Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Moby Dick Review

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Moby Dick is the legendary whale that many whalers have seen and heard about but none have been able to kill.  When a run-in with the whale causes the loss of Captain Ahab’s leg he becomes obsessed with meeting the whale again to get his revenge.

A lot of people are familiar with this story but fewer people have ever read it.  Until now I was one of those people.  And I could see why people would be put off by this book.  It’s a good story, even a great story.  But it is long.  And Ismael, our narrator, is verbose to say the least.  You have to be patient with him.  You are a hundred pages into the book before you even get on the ship.  It is a long time after that before you see any whales and a lot longer after that that you get to see Moby Dick himself.  It’s not that nothing happens in the meantime.  You get to know the crew and Ahab and you get to see the effect that the captain’s obsession with the famous whale has on him and his crew.  Which is all good stuff.  But Ismael goes on and on about everything.  He gives you a catalog of all the whales he has seen represented in art and tells you how close they are to the real thing; he gives you a catalog of all the known whales; he discourses on the greatness of man.  And there is a lot of sailing going on.  I’ve never read anything else by Melville so I don’t know if it is author or the narrator that tends to be so wordy and tangential but for me there were long passages where I was at a loss as to what they added to the story and, quite frankly, I could have done without.  Even with all of those things I really liked it but I’m glad I was reading another book at the same time or it might have become monotonous.  

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