Jul 22, 10
Read from June 14 to July 22, 2010
The first time I picked up a copy of this book I was doing volunteer work at a tiny historical museum in Cape Cod, right down the street from where whaling captains once lived. It was a sunny day, which meant all of the tourists were anywhere but at a tiny museum, and I had nothing to do, so I picked up the only novel in the gift shop and read the first few chapters. At that point, I had heard nothing but negative things about the book, but being where I was with the sea breeze coming in a side door and ships within earshot, it was impossible not to be intrigued by Ishmael's opening chapters and made up my mind to one day read the whole thing, no matter how boring people said it was.
Now, a few years later, having finally read the book, I can say that this book is unlike any book I have ever read. It takes you on such a strange journey, from wanting to poke your eyes out rather than read anymore to not being able to put the book down. It is scientific, it is historical, it is funny, it is poetic, it is almost Shakespearean, it is an adventure story, it is a spiritual story--really it is everything in one book, and I feel there's so much more to it that would take multiple readings to begin to fully grasp (which I have no plans on doing). Ahab is everything I expected him to be and more. He is ready to strike down the sun if it gets in his way, yet he also has these moments of compassion. It's odd how he sort of puts a spell on you as the reader, just as he does with the characters. After reading hundreds of pages about every single aspect of whaling and alternating between being bored out of your mind and being amused and entertained by the odd characters, Moby Dick finally appears and you feel Ahab's excitement and yet you want Ahab to listen to Starbuck and turn back because you know it's not going to end well yet you feel connected with Ahab and want to see the whale and see the ship and the whale finally meet. And by the end I was no longer sure who I was rooting for: the whale or Ahab and his crew?
I give this book five stars more out of respect and awe for this epic piece of work rather than love for the book. I'm very glad I read it, for not only do I see how it influenced so many contemporary books and movies (especially Jaws), but also now see how it helped shape the Cape and the area where I've spent so much time.