@50 – Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Two things depress me about the above tweets. It has taken me almost 3 weeks to read 1/3 of Moby Dick and I still don’t get it.

I am trying very, very hard to enjoy this book. Mark says it isn’t about whales, okay. I soldier on and try to suss out the symbolism buried in the purple prose. I am rewarded! The story moves forward, Ishmael meets Quequeq, they sign on the Peequod, meet the crew, set off on the voyage and finally meet Ahab. He is everything I hoped for! YES!  The story moving now!

*insert screeching brakes and squealing tires*

Here, Melville inserts an extensive chapter detailing every type of whale known to 1850 man, followed by a chapter about mastheads. I think. Honestly, for the last 2 hours of listening, my mind has wandered because it is the most tedious, boring shit I have ever read. My interest is piqued when whalers from different ports have little asides, until I realize that Melville is going to give an aside to every sailor from every possible port. I wish I could tell you what they were talking about. I cannot. My mind wandered. I was slightly interested in the accents the narrator was able to pull off, but it was fleeting.

I have no idea why Melville did this. In fact, I have no idea why he has inserted any information that isn’t essential to the story. It goes against absolutely every thing I have been taught about writing. If this book isn’t about whales there is no effing need for an entire chapter about every whale known to 1850 man. I understand that books were a form of entertainment and information in a world devoid of television, movies and the internet and, as such, the should allow leeway for detail and style. But, Melville takes this to the extreme with, in my opinion, no purpose. All I can think when my mind wanders is, “Dude, Melville needs an editor.”

If I were reading this book instead of listening to it I would have given up by now. There are too many books in the world that would be much more enjoyable to read/listen to. The great thing about all the useless information I have slogged through, none of which I have retained, is that there is very little I need to remember in order to pick the audiobook back up. Ahab is the captain of a whaling ship and is focused on killing the white whale that took his leg, Moby Dick. That’s it. In almost 8 hours of listening time and 1/3 of the book, that is all that has happened. Just try to imagine reading a modern book like that. That’s right, you wouldn’t because I imagine very few editors would get past the first chapter that talks solely about water.

Other Thoughts:

  • It would be a great experiment to submit the first three chapters of Moby Dick to modern-day editors like a Jane Austen fan did a few years ago. It would be a more difficult experiment because the plot of Moby Dick is more unique (Captain hunts for a whale that took his leg) than an Austen plot which could easily be mistaken for any of a hundred romances.
  • Jillian @ A Room of One’s Own suggested I read Why Read Moby Dick by Nathaniel Philbrick. Not sure I will, but I appreciate the suggestion.

2 thoughts on “@50 – Moby Dick by Herman Melville

  1. Pingback: Moby Dick, Part 1 « Xingu, Volume 2

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