Most helpful positive review
59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
A bizarre book, but with such wonderful language and imagery
on November 15, 2011
To say that Moby Dick is long, rambling, and weird, would be to understate the case. Many - perhaps most - of its 135 chapters are entirely extraneous to the plot. There are long unnecessary discourses on obscure whaling practices. Minor characters are introduced at length...and then promptly forgotten. Even the main character - the narrator - fades into obscurity as the book shifts from a first-person narrative to a more omniscient perspective. Apparently, more than one contemporary reviewer of Melville thought that the author had literally gone insane while writing the book...and perhaps he did.
But it's all really wonderful! Here's what I like about it: Often-brilliant prose with beautiful words, amazing extended metaphors, and vivid imagery. That's it in a nutshell. Even chapters that have nothing to do with the plot are fun to read when they're written well.
We live in a modern society that is often depressingly impatient. I think it's too bad that modern readers want their books to get started, move quickly, get to the point, and be done with it already! It's weird, isn't it? We read books because we (hopefully) want to read them; they provide an interesting diversion. Why, then, are we impatient for them to be over? Why not enjoy each chapter of Moby Dick for its own sake? Weird, rambling, but brilliant, they are enjoyable, if you suspend the need for instant gratification. I think it helps that I have a two hour commute in the car every day, and listened to this as an audiobook.
Oh, one other interesting side-note: The book has remarkable thoughts / insights / scientific questions about whales. One fascinating thing to think about is the visual system of whales. Whales have two eyes on either side of their enormous, massive heads. There's no way they can see directly in front of themselves... which means that means they almost definitely perceive two entirely-distinct visual fields. How are those disparate visual signals combined in the brain? How does a whale process spatial information? What a remarkable question Herman Melville posed in the 1850s!