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on 3 March 2014
I finished this book a week ago and it has stayed in my mind ever since. What an excellent, philosophical book.
Please ignore all the reviews saying it meanders and spends too much time on cetology. Remember when this was written and how little we knew about whales.
There is so much more to this book than a man after a whale. Religion, life, death and the mind of man are all explored. There is so much good humour also but you may have to re read passages to get it as the language is of its time.
If the sea is in you and you love to learn about how people survived on a boat for 4 years without ever touching land, then dig in.
I am jealous of you if its the first time you are going to read it.
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on 6 June 2016
An extraordinary novel. I am sure I could not have read it through as a young man. This is a laborious read. There is a mixture of anatomy, physiology, poetry, philosophy and - of course - adventure. Melville even throws in comments on species preservation by discussing whether the whale will be hunted to near extinction as had happened with the American buffalo. Sometimes it is hard to realize that this book was written 150 years ago, but the style of writing is clearly from a bygone age. We are not familiar or comfortable with the rather turgid and over- detailed prose. References to ancient Roman and Greek literature and multiple references to the Christian bible are hard to relate to in the middle of the 21st century. Against this rather dense backdrop, the book does contrive to tell a nautical tale of drama, terror and ultimate disaster. The final three days of the hunt for Moby Dick make for compelling reading, but these are the pages I will remember while much of the earlier complexity will be forgotten. It is rather odd that the first mate should have the name of Starbuck , a name with which the whole world is now familiar while Captain Ahab is remembered by relatively few. The bloody encounter between man and whale is vividly depicted and in the present era of conservation and preservation, makes for rather gruesome reading.
I was left not knowing whether to admire the whalers or despise them.
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on 28 June 2015
I'm glad I read it from the perspective of being able to discuss it as one of the classics but it's a very difficult book to read from at least two points of view. Firstly, if you're an animal lover you'll find the detailed, highly gory, descriptions of the slaughter of whales, of which there are many accounts, unpalatable (to say the least). Secondly, there are very long and tedious accounts of whale study that will bore you to tears unless you're the most pedantic whale fanatic alive. This book apparently describes every species of whale known to man in the most horribly exacting manner, right down to such minutiae as what is found inside the sperm whales skull, what this smells like, and how it feels to squeeze it in your fingers. Only after you've ploughed relentlessly through all this do you finally get to the 'exciting' (if you can stomach hunting) pursuit of the eponymous white whale. This part of the book is in the style of your typical adventure yarn, entertaining and fast-paced. There are some fabulous moments that have been referenced in popular culture such as Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. The mighty antagonist, Moby Dick, is truly a beast of mythic qualities, enormous, ancient, intelligent. This gives Captain Ahab's obsessive pursuit a metaphorical dimension that contributes to its status as a classic. Certainly the detailed accounts not only of whales but of whaling are also integral to this as a significant work to history and natural history. The first third of the book is surprisingly comical which, perhaps, serves as a nice counter to the darker realities of the harsh and dangerous life of the whaler.
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on 4 November 2016
I only read Moby Dick as I'm trying to read the top 100 classics and from that point of view, I have mixed feelings on it. Firstly, I expected more of a story than an unofficial 19th century textbook on all things whale, whaling and whaling related; it's not too say it wasn't interesting but it got dull at times. I also found it hard to have any sympathy for Ahab and perhaps Melville didn't want you to but it was due to the fact that I'm reading it in 2016 at a time where whales are revered and conserved (for the most part) as magnificent specimens of nature. On the story side of things, I found it started out brilliantly, I found myself smiling and laughing to myself with Ishmael's introduction to Queequeg and I felt the rising mania of Ahab and Starbuck's unease but the culmination of the great chase fell a little flat and not as expertly detailed which meant my internal visualisation of what was happening felt wanting. That being said, I'm glad I've read it.
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on 22 April 2013
I still have a lovely though tattered hardback of this book with the marvellous Rockwell Kent Art Deco illustrations; but I was pleased recently to find that it was available (free!!!) on Kindle, so I now have that too.
Nearly everyone will know the story, either through movies of the book, or the very many stories, comics, films, etc., inspired by it - because it's simply one of the archetypal tales of all time. If you haven't read it yet, though, I'd recommend it; but only if you have the patience to gently absorb what is a sizeable, somewhat rambling book, covering a world of different subjects all wound into the central story. If you do, you'll find it a contemplative delight, beautifully written, interesting in so many ways; and with a strong, stark tale to tell that you'll never forget.
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on 16 June 2016
I am very glad that I have at last got round to reading this book.
It is very strange, both in its antiquated style & content. Things like its obsessive detail about whales & whaling will either draw the reader further & further into the story or put him/her off as will the references to classical legends. But there are so many brilliant dimensions, like the description of Captain Ahab's obsessive personality & of the sea in its different moods & the way the crew handles the whaling ship under sail.
The opening pages set the tone & probably give a good indication of whether the book will appeal or not. Do give it a go!
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on 13 March 2017
I gotta say, this was really one of the most interesting books I've read! Could hardly let it go. So much depth and variety to the adventures of our narrator. Only down-side I can think of is the fact that they use A LOT of terms from the whaling business of old (and old expressions/references in general), in which you'd have to check the glossary quite often. Some chapters are heavier than others, but if you can life with the constant interruption in your reading, then it would really be worth the try.
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VINE VOICEon 14 July 2012
is the very first sentence in this book and these few words always come to mind when anyone mentions this book.

The story is about a White Whale, a Whaling Ship called the Pequod and its Captain, Ahab. Ahab is convinced that the great white whale is the devil incarnate and it is this which drives him on to seek his nemesis and to attempt to kill it.

The merchantmen aboard the Pequod are only paid in the amount of whale oil that is recovered and then taken to shore for processing so when Ahab hears that the whale is going in another direction he orders that the Pequod will follow the whale until he has himself killed it. The men lose many chances to make money because of his obsession and some indeed begin to think that Ahab is mad..............he probably is quite mad by now but religious fervour drives him on until at last he is in sight of the whale which by now is scarred, stuck with old harpoons and rope and seems to Ahab to have an intelligence towards him. Disaster strikes...........anymore would be a huge spoiler to this now classic book.

It goes to show how one mans obsession can lead others to their doom.

I'd recommend this very highly.
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on 11 September 2014
Review courtesy of www.subtleillumination.com

In 1842, a young man would abandon the whaling ship he was working on to live among reputed cannibals and pursue love affairs with local girls. He would recount these events in bestselling books when he returned home, before destroying his career with a book that received almost universally scathing reviews: Moby-Dick, now listed among the Great American Novels, even called the best book ever written.

At its best, Moby-Dick is excellent: it’s moving, it’s insightful, and it very much captures the sense of the sacred, the spiritual relationship of crew to whale or man to obsession. It can also be fascinating in its detail: entire chapters are devoted to the anatomy of the whale, the symbolism of the colour white, or the role of the whale in art and history. Phrases like “Call me Ishmael” are some of the best known of any book, even among people who haven’t read the original source: it is but one of many unforgettable phrases. Though broadly pro-whaling, it also even has some sympathy with the whales, confronting the fact that the activity necessarily involves tormenting the animals.

For all that, let me confess I found it a little boring, philistine as that may make me. I’m not one to quail at historical detail given my passion for history, and those parts I enjoyed, but particularly the first half I found slow, long descriptive sections filling space between more interesting parts. The book has some great sections and some great lines, but I wouldn’t have minded were it considerably shorter. Still, as a reflection on the personality of man and the necessities of the energy industry, it has much to tell us today: the oil we burn, though not literally in lamps and candles, can still cost blood.
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on 26 January 2015
I suspect that a great many people are familiar with the general story of Moby Dick, but a lot fewer have read the book. That’s not surprising – it’s a substantial tome of some 550 pages and at times I questioned whether I had the staying power to make it through to the end. In style, it is a curious mixture, combining narrative, drama and technical discourses on a range of topics (including the design of whaling ships, the history of whaling, the manner in which a slaughtered whale is cut up etc). However, it is the narrative parts which are the best – in particular the opening and closing chapters. It’s an extraordinary book, and as a tale of obsession and monomania, it has few equals.
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