Dominic's Reviews > Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville
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May 09, 11

bookshelves: classic-literature
Read from April 17 to May 05, 2011

I never thought I would care so much about whales, but Moby-Dick totally entranced me. And while it isn't a perfect book, it is the sort of book I wanted to immediately start over at page one. And for me, that is a sign of a great book, of a timeless classic.

Moby-Dick is an unusual book, and I had no idea. It could be one of the first "multigenre novels," for it is a weird blend of narrative, philosophy, reflection, manual, script, and encyclopedic entry. The novel begins heavy on narrative (and it is an engrossing beginning), but once Ishmael heads out on the Pequod with his fellow crew-members, the book oscillates between many different points of view. Ishmael is observer, researcher, diarist, artist, and omniscient one. The book is also decidedly modern to 21st century eyes, and I can almost see the thread tying Hawthorne to Melville to Faulkner.

Moby-Dick is both biblical and pagan in nature. It is epic, anthemic and spiritually celebratory. Ishmael is both in almost worshipful awe of whales and dedicated to validate them. Their majesty, their power, their beauty...Ishmael's description leaves the reader not only seeing the awesome immensity of nature but also the awesome immensity of human existence. The great whale Moby-Dick ends up being, like the monomaniac captain of the Pequod (Captain Ahab)--and humankind itself--both God and Demon. The climactic meeting of man and warm-blooded fish is one of epic proportions, and it is infinitely relatable, the perfect blend of blunt realism and shocking allegory.

There were several passages that took my bloody breath away. I had no idea this would happen, as well. Melville's sentences are rhythmic and poetic; he is now my go-to author for how alliteration can elevate one's prose. At times I felt I was reading Byron or Wordsworth. While there were moments in the second half of the book when I wanted more narrative and less description of how whaling boats function, there were also many, many more moments, like when Ishmael details how to behead a whale or when Ahab realizes his monomania just before Moby-Dick appears in the book's shining chapter, "The Symphony," when I was surprisingly, utterly fixed in the moment. Like I said, who knew I would care so much about whales? Who knew I would miss the book so much when it was done?

I loved this book. I had no idea.
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Reading Progress

04/19/2011 page 175
28.0% "Engrossing...and surprisingly poetic. So far I love it!" 1 comment
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Demisty Bellinger What you say about Moby Dick being a multigenre piece is spot on. Great review of a wonderful book. I was always afraid to read it because it's one of those books that people frighten you about. But I found it to be humorous and harrowing.


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