BOOK: Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)

I somehow managed to get through both high school and college (as an English major, no less!) without ever reading this novel, one of the most famous books ever written.  Don’t ask me how it happened.  I don’t have an answer.  What’s important is that I finally got around to it, right?

When I first started reading this book, I was absolutely flabbergasted by how completely wonderful it was.  The first 200 or so are not only brilliantly written, but quirky and hilarious and delightful as well.  I couldn’t put it down, and only about fifty pages into it, I was so in love with the narrator, (call him) Ishmael, I was seriously starting to consider making him a Boyfriend of the Week (hey, weirder Boyfriends have happened: meet Sock Puppet).

And then I got to the middle.  The middle 200 or so pages of this novel are absolutely brutal.  Unless you have a vested interest in whaling yourself, and particularly in the ins-and-outs of butchering the whales you have snagged, you are going to get to the middle of this novel and curse my name for having recommended it to you. There is an entire chapter, I kid you not, that provides step-by-step instruction on how to behead a sperm whale.  Now, granted, the fact this process requires a detailed tutorial makes some sense,  because beheading an animal that has no neck would be no easy feat, right?  The thing is, once you’ve read that chapter, there is no un-reading it.  And I have to confess, well, let’s just say: regrets, I’ve had a few.

THAT SAID, the nice thing about the sloggy middle of this otherwise-entertaining book is that the chapters are short and usefully-titled, which makes it extremely easy to skim past the parts that are of no import to you.  Jump past the whaling encyclopedia and straight on to the end, where the action heats up anew, the characters start getting their asses whomped, and fights, fights, fights!  But exciting drama aside, the analogy of Ahab’s obsessive whale hunt, and the analogies that can be applied to his ultimate fate, are thought-provoking and powerful.

All in all, this book had a tremendous impact on me (to the point where I started using lines from the text as my Facebook status updates, even, because they were so beautifully written), and I’m very grateful to the friend of mine who encouraged me to read it along with him.  Maybe you’ll feel the same way about me if you pick it up now yourselves.  Let me know, yes?

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2 Responses to “BOOK: Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)”

  1. Liz Says:

    There’s a very cute TV ad for insurance that features Capt. Ahab. He gets to save money, so he decides to buy an electronic fish-finder! Note – the ad is so cute (it’s one of the ones with the funny young woman who seems to be working in a store, selling insurance) that I can’t even remember which insurance co. it represents.

    This seems to be a constant problem with advertising: how to entertain the viewer enough to keep them watching, while still reminding them what product you’re hyping. (“Alka-Selzer” had to pull a couple of brilliant ads because no one could remember what the product was (“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!” and “Try it, you’ll like it!”)

    I STILL remember some of the whaling stuff they taught me in 4th grade! Don’t ask me why 4th graders were learning about whaling! Now that you’ve read “Moby Dick,” you should try “Billy Budd” – I think that’s also Herman Melville. Also, Patrick Stewart did a re-make of the movie a few years ago – and was, of course, a wonderful “Capt. Ahab.” I think the kid from “E.T.” (Henry Thomas?) played the Ishmael-guy.

  2. Eva Says:

    The whole reason I found your site is because I stumbled across your Boyfriend writeup on Samwise Gamgee. So I’m all about you Boyfriendizing fictional characters. 🙂

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