Books like this make everything else look like practice. It's perfectly balanced between humor and horror, written in a simple style that you know too...moreBooks like this make everything else look like practice. It's perfectly balanced between humor and horror, written in a simple style that you know took years to get right. There's probably something in this book to hate, and probably a lot to hate in it if I were to dig deep enough (you can't write a word about World War II without getting some of it wrong), but I've got nothing but respect for Vonnegut right now, let me get bitter on my own time. More than anything else Vonnegut reminds me here of Bolaño, using deceptively simple sentences to try to write about something larger than himself, larger than the printed page can hold. Fun stuff!(less)
I got a kindle recently (go to hell!) and I downloaded a lot of public domain american lit I'd never read before but thought I should own. Lots of Mar...moreI got a kindle recently (go to hell!) and I downloaded a lot of public domain american lit I'd never read before but thought I should own. Lots of Mark Twain and Moby Dick. I never thought I would actually read the damn thing, but here I am a week later. I just flipped through the opening pages and before I knew it it was over.
Most of my enjoyment early on came from the voice of Ishmael, the narrator. I've never much liked Melville in the past--Bartleby the Scrivener was sort of fun, but I saw the plot twist in Benito Cereno coming a mile away, and unfortunately that's a story that's a twist and little else--but here was something different. Ishmael was a guy I could relate to. At first his language seems impenetrable. I jumped from paragraph to paragraph looking for bits I could understand before I realized that ten pages in he was still talking about how some people like the ocean. He hadn't introduced any other characters or locations yet, just his mind and his wants. Once I figured out the pacing of the novel Moby Dick became something I looked forward to reading, not a chore. I'd get on the train to work early before it left the station so I could have more time to read.
At the beginning I wanted to say that Moby Dick isn't a long story, it's just a story that takes place over a long time, but by the end I realized I was being a big old jerk. There's nothing holding this book back from being an epic because that's exactly what it is. It's a long story told slowly, and you know it's a good one when you catch yourself walking down the sidewalk and thinking, "Man, how many whales are there in the ocean, anyway...?"
Everyone knows the broad strokes--dude goes to see, prophet tells him not to go, crazy captain, whale kills everyone, dude lives--so those were the parts of the book I enjoyed the least. When I finished reading last night it felt like a marathon to get to that famous line--"From Hell's heart I stab at thee!"--but somehow the scenes where Moby Dick showed up were among the ones I enjoyed the least. I loved (most of) the old descriptions of whaling and the heavy layers of symbolism that hang over just about everything that happens. Their compass gets struck by lightning and starts pointing backwards! Legless Ahab meets a British captain who lost an arm to Moby Dick and doesn't desire revenge! A white man clinging to a dead black man's empty coffin for survival--there's no way I can pack the whole of reading this book into this review. I'm hungry and I'm going to go make dinner. If I had a hundred days with no meals or distractions, though, I still couldn't say everything I liked about this book. Dinner's my excuse--on the level of analyzing serious literature, I am a coward, and I'm going to go eat a grilled cheese sandwich now.(less)