Moby Dick


It’s over! It’s finally bloody over!

As many of you who have been reading my posts will know, I make a reading list at the start of each year. On this I try to include a few classics, books tat I think I should have read but haven’t gotten round to. This year books like Rebecca and Dante’s Inferno were added as well as (ugh) Moby Dick. This true American classic is hailed the world over as being a must read. A gripping tale of high seas adventure and the quest for vengeance against a terrifying monster. what we’re not told is that there’s 500 pages and only about 200 of them are actually relevant, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

For those of you who have been living under a rock for your entire lives I’ll very quickly sum up the book. Ishmael needs money and decides to join up as an able seaman on a whaling vessel. On his way there he meets Queequeg, a savage, and they strike up an unlikely friendship before deciding to sign up to the same whaling ship. That Ship is captained by one legged Ahab who is looking to go out and hunt the white whale that stole his leg on their last voyage.

The premise for this book is great but the delivery is awful. The main story of Ahab’s monomaniacal quest to hunt down Moby Dick could be told in 200 pages and it would be amazing. Instead we are treated to a book over 500 pages long that made me want to tear out my hair in frustration. The cause of my anguish was that the writing is fantastic. Seriously, this is a beautifully written book and Melville’s characters are really believable. You will generally want to know what happens to them.

Unfortunately you have to wait to find out what happens.this is due to 300 pages of utter nonsense that Melville uses to clutter up the book. Unless you have spent your entire life sea or you have an unhealthy obsession about the anatomy of a whale, then the overload of information contained in these pages is ridiculous. Towards the end of the book when we are getting close to the final showdown, Melville decides to give us 5 chapters on the whale and it’s body parts. there’s a whole chapter on the tail! or we get treated to 5 chapters on the different depictions of whales in the art world, with a special section reserved for wall hangings and door knockers. Due to this it’s almost 100 pages before we actually meet Ahab in the book and the white whale himself is only around for the last 40 pages.

Finally we have to consider the end. Don’t worry I’m not about to tell you what happens at the end of the book. Then again, neither does Melville! the end is so horrifically abrupt that had I not been on the tube, this book would have been thrown at something. The end can’t even be described as ambiguous or a classic cliffhanger. This isn’t the Italian Job and Queequeg hasn’t got an idea. We know what happens to some of the characters and we think we know what happens to others. But there’s no definite answer. there’s no way of telling who actually survives the final battle and as there’s no epilogue  or final pages you don’t even know if the survivors ever made it home.

Who should read this book? anyone who want’s to be driven insane probably. That’s unfair of me. Lovers of the English Language should definitely read this as it has been beautifully written. History buffs and Naval fans will probably find this quite interesting.However, if you are fond of a straight line narrative with not too many deviations, I would stay very very far away from this one. There’s much literature out there and it annoys me how long I took out of my reading time to  go through this on. Oh well, onward and upwards.





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