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Beth Meacham, David Brin

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale - Herman Melville, Andrew Delbanco, Tom Quirk
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."
Oops! wrong book! I'm going to leave it there just to be contrary, besides "Call me Ishmael." just doesn't really do it for me, sorry Mr. Melville, you should have named him Slartibartfast.

Moby - "don't forget the hyphen!" - Dick is a notoriously "difficult" read, normally I am too lazy to make the effort but something about this book intrigued me. Why is an old book about a whale a classic literature? Is this a thrilling high seas adventure, the [b:Jaws|126232|Jaws|Peter Benchley|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327958767s/126232.jpg|2318370] of the 19th century? Initially, I was surprised how easy the book is to read, unfortunately I was lulled into a false sense of security by the deceptively easy to read first dozen or so chapters. I was charmed by the beautiful prose, the easy-going narrative style and the wonderful characterization of Ishmael and Queequeg. What a great duo they are! Two very dissimilar people from vastly different backgrounds develop a friendship that overcome all cultural or language barriers. Without all that whaling shenanigans, this would have been a great buddy road trip style adventure. Herman Melville, however, was more ambitious than that, soon after the ship Pequod set sail the real epic story starts.

Unfortunately, the Pequod sailed one way and my attention often sailed in the opposite direction!

This book is possibly the granddaddy of infodumps, I read (not learned) more about whales and whaling in the 19th century than I bargained for. The full title of the book is "Moby-Dick; or, The Whale", for me it is more like "Moby-Dick; or, TMI.", or "Moby-Dick; Whale-porn". I was "reading" the book on audio and I am ashamed to say I dozed through many parts of it, I did some rewinding, but I estimate that at least 25% of the book slipped by me entirely. I think if I want to confidently claim to have read Moby-Dick for the sake of bragging rights I would have to read the print version over a few months, only a couple of chapters or so a day. In all fairness, the numerous expositions about whales and whaling are not all unbearably tedious, the tone in which the author narrated these parts is usually informal and quite accessible. The difficulty lies in the sheer volume of expositions, in spite of the friendly tone the narrative just rambles on and on while the plot grinds to a halt and my mind wandered off never to return.

So my apologies to the readers of this review expecting some mention of the symbolism, the themes etc. I may be able to come up with something after a reread but at present I have zilch to offer in that department. I am not even sure about the reread at this point. I imagine if the first person narrative was written from the titular Moby Dick's perspective he would probably think something like "What is this Ahab guy's problem?" I mean there he was swimming around minding his own business suddenly this old bugger made a bee-line for him in his boat and tried to end his life for commercial or bragging purposes, so he chomped one of the guy's legs off to teach him a lesson and also as a tasty, healthy, low-calorie, preservative-free snack. Seems fair. Then this guy swears vengeance and becomes all monomaniacal about it. WTF?

I wish I could shoehorn in the phrase "a whale of a time" somewhere in this review because I seldom have occasions to employ this favorite cliché. Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the book is closer to a trout-like dimensions so I will have to save this phrase for some other fishy novels.

Here's a nice little fan art for you:

Art by Kate Beaton