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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book needs to be longer!
I would like to believe that Melville was years (maybe centuries) ahead of his time, but more than likely he was just plain nuts, apparently stalking Hawthorne and who knows what else. This shouldn't stop you from enjoying the fun though! In MD we basically have two ideas going on, with Ahab's whole monomaniac pursuit of the whale bookending hundreds of pages that...
Published on 24 Aug 1999

versus
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars call him boring
god, this is a hard read. loved the film, and i have always wanted to read the book. moby dick is a truly great story, problem is, i just couldnt find it. melville rambles on and on and on and on, about everything under the sun, bar the actual story. chapter after chapter of thoughts and philosophy's about this, that and the other, then back to the story for a chapter...
Published on 2 Feb 2012 by Mr. S. Mcdonald


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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why don't you come a-whaling?, 24 July 2008
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It's a classic allegory, but Moby-Dick is an arduous experience. I once read a summary that this book is only truly capable of being judged when read all the way through to its climax. The fact is, this book holds true to it, and even if when reading it you feel yourself slipping: keep at it, there is some superb English and some superb thought hidden in this book.

There are two faults with this book. First, and the biggest one, is the many many chapters on the technical aspects of Whaling and Cetology. Although interesting at first, they descend into Minutiae, and even I as a person who loved the book from cover to cover skipped a few chapters of this nature, scanning for any truly important passages. Secondly, in a few scenes the dialogue can get confusing, but these are generally not key scenes- so do not worry. Just remember that nearly everyone refers to themselves in the Third-Person, and Melville's lack of "said -" becomes less vexing and confusing.

The book does, however, contain some of the best prose I have ever read- and I've read a lot of it. Poetic, almost Shakespearean, and above all soaked in atmosphere, there are times when this book just astounds you with the vividness and tenacity of its language. With phrases like "made appalling battle" it sweeps away the less complex and incredibly simple modern bestsellers like The Da Vinci Code.

At the heart of the book is an intense symbolism that would sound ludicrous to those who have not read the book, the fact that one white whale could represent so plausibly so so many things does sound far fetched, but when you read it you find so many different answers. Fate, Providence, Nature, Madness, Death, Predestination- all these things run as Ahab and the Pequod's brave and diligent crew assail Moby-Dick.

Sure to be remembered as one of the greatest books ever written even in the far far future, this novel is an experience like no other- and an incredibly individual and personally driven one too, perhaps why it is the source of so much praise and so much perplexity. This book teaches you the art of writing, and the art of allegory.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I am glad I read Moby Dick, but it isn't what I expected., 28 July 1998
By A Customer
To ask someone who has never read Moby Dick what they think it is about, they would probably tell you what I used to think, "It is about a white whale.". Surprisingly, very few of the numerous chaptors were devoted to that particular leviathon. Instead, Moby Dick himself is the climax of a book that puts you on the ocean in the mid-19th century with a rather interesting crew and captain. You do not only read about a singular chase of a brutal (not all white) beast, you learn what whales are made of (at least what they knew back then), how the crew was hired and paid, the complete workings of the ship from the owners down to the carpenter, and how dangerous a vocation this really was. Symbolism abounds, and quite honestly I ignored most of it and chose instead to just enjoy the scenery. Take what you will, but Moby Dick is well worth it.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the great American novel, 8 Feb 2002
By A Customer
Melville's masterpiece has a persuasive claim to being not only the greatest American novel written but perhaps also the greatest novel written in the English language. If you read it and hate it then so be it. I'm not here to try and persuade the unbelievers. But if it's a book that you 'click' with then I'm sure you will reach the same conclusion. It's a novel that can be read in many ways. Is it a commentary on the precarious state of the union in pre-civil war America? Or a warning about the threats that demigogic behaviour poses to the democratic system? Or a dissection of the immorality of slavery? Or a piece of work belonging in the 'gay' literary canon (just think of the name, or the passages describing the processing of the sperm, or the intimacy of Queequeg and Ishmael at the beginning of the text? What exactly IS Queequeg doing with that little 'idol'?) Or is it about redemption, a religious book that sees salvation through death? (those who have read it will recall the manner in which Ishmael survives). The book is inexhaustible, a sure sign of it's true greatness.
I will just make this comment though: some reviewers have separated the 'whale hunt' from the so-called 'encyclopaedic' chapters on whalelore and philosophical musing. When reading the book please do not make this mistake. Both elements are inseparable. The whale hunt IS the hunt for the answer posed by the more discursive chapters. In these erudite chapters Melville poses questions that are both profound and fundamental to our notion of ourselves, both as individuals and as collective beings. And Ahab's hunt for the whale is his hunt for 'meaning' in a seemingly chaotic world. When reading this book one of the many questions you could ask yourself is how 'meaningful' any of the occurences are. IS there significance in Melville's pipe falling into the sea? or his hat being snatched by a sea bird and being dropped into the fathomless depths? Or is a 'cigar only sometimes a cigar'?
One final point: the book is full of the most beautiful poetry and turns of phrase, such as: 'That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principle, I will wreck that hate upon him'. Often the prose is elevated to extraordinarily high levels of nobility and gravitas. The penultimate paragraph of the final chapter (before the epilogue) is one of the greatest in any novel.
I wrote my Masters dissertation on Melville, so maybe I'm biased, but this book really is something else. If you want comparisons in terms of stature and inclusivity then maybe only Elliot's 'Middlemarch' and Joyce's 'Ulysses' can compare. What distinguishes Melville from these latter novelists however is the PASSION in both the author and the characters, especially Ahab who is perhaps the most strikingly dramatic, heroic and tragic figure to appear in literature since the early 1600s.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A great story but extremely long - winded at times., 18 Dec 1998
By A Customer
What can be said about a novel considered by many to be one of the crowning pieces of American Literature ever written. Well for starters, the book is quite a task to read, but a task that should be completed by anyone who is interested in fine writing. Or even perhaps the human pysche. But of course the book is not without flaws. The main flaw being that of length. I found it extremely irritating at times the number of pages Melville would prattle on about the type of rope used by the whalers or the hardness of the steel used as the spikes for the harpoons. Another criticism I have to make is that collectivly the tale of the search for White Whale only constitutes about half of the novel. The other half taken up by seemingly trivial information on the tools of the Pequod. But if these aspects can be overlooked or perhaps even skipped, as alot of the chapters don't add to the story at all, then the final result is an extremely well written novel about the insane quest of Ahab for the White Whale in which he "came to identify with him, not only all his bodily woes, but all his intellectual and spiritual exasperations."
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great perspectives of a troubled genius, 31 Oct 1998
By A Customer
Most readers of Moby Dick seem to praise it for the wrong reasons and some miss the boat completely.
Criticize all you want of Melville's scientific inaccuracy, wandering themes, or even his improper punctuation. The guy wrote this thing in a year - not enough time to refine it, and it was a book he knew would not sell.
Underneath a mess of useless whaling information and Ishmael's rambling are ideas and questions that most people don't dare think about. Unlike Charles Darwin, Galileo or the fearless Ahab, Melville hid safely behind his metaphors and guided the careful readers to draw their own conclusions without completely leading the way.
Let me explain.
While to Ishmael, Moby Dick is nature's wonder and to Starbuck is just a whale, to Ahab Moby Dick is God, with his infinite power.
There are some disturbing things in the universe begging for an explaination, such as why one person is rewarded with happyness while another punished in suffering. There are feel-good answers, like the idea that the score will be evened in the afterlife and there are humble answers, like the book of Job, which suggests that man has no right to complain or question God. Melville's Ahab takes this to another level when he asks why man needs to be God's puppets. Ahab is insulted by God's creation of man, letting man live in suffering, "with half a heart and half a lung".
The bewildered God-fearing masses will not comprehend the depth Melville trys to take them. This most important theme was written for the pursuit of truth, not happyness. This book is not for everyone, and a lot of chapters are better off skipped, but those with enough empathy for Melville will find an emotional and intellectual adventure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moby dick, 9 Feb 2013
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An amazing roller coaster of a good read. Combines philosophy, storytelling and everything you need to know about whaling. Don't be put off by the length it's a marathon not a sprint and you can keep returning to it. Perfect for reading on winter evenings or on a sea voyage!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars moby dick, 15 Jan 2013
all time classic, has not lost quality with time and the story still keeps you gripped from start to finish
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It blows (half of the time at least), 7 May 2012
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
One of the most famous and celebrated novels ever written, Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick" is a towering novel in world literature whose legendary story of the doomed whaling ship the Pequod setting off with its mad Captain Ahab at the helm to destroy the fabled white whale Moby-Dick, is so well known that most people who've never read the book know what it's about.

I was one of these people and having now read it, I can say that that's a pretty succinct summary of the book. That said, there are lots of moments in the book I wasn't aware of and was surprised to discover in reading it.

First off, I approached this book knowing most of the characters and the general story already so it was great to read the most famous opening lines in literature - "Call me Ishmael" - and to be introduced to the familiar cast of characters I'd never met before. From Ishmael to Queequeg, to Starbuck, the Pequod and Ahab, I found it thrilling to meet them one by one and to find subtleties in their characters that you won't know unless you read the book.

But I was surprised at how gay (as in homosexual) the novel is. The first 100 pages takes place in Nantucket where Ishmael hasn't signed up to the Pequod yet and is waiting around for a commission. He takes a room in an overbooked inn agreeing to share the bed with a "savage" called Queequeg. Not that sharing a bed with a man is gay exactly but Ishmael and Queequeg quickly become fast friends, looking forward to bed time where they touch knees and noses and tell each other secrets (really). Ishmael even says on more than one occasion that he feels "married" to Queequeg and comforted by waking up with his arms around him. Plus the book's title has "dick" in it, Queequeg's head is tattooed purple, and it's about a group of seamen lustily chasing a white sperm whale...

Anyway, hilarity aside, I found myself enjoying this strange book - while they were in port at least. Even when Ishmael and Queequeg sign up to the Pequod but then they ship out and the book comes to a grinding halt. The edition I read was 625 pages long and the Pequod sets sail somewhere around page 200; for the next 300, maybe more, pages Ishmael (or more accurately Melville) decides to tell the reader everything there is to know about whaling, no matter how obscure or dull or esoteric.

He tells you about the different types of whales and the differences between the whales, from the diameters of their fins, to the way they're cut up once killed, and so on. Then he talks about the instruments used in hunting whales - I can't even begin to describe what these are but my goodness, take my word when I say he is very thorough in describing them. How they were made, what they're made of, what their purpose is, how to clean them, how to store them - this is all explored at length! Did someone say famous whaling cases? He's got these as well. He mentions how big an industry whaling is (and it was in the 1850s, the fifth largest industry in America though once petroleum was discovered to have many more uses, whale oil faded out and by the beginning of the 20th century the whaling boom was finished for good) and the many uses whale oil has.

I've barely scratched the surface of the kind of tedious details any fiction reader doesn't give a damn about but be warned all ye who enter here: there are many hundreds of pages of utterly unnecessary, pointless and skull-crushingly boring details wedged in preventing the reader from enjoying the real story.

The real story being why the book has endured so long, and it really is quite good. From the time they leave port, if Melville had gone straight from that to an incident or two of killing whales, skipping about 300 pages of rubbish, and then onto the final confrontation between the Pequod and Moby-Dick, I'd be singing this book's praises and giving it five stars. As such, don't believe anyone who tells you this is an un-putdownable adventure read. They're lying to you. Nobody who has read the unabridged version would in their right mind think that reading about the role of buckets in the ship's hold or a 5 page description of a whale's blow hole is in any way interesting, not even remotely. Shenanigans, I say!

Having said that, I'm glad I read it. There were moments I genuinely enjoyed reading it from the way Melville describes the whaling town of Nantucket, to the complex and fascinating relationship between Ahab and Starbuck, to the final words of Ahab as he faces his doom in the face of the white whale ("from hell's heart I stab at thee!"). That said, I don't think I would ever read this again, or at least if I did I would skip most of the passages I know are about things unrelated to the story of these characters and of no interest whatsoever.

If you're a student of literature like me, willing to face down the leviathan that is this book, you're going to read this anyway, there's no way a book of this magnitude will get past you without the urge to find out for yourself what it's like and making up your own mind. But for the casual reader, out for a good read, some fun? Stay well away from this book. It will cause frustration and more skim-reading than you'll ever do for any other book.

If only Melville had an editor...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It blows (half of the time at least), 13 Mar 2012
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Moby Dick (Paperback)
One of the most famous and celebrated novels ever written, Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick" is a towering novel in world literature whose legendary story of the doomed whaling ship the Pequod setting off with its mad Captain Ahab at the helm to destroy the fabled white whale Moby-Dick, is so well known that most people who've never read the book know what it's about.

I was one of these people and having now read it, I can say that that's a pretty succinct summary of the book. That said, there are lots of moments in the book I wasn't aware of and was surprised to discover in reading it.

First off, I approached this book knowing most of the characters and the general story already so it was great to read the most famous opening lines in literature - "Call me Ishmael" - and to be introduced to the familiar cast of characters I'd never met before. From Ishmael to Queequeg, to Starbuck, the Pequod and Ahab, I found it thrilling to meet them one by one and to find subtleties in their characters that you won't know unless you read the book.

But I was surprised at how gay (as in homosexual) the novel is. The first 100 pages takes place in Nantucket where Ishmael hasn't signed up to the Pequod yet and is waiting around for a commission. He takes a room in an overbooked inn agreeing to share the bed with a "savage" called Queequeg. Not that sharing a bed with a man is gay exactly but Ishmael and Queequeg quickly become fast friends, looking forward to bed time where they touch knees and noses and tell each other secrets (really). Ishmael even says on more than one occasion that he feels "married" to Queequeg and comforted by waking up with his arms around him. Plus the book's title has "dick" in it, Queequeg's head is tattooed purple, and it's about a group of seamen lustily chasing a white sperm whale...

Anyway, hilarity aside, I found myself enjoying this strange book - while they were in port at least. Even when Ishmael and Queequeg sign up to the Pequod but then they ship out and the book comes to a grinding halt. The edition I read was 625 pages long and the Pequod sets sail somewhere around page 200; for the next 300, maybe more, pages Ishmael (or more accurately Melville) decides to tell the reader everything there is to know about whaling, no matter how obscure or dull or esoteric.

He tells you about the different types of whales and the differences between the whales, from the diameters of their fins, to the way they're cut up once killed, and so on. Then he talks about the instruments used in hunting whales - I can't even begin to describe what these are but my goodness, take my word when I say he is very thorough in describing them. How they were made, what they're made of, what their purpose is, how to clean them, how to store them - this is all explored at length! Did someone say famous whaling cases? He's got these as well. He mentions how big an industry whaling is (and it was in the 1850s, the fifth largest industry in America though once petroleum was discovered to have many more uses, whale oil faded out and by the beginning of the 20th century the whaling boom was finished for good) and the many uses whale oil has.

I've barely scratched the surface of the kind of tedious details any fiction reader doesn't give a damn about but be warned all ye who enter here: there are many hundreds of pages of utterly unnecessary, pointless and skull-crushingly boring details wedged in preventing the reader from enjoying the real story.

The real story being why the book has endured so long, and it really is quite good. From the time they leave port, if Melville had gone straight from that to an incident or two of killing whales, skipping about 300 pages of rubbish, and then onto the final confrontation between the Pequod and Moby-Dick, I'd be singing this book's praises and giving it five stars. As such, don't believe anyone who tells you this is an un-putdownable adventure read. They're lying to you. Nobody who has read the unabridged version would in their right mind think that reading about the role of buckets in the ship's hold or a 5 page description of a whale's blow hole is in any way interesting, not even remotely. Shenanigans, I say!

Having said that, I'm glad I read it. There were moments I genuinely enjoyed reading it from the way Melville describes the whaling town of Nantucket, to the complex and fascinating relationship between Ahab and Starbuck, to the final words of Ahab as he faces his doom in the face of the white whale ("from hell's heart I stab at thee!"). That said, I don't think I would ever read this again, or at least if I did I would skip most of the passages I know are about things unrelated to the story of these characters and of no interest whatsoever.

If you're a student of literature like me, willing to face down the leviathan that is this book, you're going to read this anyway, there's no way a book of this magnitude will get past you without the urge to find out for yourself what it's like and making up your own mind. But for the casual reader, out for a good read, some fun? Stay well away from this book. It will cause frustration and more skim-reading than you'll ever do for any other book.

If only Melville had an editor...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It blows (half of the time at least)!, 13 Mar 2012
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
One of the most famous and celebrated novels ever written, Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick" is a towering novel in world literature whose legendary story of the doomed whaling ship the Pequod setting off with its mad Captain Ahab at the helm to destroy the fabled white whale Moby-Dick, is so well known that most people who've never read the book know what it's about.

I was one of these people and having now read it, I can say that that's a pretty succinct summary of the book. That said, there are lots of moments in the book I wasn't aware of and was surprised to discover in reading it.

First off, I approached this book knowing most of the characters and the general story already so it was great to read the most famous opening lines in literature - "Call me Ishmael" - and to be introduced to the familiar cast of characters I'd never met before. From Ishmael to Queequeg, to Starbuck, the Pequod and Ahab, I found it thrilling to meet them one by one and to find subtleties in their characters that you won't know unless you read the book.

But I was surprised at how gay (as in homosexual) the novel is. The first 100 pages takes place in Nantucket where Ishmael hasn't signed up to the Pequod yet and is waiting around for a commission. He takes a room in an overbooked inn agreeing to share the bed with a "savage" called Queequeg. Not that sharing a bed with a man is gay exactly but Ishmael and Queequeg quickly become fast friends, looking forward to bed time where they touch knees and noses and tell each other secrets (really). Ishmael even says on more than one occasion that he feels "married" to Queequeg and comforted by waking up with his arms around him. Plus the book's title has "dick" in it, Queequeg's head is tattooed purple, and it's about a group of seamen lustily chasing a white sperm whale...

Anyway, hilarity aside, I found myself enjoying this strange book - while they were in port at least. Even when Ishmael and Queequeg sign up to the Pequod but then they ship out and the book comes to a grinding halt. The edition I read was 625 pages long and the Pequod sets sail somewhere around page 200; for the next 300, maybe more, pages Ishmael (or more accurately Melville) decides to tell the reader everything there is to know about whaling, no matter how obscure or dull or esoteric.

He tells you about the different types of whales and the differences between the whales, from the diameters of their fins, to the way they're cut up once killed, and so on. Then he talks about the instruments used in hunting whales - I can't even begin to describe what these are but my goodness, take my word when I say he is very thorough in describing them. How they were made, what they're made of, what their purpose is, how to clean them, how to store them - this is all explored at length! Did someone say famous whaling cases? He's got these as well. He mentions how big an industry whaling is (and it was in the 1850s, the fifth largest industry in America though once petroleum was discovered to have many more uses, whale oil faded out and by the beginning of the 20th century the whaling boom was finished for good) and the many uses whale oil has.

I've barely scratched the surface of the kind of tedious details any fiction reader doesn't give a damn about but be warned all ye who enter here: there are many hundreds of pages of utterly unnecessary, pointless and skull-crushingly boring details wedged in preventing the reader from enjoying the real story.

The real story being why the book has endured so long, and it really is quite good. From the time they leave port, if Melville had gone straight from that to an incident or two of killing whales, skipping about 300 pages of rubbish, and then onto the final confrontation between the Pequod and Moby-Dick, I'd be singing this book's praises and giving it five stars. As such, don't believe anyone who tells you this is an un-putdownable adventure read. They're lying to you. Nobody who has read the unabridged version would in their right mind think that reading about the role of buckets in the ship's hold or a 5 page description of a whale's blow hole is in any way interesting, not even remotely. Shenanigans, I say!

Having said that, I'm glad I read it. There were moments I genuinely enjoyed reading it from the way Melville describes the whaling town of Nantucket, to the complex and fascinating relationship between Ahab and Starbuck, to the final words of Ahab as he faces his doom in the face of the white whale ("from hell's heart I stab at thee!"). That said, I don't think I would ever read this again, or at least if I did I would skip most of the passages I know are about things unrelated to the story of these characters and of no interest whatsoever.

If you're a student of literature like me, willing to face down the leviathan that is this book, you're going to read this anyway, there's no way a book of this magnitude will get past you without the urge to find out for yourself what it's like and making up your own mind. But for the casual reader, out for a good read, some fun? Stay well away from this book. It will cause frustration and more skim-reading than you'll ever do for any other book.

If only Melville had an editor...
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Moby-Dick: or, The Whale (Penguin Classics)
Moby-Dick: or, The Whale (Penguin Classics) by Herman Melville (Paperback - 27 Feb 2003)
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