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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great American ...Whale (novel).
4 stars? Nooo, a bit mean. 1? Embarrassing. 5, Certainly. This book lays claim to be that mythical beast, The Great American Novel and its scope is vast and I am not sure if Melville's reach has exceeded his grasp... but then in a way that is what the book is about: ambition. Yes, the first chapter is deliberately (?) boring as Melville imparts as much data on...
Published 6 months ago by Mr. G. Morgan

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75 of 82 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too nautical for me
The prose is so vivid that the only comparison that comes to mind is Shakespeare. Some sentences or paragraphs are so finely wrought as to hit you between the eyes, and as such I can say that I am glad I have read it, and if life were longer I might even read it again. However, I have to concede that the book is very hard work. What story there is all takes place in the...
Published on 19 Aug. 2007 by John Ferngrove


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75 of 82 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too nautical for me, 19 Aug. 2007
By 
John Ferngrove (Hants UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
The prose is so vivid that the only comparison that comes to mind is Shakespeare. Some sentences or paragraphs are so finely wrought as to hit you between the eyes, and as such I can say that I am glad I have read it, and if life were longer I might even read it again. However, I have to concede that the book is very hard work. What story there is all takes place in the last 25 pages and is an action tour-de-force, but the previous 400 or so pages are lengthy and wordy digressions on whales, whaling and all conceivable ancillary topics, which at their worst are maddeningly garrulous. The characterisation is poor, unsurprisingly given that so little of the text is devoted to the players. Ishmael, the narrator is virtually a disembodied observer who brings little of himself to the action. Ahab is the tortured megalomaniac for whom we are given no opportunity for sympathy or empathy. All the other human characters, namely the ship's crew, are mere automata. Those of a nautical bent might get excited about the details of the ship, the Pequod, which is more lovingly written than the humans or the whales, but I'm not that way inclined.

I can see this book being truly relished by hardcore literature buffs with a love of ships and the sea, but I can't help but feel that just about anyone else would find it very heavy going.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great American ...Whale (novel)., 3 Sept. 2014
By 
Mr. G. Morgan "wes" (Haywards Heath, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
4 stars? Nooo, a bit mean. 1? Embarrassing. 5, Certainly. This book lays claim to be that mythical beast, The Great American Novel and its scope is vast and I am not sure if Melville's reach has exceeded his grasp... but then in a way that is what the book is about: ambition. Yes, the first chapter is deliberately (?) boring as Melville imparts as much data on whales as he can. This is your 'ticket of entry.' Now one of the great first lines in all literature "Call me Ishmael" more beguiling than anything the Ancient Mariner ever managed, as well as one of the greatest final lines. Between this and Moby Dick himself you have the figure of Father Mapplethorpe delivering his Cetacean-oriented sermon in an appropriately whale 'themed' church in Nantucket, preparing the mariners for what all know is a dangerous mission; of Queequeg, a Native American actually seen as a human being; the archetypal Capt Ahab, in search of the ideal...which is A whale? God? Truth? Perfection? Desire? All of the above? Yup? Or maybe 'just' mad? It's a magnificently written book too, for all its superabundance, its longueurs and its helpless, inevitable prolixity; this man wants to cover everything, he is HUGELY ambitious - and it is a Whale Tale! The characters and richness of language may justifiably be called Shakespearian, he is chancing more than an arm on this one (and like Ahab, lost; well for 70 odd years he 'lost'). You feel here something of Melville's metaphysical Doubt as he closes on truth, feels it as just receding from us like the world from Tantalus. Forget the nay-sayers; this is a masterpiece, and no-one else has ever written a novel like this, not even Melville, Go on, try it.
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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)!, 3 May 2014
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics) (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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the inexperienced reader, 1 Jun. 2012
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This review is from: Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
A mighty tome for sure. I have read the first chapter over and over and still find it hard to get into. I go with the experts who say it is one of the great American novels but to my shame, I must admit that I am struggling. I am going to give it to my partner as she is an avid reader and should make shorter work of it than me. Having said all this, I will give it another go after her and at the very low price, there is no harm done. Probably a good buy as a present for someone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Novel Ever Written, 24 April 2014
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This review is from: Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
If you like books that make you think laugh ponder your existence and religion then this is an essential that demands your attention it's very obscure and you will need to retread several parts of it to understand it but overall moby dick is a book you should read before you die
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OBSESSION, 19 Jan. 2013
By 
N. Demir Kupeli (Ankara, Turkey) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
A nonsense obsession brought his end! A typical catatonic thought still exists now today. As far I know no one knows what happend to Moby. I believe this novel was written by inspired from Freudian (the second) ...
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You might need to read this one at least twice, 31 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
Moby Dick is one of the pinnacles of English literature. Which is to say, steep, inhospitable and littered with pitfalls for the unwary reader.

The actual plot of the novel, Captain Ahab's obsession with hunting down the eponymous white whale, occupies only a fraction of the novel's length. The rest of the book is dedicated to diversions and digressions on every aspect of whales and whaling life. It's a dense, complicated book, employing a variety of styles from Old Testament damnation to sailor's yarn to scientific journal, the narrative taking on the obsessive mania of Ahab in its need to give the very last word on whaling.

It's tough going and a lot to take in, you will glaze over in places, but if you can last the course then you should find a tour de force in storytelling. It's not a book to read idly on holiday. It is a fine instructional manual for the budding writer. Melville shows great mastery of a number of styles and there's a lot to be learned on how a writer can bend the medium to tell his story rather than wedging the story into the confines of the medium. Indeed, many of the techniques Melville pioneered in Moby Dick weren't rediscovered until the great modernist writers of the early twentieth century.

It truly is one of the most remarkable performances that English literature has yet produced. Not one for the casual reader, but worthy of an obsession. Ahab would understand.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moby, 20 Oct. 2013
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This is a classic! I read this in my teen years and I'm glad to do it again. Hope it has the same effect on you too.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It seems ridiculous to review a classic, but..., 16 Mar. 2011
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This review is from: Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
I've always avoided reading Moby Dick, thinking it would be a painful cross between Hemingway and Joyce. I finally recently read it on a friend's enthusiastic recommendation, and am glad that I did. Yes, the endless chapters about every possible aspect of a whale and its history can get tedious. But for the sheer madness and turmoil of the last 200 pages, it was well worth it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much more than a mad captain and a white whale..., 14 Dec. 2009
By 
LittleMoon (loving my life in the rain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
"Only the infidel sharks in the audacious seas may give ear to such words, when, with tornado brow, and eyes of red murder, and foam-glued lips, Ahab leapt after his prey."

Most readers come to Moby-Dick thinking they know exactly what they're going to get. After all, who doesn't know the tale of the fanatical Ahab and his one-legged quest in search of the colossal white whale that so maimed him? This is why actually reading the novel is so important, for while popular culture lifts Melville's most obvious symbols from which to weave its myths, the genius of this work lies in what is going on right there on the page: the writing, the structure, the language.

David Herd's introduction to the Wordsworth Classics is an essential read, and offers insight into why Melville's is considered not just a classic, but one of the "greatest novels ever written by an American" - this is an extraordinary claim! Herd argues for a political reading of the novel that makes Melville a prophet of our times; and it's convincing. Moreover, the novel is a treatise on autodidacticism (self-learning), the free-sharing of information (Wikipedia?), democracy, inspiration, cetology, philosophy, death, and I could keep going. It's difficult not to admire Melville as he struggled with this novel, dealt with its lack of commercial success: "Dollars damn me" he wrote to Hawthorne, but stayed true to its purpose with the same "fixed and fearless, forward dedication" as his character Ahab embodies as he races towards his doom.

All this being said, the novel does tell a story, albeit one that follows an unconventional narrative path. Ishmael perfectly sums up the novel's structure, telling us "Out of the trunk, the branches grow; out of them, the twigs. So, in productive subjects, grow the chapters." We are treated to humour, as in Ishmael's meeting with the magnificent Queequeg; Shakespearean soliloquies; and the dramatic final stages of the chase that close out the novel. And I have bent the corners of many pages to go back to, in order to re-read some of the most startlingly rich and poetic language.

Yes, the flawed and terrifying Ahab, and his nemesis, the white whale, are unique and singular creations for which this novel will continue to be best known, but Moby-Dick is a work that needs to be read at much greater depth than just a story, in order to be fully appreciated.
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Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics)
Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics) by Herman Melville (Paperback - 5 May 1992)
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