Moby Dick, or The Whale – Herman Mieville

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Published: 18 October 1851
Publisher: Richard Bentley
Pages: 707
Series: N/A
Forma Read: Audible/ Read along

Blurp:

On a previous voyage, a mysterious white whale had ripped off the leg of a sea captain named Ahab. Now the crew of the Pequod, on a pursuit that features constant adventure and horrendous mishaps, must follow the mad Ahab into the abyss to satisfy his unslakeable thirst for vengeance. Narrated by the cunningly observant crew member Ishmael, Moby-Dick is the tale of the hunt for the elusive, omnipotent, and ultimately mystifying white whale—Moby Dick.

On its surface, Moby-Dick is a vivid documentary of life aboard a nineteenth-century whaler, a virtual encyclopaedia of whales and whaling, replete with facts, legends, and trivia that Melville had gleaned from personal experience and scores of sources. But as the quest for the whale becomes increasingly perilous, the tale works on allegorical levels, likening the whale to human greed, moral consequence, good, evil, and life itself. Who is good? The great white whale who, like Nature, asks nothing but to be left in peace? Or the bold Ahab who, like scientists, explorers, and philosophers, fearlessly probes the mysteries of the universe? Who is evil? The ferocious, man-killing sea monster? Or the revenge-obsessed madman who ignores his own better nature in his quest to kill the beast?

Scorned by critics upon its publication, Moby-Dick was publicly derided during its author’s lifetime. Yet Melville’s masterpiece has outlived its initial misunderstanding to become an American classic of unquestionably epic proportions.

Thoughts:

salty

Well cover me in Salt and sea spray and Call me Salty!

While Dave has been of slow cooking his review for this bad ass Maritime novel with trying to insert as many Dick jokes as possible, I thought I would delete it all and take over for a bit seeing as Dave is a bit under the weather and preoccupied with other things like being addicted to his “tv games” and having a weak immune system. I, Salty McDave, dear reader will take you on a little ride through my experience with this amazing novel. “But Salty, don’t you normally just go off on bad books”? Nooooooo my friends! old Salts has some class too you know, unlike Dave and his love for anything hammer-or whatever related. Old Salts is actually old enough to remember when this novel came out, you see I practically made this novel a reality just by pushing young Melville onto a whaling ship back in the day. There were no Dick jokes then, just pure old, “see ya in a few months Hermsy”! Practical jokes like that. I am also old enough to know that even though Melville never saw a lot of success for his work, that got unfairly treated by lesser, better than you know it alls, I was luckily around to wax lyrical to the likes of old Edgar Poe, that ended up being so fed up with my lyrics that he wrote The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket many years after Hermsy’s sad passing. I am even here today, dear reader to wax lyrical for you to try give you that extra kick and try get through this one. Ready?

Pick up this book mate yahr!
It is so good matey
No? well come here so Salts can kick your aaaahrse!
Not a good enough reason, no?
Well let’s just take this little stubby harpoon and we make ye deflatey!
Yo ho ho

Sing with me: yo ho ho!

Oh man, woman, or whatever you identify as, if that does not get you to pick up this book, there is no hope that you will ever be educated enough about whales. You see Moby Dick was not just, funnily enough now I think about it, book about a Sperm Whale that some mad captain had a hate, hate relationship with, no, it was also first-person account of how things actually went down. Yes, there were very elaborate descriptions on things, but just remember, in that time we did not have Google or Siri or Alexa that just had info already crammed into them readily available. Melville already started the framework for Wiki way back then, just look up a whale on wiki and you will see they copy pasted most of Melville’s observations on there! The man was a genius.

Even though the story of Ahab vs the Whale is quite a quick one, Melville wanted to take his readers on a journey. We see most of it described through the deckhand Ishmail. He starts his journey quite broke and looking for lodgings, getting shacked up with a “cannibal”, with whom he had to share a bed with for the night made for quite a funny opening for such a dark tale that had to follow still. There was the sermon that was all whaler related with the preacher incorporating Jonah into his morning routine and here it does have to be said that if you do manage to get this on audible, I highly recommend you listen to the William Hootkins version, the guy put on a stellar performance, nearly as verbatim as the Sermon both Melville and I went to, the day I pushed him onto that whaling ship. Nelville did the time period this was set in perfect justice. He also went beyond what even I thought he could. At times he would bore you with intricate details of how they harvested sperm from the whales and the processes it went through to make jewellery, the tail span of each kind of whale out there, the life on board such a whaling ship. Where he was also really good at was giving Ishmail a very large vocabulary, that man could talk the head of off an amoeba and go on tangents that seemed like he was having some fever dream, but for me it all meshed well. Each time I give this a read I just wish I could still have Hermsy around, maybe push him onto a spaceship just to see if Ismail would meet his Ahab there too.

Talking about Ahab, the man was utter bonkers, yet a firm captain. He probably does not seem scary in today’s terms, but I think Melville framed him on his personal experience with his own captain, I think I still recall the guy telling he wet himself on that first day, I still giggle about it sometimes. Maybe I should do something like that to Dave some time! I am sad to say that things do not work out too well for the crew of the Pequod. Its only by the end of the book that we find out the person at the start, telling us all this is the same Ishmail that lived through the ordeal of hunting Moby Dick with Ahab. It is only then we find out how Ishmail’s vocabulary is so astounding. He has been telling this story for nearly 200 years! Of course he would pick up a few fancy words here and there to awe us with.

Along Ahab, Ismail and Moby there is also a vast number of other crew members, but to go into them all would mean I am going to have to channel my own inner Ishmail, let us just say they all got the page time they needed and shined with every letter breathed into them. One was the mean tough guy, the other an overcautious man with the right amount of concern for everyone’s wellbeing. The harpooneers were also great to read about. Even though this was written so long-ago Melville treated people of different races with respect, even Ishmail with his prejudices towards the cannibal at the start of the book ends up becoming best of friends with him. The culture clashes on land quickly gets sorted out, as at sea, “we are literally all in the same boat”.

Moby Dick, or The Whale scored full marks on my roster. If these few passages have still not convinced you too at least give Moby another try, I do not know if anything will. Yes, it can be a slog, but in this day and age there are other people that can read it for you. You can take any naysayers’ word on it; it has a right to be called a Maritime classic, not just because it is so old, but because it does have its merits. It has its faults but taking a step back and seeing when this was written and what this world is evolving into, it just makes me wish for simpler times again.

Thank you if you made it this far.  As a bonus for you I thought I’d include one dick joke, with a picture of Dave next to one of a sperm whale. I don’t know what the joke was going to be, but seeing as we’ve been talking about whales and dicks, I thought it a good two for one deal ha! I am sure Dave won’t mind as I am sure he has been saving this picture for his own review, read mine instead folks! If you are interested and ever thought of going to Iceland and do not know what to do with your extra time, make like Dave and visit the world-famous World of Dicks museum!

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Salty out!

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11 thoughts on “Moby Dick, or The Whale – Herman Mieville

  1. Hahahahaa, good old Salty, bringing the pain to Dave!

    But no. I’ll not read this book after my first attempt. Not unless I can get a hold of one of those kids “Illustrated Classics” versions where every other page is a picture. That’s more my style for something like this…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There aint no pain like emotional pain haha, im not a guy to kick a man when he is down, but when Dave is down, he is eye level with me if you know what i mean🤣.

      As for not reading this and the way you described the way you would like to read this, does sound like a great idea. In my case i only had to go with the cover for for this one.

      Salty out-

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I vividly remember reading this book. I was living in the Philippines for half a year, doing research on the Philippine crocodile, and I lived in a guest house of a local university. In the guesthouse was a small bookshelf with a couple of books, including Moby Dick. In the evenings, after my work, I would be in the house while all around me was the dark forests, and thunder and lightning would arrive every evening and we had to put up candles because the light would go out with the thunder. It was swelteringly hot. And in the candlelight with thunder outside I would read Moby Dick. Loved it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Huzzah for Salty!
    I still have Moby Dick to read through, my first attempt ended before it really started when I had to return the book to the library after a 100 or so pages 😉 But I will persevere, and I will read it in its entirety – one day!

    Liked by 1 person

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