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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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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 16 December 2014
I tried, I really did. I got to chapter 12 and they were only just getting on the bloody boat. You need the patience of a saint to stick with this and read it properly. For example, one passage relaying a church sermon went on for about 10 pages - basically meaning you were taken through the whole sermon in real time. I gave up quarter way through and read the synopsis on Wikipedia instead. Turns out it's a good story...

On the plus side, what I did read was very different from the norm, with hyper-detailed descriptions of everything and a dark, moody air about it. Given it can be downloaded for free it's worth a go, but I doubt I am the first person to fail getting to the end.
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on 12 November 2013
If only the writer shared the focus Moby Dick's most famout character; Captain Ahab. My most vivid memory of Moby Dick is seeing Sir Patrick Stewart absolutely nail the role of Captain Ahab, so I was really looking forward to reading the source material.

However, I was disappointed. It often strays into encyclopedic descriptions of things (mainly whales). So I often found myself losing track of the main narrative. This made it difficult to engage (Patrick Stewart pun intended) and when that happens with literature, it's pretty much game over for me.

If I were to re-print this, I would have the encyclopedic descriptions as Appendices. So they don't derail the story and people can look them up if they choose.
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on 2 May 2012
I've awarded `Moby Dick' by Herman Melville (1851) only four stars because of the explosive nature of his style. Like the overwhelming sea washing over the decks of `The Pequod' Melville's language batters the reader. Some of it is invigorating, as in the sermon of Father Mapple on Jonah (Chapter 9) which so sets up what later happens:' Terrors upon terrors run shouting through his soul. In all his cringing attitudes, the God-fugitive is now too plainly known. The sailors mark him; more and more certain grow their suspicions of him. ` (P. 30/375). At other times the novel is highly informative (such as Chapter 32: `Cetology' which would tell you all you've wanted to know about whales).
Sometimes the language intrigues (e.g. Chapter 41 on Ahab's madness):' All that most maddens and torments; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab were visibly personified, and made assailable in Moby Dick' (P. 121/375)
Even so, the language can sometimes simply drown the reader (e.g. Chapter 42: `The Whiteness of the Whale') and I found myself reduced to skimming passages merely to carry on:
What is especially brilliant is Melville's description of characters. When Ishmael first sees Queequeg, the cannibal harpooner he notes ' his face was covered with squares and his body `were checkered with the same squares; he seemed to have been in a Thirty Years War, and just escaped from it with a sticking-plaster shirt. Still more his legs were marked, as if a parcel of dark green frogs were running up the trunks of young palms'(Page 15/375). For a weird incident I would refer the reader to Chapter 110 entitled `Queequeg in His Coffin'. The first mate is described as `His pure tight skin was an excellent fit; and closely wrapped up in it, and embalmed with inner health and strength, like a revivified Egyptian, this Starbuck seemed prepared to endure for long ages to come, and to endure always, as now; for be it Polar snow or torrid sun, like a patent chronometer, his interior vitality was warranted to do well in all climates.' (P. 74/375). Starbuck constantly questions Ahab, sinking into insanity, but cannot bring himself to disobey authority. Stubb, the Second Mate, was `a happy-go-lucky; neither craven nor valiant; taking perils as they came with an indifferent air; and while engaged in the most imminent crisis of the chase, toiling away, calm and collected as a journeyman joiner engaged for the year.' (P. 76/375) Even Ahab refers to him as mechanical.
Another highlight of the novel is the series of thrilling accounts of certain events - such as `The Pequod' out-pacing `Jungfrau' in the destruction of a whale (Chapter 81); the frustration of hunting failure surrounding by an armada of whales (chapter 88); the tussle between the `Samuel Enderby' and Moby Dick with its aftermath; and, of course, the final climax.
Melville also extensively describes the habits and lives of whales, although he insists: `there is no earthly way of finding out precisely what the wha;e really loookks like. And the only way .... you can derive even a tolerable idea.... is by going a whaling yourself; but by so doing you run no small risk of being ternally stove and sunk by him.' (P. 177/375). However, in chapters 74 -77 he fully describes the head of the whale' and later on other parts of that creature's anatomy. Melville describes in detail the hunting, killing, dismembering (usually fighting off the rival efforts of sharks) and the disposal of the carcass. Underlying all is a respect for this leviathhan which can burst out almost into song: `Oh, man, admire and model thyself after the whale! Do thou, too, remain warm among ice. Do thou, too, liv in this world without being of it.' (P. 204/375).
Throughout the book Melville demonstrates a respect for whalemen and perhaps an even greater respect for whales! In one matter he appears to be wrong; he scoffs at the idea of the whale species being wiped out. But then he could not dream of the `progress' made in the slaughter of animals and humans achieved in the last hundred years.
The story is quite simple as told by `Ishmael' and is almost a distraction form the exploration of the world of whaling in the mid- 19th century. Captain Ahab was maimed by a sperm whale nicknamed .Moby Dick'. He persuades his crew to track down and kill the huge beast. What happens I'll leave the reader to find out but it's NOT a happy ending. Perhaps the theme of the book is summed up by Ahab, styling himself `Fate's lieutenant' that `we are turned round and round in this world, like yonder windlass, and Fate is the handspike.'
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on 2 December 2016
Awesome stuff. 132 chapters slowly building up to the final encounter with the whale, followed by 3 fabulous climatic chapters. A few Victorian novels seem to really want to educate you on their subject matter. This is the best I've read in that regard. I feel I could equip a 19th century whaling ship myself. Some great characters. You've got to love Queequeg. And some great scenes. When Ahab (With one leg lost to Moby Dick) meets another caption who had lost his arm in a similar fashion is brilliant. It's a long read. But do worth it.
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on 7 December 2014
This book is epic. Just by its size, it will be left alone by the Twitter generation, who don't have the attention span for such works of literature. But still, it may be understandable in Moby Dick's case. The book is so detailed, I often thought I was listening to a David Attenborough encyclopedia about whales, and not a literary masterpiece by Herman Melville (the audiobook's narrator is quite energetic, despite what he is reading is often far from exciting). While I can appreciate this novel, it has sadly not become one of my favorites.
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on 31 July 2017
Inexplicably, extraordinarily great novel. Despite its ramblings and its long seeming irrelevances and detours, you have to read it slowly, and thoroughly, at its own pace, in order to have your life somehow changed by it. Don't buy edited versions, and don't give up!
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on 7 March 2016
I first read Moby Dick well over half a century ago. I must admit that had it not then been for Gregory Peck's film portrayal of Ahab, I would then have found it a tedious read. But I was hooked.
When I saw Moby Dick available as a free book on Kindle, I couldn't resist revisiting it, maybe more from nostalgia than anything else. Then I was hooked again and could not put it down. This time, the tedium that stemmed from a child's blissful ignorance of allegory, had turned into real enjoyment.
If you read this book as a child, and have not read it since, I urge you to read it again as an adult. If you have not read it before, whatever your age, give it a try, then read it again. It presses so many buttons, even in the 21st Century, that I'm sure you will not regret revisiting it.
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