
However, by 15 hours in, I was ready for this 22 hours Festival of Leviathans to be over. I likely heard only 80% while driving around or attempting to vacuum. I zoned out. As soon as dialogue came back to my ears, I was fully into it and entranced once again.
“Moby-Dick is not only a very big book; it is also a peculiarly full and rich one, and from the very opening it conveys a sense of abundance, of high creative power, that exhilarates and enlarges the imagination. This quality is felt immediately in the style, which is remarkably easy, natural and “American” yet always literary, and which swells in power until it take on some of the roaring and uncontainable rhythms with which Melville audibly describes the sea.” - Introduction by Alfred Kazin, Editor
I had always been intimidated by Moby-Dick. Nineteenth century language, it’s either loved or hated (which honestly, are the books that appeal to me), it’s long, Fizzy hated it, etc. But I found a copy that my Father-in-Law used in college that included some of his hand-written notes and I was thrilled to have that connection. I seriously doubt I would have survived it without the audiobook. But now that I’m finished, I could be tempted to read it again (someday). I live near New Bedford, Massachusetts which is steeped in whaling history and offers fun Melville connections – and a fabulous whaling museum. Come visit!
Now, if you prefer a more artsy interpretation of Moby-Dick, you might want to read what Brain Pickings shares about Matt Kish and his project to illustrate every page of this classic. I honestly can’t decide if I would want to look at this in its entirety, but I’m also quite drawn to it…
My favorite Moby-Dick quotes:
“Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunk Christian.”
“It is not down on any map; true places never are.” (remind you of anyone? reminds me of Harry Potter and/or Neil Gaiman)
“As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”
“To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.”
This post is dedicated to my good friend KB, who has endured my tweeting and mailing quotes from this magnificent work of literature; my hope is that I might lure her to the pages and the poetic prose within.
I am glad to have read ye, my Moby-Dick. And glad to be done with ye! Til next time, fare thee well.