Kate's Reviews > Moby-Dick

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
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Oct 20, 11

Read from February 21 to September 01, 2011

I first read Moby Dick four or five years ago, basically because I felt that if a book is referred to as potentially The Great American Novel, it's probably my duty as an American to give it a go. I got through it. I didn't really understand it, but I got through it, and it was a good enough story, so I gave it three stars.

Still, years later I was bothered by the feeling that I must have missed an awful lot, just plowing headlong through it like I did. I got a Kindle for Christmas and decided that since I could download it for free (like most books in the public domain) I might as well stick it on there and have the option to give it another go. I decided to just take my time with it, reading slowly, and re-reading pages if necessary. It took me months of picking it up and putting it down again.

But the thing is, this time, I kind of got obsessed. Even if I picked up another book, somewhere the White Whale was lurking in the back of my mind. Ishmael is someone I'd like to befriend - he's kind-hearted, grandiose, wryly hysterical, openly weird and in love with the world and his fellow man. Ahab is the worst boss anyone could imagine, Starbuck is stoic and admirable, Stubb is the sort of guy I'd like to go drinking with, and Queequeg is a the world's most lovable cannibal.

I think this time around it clicked more that this book isn't one thing; it's everything. It's huge and of biblical proportion, pontificating on life and death and good and evil, but then veers into seemingly trite and small factoids about the way harpoons are forged and the bone structure of whales. I think the more you try to wrangle Moby Dick into a box, the less enjoyable it will be.

Even though I probably enjoyed it about 4-stars with, I'm giving it 5, because I think this is the kind of book I'll revisit many more times and get more out of it with each read.
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Quotes Kate Liked

Herman Melville
“Squeeze! Squeeze! Squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me, and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-labourers' hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally, as much as to say,—Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill humour or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.”
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

Herman Melville
“Well, then, however the old sea-captains may order me about--however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way--either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other's shoulder-blades, and be content.”
Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Herman Melville
“We felt very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out of doors; indeed out of bed-clothes too, seeing that there was no fire in the room. The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.”
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

Herman Melville
“All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life. And if you be a philosopher, though seated in the whale-boat, you would not at heart feel one whit more of terror, than though seated before your evening fire with a poker, and not a harpoon, by your side.”
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale


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