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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

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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Moby Dick: Two Books in one!
It's an allegory. No! It's an encyclopedia entry! Herman Melville tells a gripping, affecting tale of an obsessed Captain's quest for a white whale. Told by Ishmael, a member of Captain Ahab's crew, the novel recounts one man's obsession with a whale. However, the philosophical implications of his obsession soon become evident. Whiteness is equated with purity and...
Published on 7 April 1998


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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!, 24 Aug 1999
By A Customer
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 essentially capture Ishmael's (sun)baked thoughts during his three years or so on board the Pequid. This middle section will either bore and repel the reader, or suck them in, resembling some post modern-ish films like Satyricon, or perhaps the writings of some lost beat author. This middle section is a detailed narrative of every thought that strikes Ishmael's mind as he is immersed in what must be a remarkably dull setting. So instead, his mind wanders, seeing analogies in every bit of rope and whale tissue to the relationship between man and God, man and nature, man in society, etc. The idea is so absurd and executed so bombastically that it works. Had the man he dedicated this book to (Nathaniel Hawthorne) wrote MD instead, it would have been awful, but Melville can write about Ahab's pipe with enthusiasm, and put that very same pipe into a mythic perspective! Of the outer story, what is there left to say? Only an American author could take the standard tragedy of man bested by the fates and turn it into man bested by the fates/decides to hunt down and kill God! An absolutely fantastic and unforgettable book, but I would have enjoyed more ramblings from Ishmael. I'm serious!!!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gold mine for the imagination, 15 May 1998
By A Customer
Savor this book like a rich dessert. Read it slowly, like poetry. An epic tragedy that is either loved or loathed, it may speak best to those who have known obsession, those who divine the many biblical allusions scattered through the pages and those who have an ear for the dated cadences of 19th Century prose.
The reader can't help but be awed by the maniacal Captain Ahab, who challenges God and nature, casts away all navigational aids, forges his own compass and ultimately relies only on his own cunning and instinct to search the untracked seas for the one thing in the world that consumes him, the White Whale.
The imagery is rich. At one point Melville describes a deathly still sea as a great magnifying glass and the sun overhead as the searing point of light gathered and focused by that glass.
A gold mine for the imagination, this book can be read once as a tragic quest, once as a work of poetry and once again as a huge metaphor or allegory. This book is like a deep pool that reflects back whatever is lurking in the reader's heart. Beware and enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moby Dick:an interactive book, 7 May 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Moby Dick (Mass Market Paperback)
Well, so I had to read (in English, a foreing language for me!) a book which lasted for more than eight hundred pages. Slightly scary, I may say, especially when the average number of books this year were 13. Well, indeed some parts of the novel are simply delightful. Any reference to the cultural clash with Queequeg, or any description of the landscape, the sea, the people, were delightful. And then, in the middle -yes, encyclopaedia entries. "It's a bit misleading,Mr. Melville, what the h. do you want?". Until I had to revise it for an essay. The thing is, take all that "flat passages" again. Think of the Pequod's fate. Does it ring a bell? Ishmael, as a Cassandra, spents half the book prophetizing what will happen, and nobody seems to listen. When you read it twice, Moby Dick is simply one of the best metaphors of life. If only it weren't so tiresome...
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51 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A constant companion, 6 Jan 2007
By 
Didier (Ghent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
I read Moby-Dick for the first time when I was about 18, and have re-read it at least three or four times since. It is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most impressive books in Western literature, about ever so much more than the mere chase for a white whale.

It's about friendship, love, hubris, passion, the search for the meaning of life, etc. etc. Longwinded at times? Yes, definitely. Obscure? That too. Unless you're intimately acquainted with the Old Testament, Shakespeare, classical Greek drama and just about everything else in Western art it's a good idea to buy an edition that comes with ample footnotes.

But if you then take the time and effort this book deserves, it might very well be a life-changing experience as it was for me, that will sometimes make you stop and think for years afterwards.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moby Dick is not an easy read, but it is rewarding, 21 Aug 2013
By 
I had long put off reading Moby Dick following a first, unsuccessful attempt as a teenager and mixed feedback from others who have tried. So I approached it again with some trepidation and much respect. It is a difficult novel in some regards. The language and style are antiquated, and the flow of the story is frequently interrupted by didactic chapters on the art of whaling, the anatomy of the whale and whaling in art. In spite of this, Melville tells a great story about pre-industrial whale-hunting in which the hunters rowed right up to the jaws of the monster to plant a harpoon in its side and fight the thrashing beast for its life, surely one of the most adventurous and daring professions ever undertaken.

What makes Moby Dick literature rather than a mere adventure story is that it can and has been read at so many more levels. To me it reads like an allegory about America itself in the early 1850s, when the young nation founded on Enlightenment ideas was already creaking under the weight of its own contradictions.

The ship's crew is a microcosm of the US; much as the American ship of state was led by whites while most of the back-breaking work was done by slaves, the whaler hunting Moby Dick has white officers commanding a crew in which the most dangerous and physical jobs are performed by a group of harpooners comprising a black, an Asian, a Pacific Islander and a native American. The white captain, Ahab, leads this crew in the pursuit of the biggest beast in the ocean, in the same way that the white leaders of multicultural America had been chasing their own leviathan, the creation of a continental empire stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Only a few years before Moby Dick's publication, the United States had annexed territories stretching from Texas to California following a war with Mexico.

The whiteness of the whale is as significant as its size. The aggressive albino whale is the dangerous prize of white America: Melville is warning the nation that its pursuit of a white empire risks engulfing America itself, in the same way that the white whale ends up sinking its hunter. By the time the novel was published in the early 1850s, the divisive issue of slavery was beginning to make civil war in the US seem inevitable. Gloom about the future of the United States was widespread. The white settlers had by this time already wiped out many native Americans, including the tribe of the Pequod which gave its name to Captain Ahab's whaling ship, a fact paralleled in the novel by the white whale's annihilation of Ahab's Pequod. Reading Moby Dick as an allegory about the dangers of pursuing white supremacy and an ever-larger white empire in North America does not seem far-fetched.

The novel can also be read at a more metaphysical level as a reflection on the journey of life; indeed it is the narrator's realization that it is "drizzly November in my soul" that prompts him to go a-whaling. Ishmael is searching for meaning and purpose. As Ahab's monomaniacal pursuit of the white whale unfolds, Ishmael's observations of the natural landscape and events around him prompt reflections on the value of temperance, the equality of man, the persistence of mistaken beliefs, and the general mystery and unfathomableness of life. Ahab represents the vanity and conceit of humans, which leads most of their activity to a dead end. In such a reading of the novel, it is no accident that the obsessed, driven and maniacal Ahab perishes, while tolerant and humble Ishmael survives.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lower Away!, 22 April 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Moby Dick (Mass Market Paperback)
'Already we are boldly launched upon the deep; but soon we shall be lost in its unshored, harborless immensities.'
Be warned land lubber! So too, shall you become lost when you make your first 'lowering' into Moby-Dick! Full of grandiose digressions and pages of speculation, finishing Moby-Dick can be like hunting down the White Whale itself! But take heart! Any attempt to penetrate the inscrutable imagination of Herman Melville and plunge into the pinnacle of nineteenth-century American Literature will be time well spent. Consider its American Renaissance context: written in the age of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Poe, Moby-Dick has been read as Melville's critique of the Transcendentalist movement. In one fascinating passage, Ishmael describes the time spent by a 'young Platonist' whale-watching up in the mast-head: 'lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie... at last he loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and nature... .' Sounds like Emerson's 'transparent eyeball.'All well and good, yet, as a harpooner notes, he hasn't raised [spotted] a single whale!
Or consider the exquisite peculiarities of the Pequod and 'her' crew. There are no females on board. Are any feminine aspects then, more forcefully present for their absence? Yet, culturally, the ship contains a vast array of nationalities. Melville's own time spent on South sea islands surely plays into his inclusive view of foreign tribes. Ishmael and Queequeg's relationship demonstrates just such a view. Ishmael quips, 'I'd rather sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.' Later he states, 'to landsman in general, the native inhabitants of the seas have ever been regarded with emotions unspeakably unsocial and repelling; though we know the sea to be an everlasting terra incognita, so that Colombus sailed over numberless unknown worlds to discover his one superficial one.'Clearly, the cultural explorations allowed by this novel are vast.
Lastly, consider that Moby-Dick is what many critics call an encyclopedic novel--meaning that it attempts, in its own obscure way, to contain everything, in some form or another, between its covers. Incredible ahead of its time, Moby-Dick points forward to behemoth works such as Ulysses and Gravity's Rainbow, to name only a couple. Of course, the encyclopedic novel, like Moby-Dick, is long and daunting. But do not depair! It takes many 'lowerings' to fully appreciate the brilliance of this novel. In the meantime, savor the Shakespearian prose as it drips off your tongue like honey! Revel in the breakneck speed of the final chase! See for yourself why it's so hard to believe that Moby-Dick is an almost forgotten text, rediscovered in the 1920's in an attic. Remember: 'in a matter like this, subtlety appeals to subtlety, and without imagination no man [or woman] can follow another into these halls.'
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4.0 out of 5 stars An American classic comparable to the great Greek tragedies., 6 April 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Moby Dick (Mass Market Paperback)
First I have to say that Moby Dick is probably easier to get into if you occasionally like to read poetry. Otherwise it's a challenge for the average reader like myself, and a challenge that I personally found worthwhile. It's not the "light read" to take to the beach for summer vacation. There is a flow to the writing that is an essential part of drawing the reader into the story, similar to Shakespeare. The plot is exciting without it, but the writing is what raises this story to a classic. Captain Ahab (our hero?) is a man whose personality and fate have been twisted from a comfortable course as a successful whaler. When we meet him, he is well on his way to turning from an intelligent, logical captain and family man into a driven hunter. As we read, we notice the remains of what was a simple love story: A man of strong senses and the passions of an artist; in love, as he knows it, with whaling. Instead of a life of turbulence, which would seem more to fit his intense, sensitive nature, Ahab is a respected whaler with a deep and quiet love for the ever-changing sea living a lonely but content life providing for a rarely seen family. We watch his submersed passion turn from a sense of joy in pitting himself against the giants of the deep, to a slow, consuming hatred of one whale--Moby Dick. Moby Dick is the great white whale who took Ahab's leg and left him with eternal physical pain. Where this physical pain began, so through the story Ahab's emotions follow. Moby Dick changes Ahab's submerged passion from gentle love and appreciation to intense hate. Ahab has been betrayed. He has been hurt. In his contorted mind, his pain can only be removed by the death of Moby Dick. We came on a game, a hunt. Now the hunt is everything and death is the only end. In the telling of this tragic adventure, we are swept into the picture. We feel the vastness of the deep ocean, the power and beauty of nature, the awesome strength of the whale, the fury of the storm, the boredom of endless hours of waiting, and the exhilaration of the battle of man against nature. We become one with, now, the man, now, the whale. Words disappear behind feelings. And we feel it all. "Moby Dick" takes us on a splendid trip to a time and a place and a state of mind. This book can entertain the readers who like "Starship Troopers" and enchant those who enjoy Phyllis Whitney. For those not into long sentences and rhythm, it may be more work than fun to get started, but I don't believe anyone could stick with the book to the end without growing as a reader and ultimately liking the book a great deal.
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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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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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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Moby Dick: Two Books in one!, 7 April 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Moby Dick (Mass Market Paperback)
It's an allegory. No! It's an encyclopedia entry! Herman Melville tells a gripping, affecting tale of an obsessed Captain's quest for a white whale. Told by Ishmael, a member of Captain Ahab's crew, the novel recounts one man's obsession with a whale. However, the philosophical implications of his obsession soon become evident. Whiteness is equated with purity and goodness, as well as absence and death. Ahab's quest for revenge eventually causes his destruction as well as the destruction of those on board the Pequod. Did God send the whale to tempt Ahab, or save him? Is Ahab Jonah, waiting to be swallowed whole and reborn? Is the whale God? Is the whale Satan? Ahab and Ishmael grapple with these questions, and Melville challenges the reader to do so as well.

All of this sounds like a compelling read; it is. However, it is only half the story. The other half, unfortunately, comes in the form of more information than anyone ever wanted to know about whales, whale hunting and whale habits. In one chapter, types of whales are chronicled. In another, the method of collecting ambergris from whales is detailed.

The information, while presented well, is completely out of context. It would have been better suited as an appendix or introduction to the novel. Instead, it breaks up the flow of the narrative and pulls the reader out of Ahab's thrall. The story of Moby Dick hypnotizes and captivates us as surely as it does the Captain, but Melville is not content to let us drift along with the Pequod. Instead, we have to endure an Encyclopedia Brittanica full of information on whales.

Moby Dick is a great novel and it is a fascinating factual chronicle. Unfortunately, the two do not peacefully coexist. I emerged from my reading experience frustrated. Melville could have easily given us the best of both worlds. Instead, he chops up Moby Dick and feeds him to his readers in bits and pieces, causing us to shift gears continuously. Keeping us on our toes, perhaps? Maybe, but it does not q!uite work. I only wish that great literature had a fast forward button.
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