J Frederick's Reviews > Moby-Dick

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
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Jan 13, 14

Read in March, 2009

This book is outrageous in every way and if engaged will find some way to endear itself to the most stubborn of readers. To this reader, the book embodied everything I believe a novel can and should do, and makes it easy to give a straightforward answer to the question, "What is your favorite novel?" If this was represented to you as a rather dry 'American classic' or as exceedingly difficult or excessively meandering, I hope you find like I did that none of these things are true. This is an experimental and yet compulsively readable novel. In fact, it is one of the few (in fact I can't think of another) books I have ever read with modular chapters, very short modular chapters that make you want to devour section after section.

The first fourth of the book is comedic and inviting to the reader, mostly detailing the blossoming friendship between Ishmael (the narrator) and the islander Queequeg. The middle sections of the book can be meandering and ponderous to readers not enraptured by Melville's style and musings, but I found every chapter completely perfect. Those who are complaining about the 'informational' sections of the novel on Goodreads are neglecting to mention that these sections are in Ishmael's narrative voice and thus are not at all dry, but lofty and powerful. These sections (and the whole book really) seek to explore the limitations of human knowledge and understanding, as Ishmael seeks to understand the whale through various methods, all of which he feels fail in some manner. The last fifth? of the book is likely what the average American would understand to be the plot of the novel: the 'monomaniacal' Ahab takes center stage and seeks not so much to understand the world as Ishmael does, but to bend it to his own will.

If you haven't read this yet, read this next.
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Reading Progress

03/09 page 119
05/02 marked as: to-read
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Stephen P A well-stated case for the grandest of all novels.

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