- Series: Macmillan Collector's Library (Book 62)
- Hardcover: 768 pages
- Publisher: Macmillan Collector's Library; Reissue edition (November 1, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1509826645
- ISBN-13: 978-1509826643
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.3 x 6.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2,226 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Moby-Dick (Macmillan Collector's Library) Hardcover – November 1, 2016
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About the Author
Herman Melville was born in 1819 in New York City. Both his grandfathers were Revolutionary War heroes but his father, a merchant, died bankrupt in 1833. Melville left school and worked at various jobs before shipping on the whaler Achshnet in 1841. The next year he deserted, travelled the South Seas and joined the US Navy. After three years he retired, settled in Massachusetts and started to write. His first two novels, Typee (1846) andOmoo (1847), were fictionalized accounts of his travels: they remained his most popular works during his lifetime. In 1847 Melville married and wrote a series of novels he considered potboilers for money. With Moby-Dick (1851) he changed course, partly under the influence of Nathaniel Hawthorne; but the novel's extravagant intensity lost him readers. Pierre (1852) fared no better, and after publishing one more novel Melville took a job as a customs inspector in the New York City harbour and turned to writing poetry. He died there in 1891; an unfinished novel, Billy Budd, Sailor, was published in 1924.
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Capacious. That is the word that repeats again and again in my head. Moby-Dick is a vibrantly colored hot air balloon that keeps growing in size as I read it. First, Melville's subject is the sperm whale, the largest creature on earth. But we don't just learn about the sperm whale but about all whales. Then we learn about whaling and its nobility. Here is where it gets very interesting. We participate in whaling, its skill, equipment, courage, risks and economy AND about how it results in the gruesome destruction of the whale. We feel the horror inflicted on the whales and we feel the nobility of the activity that slaughters them. Melville doesn't allow us to avert our eyes either to the daring of whaling or to the viciousness of the slaughter. That is where the book inflates even more because he holds both perspectives equally which is a much larger place than if he had taken sides.
The book also foreshadows modernism by using a variety of narrative techniques; theater, pure narration, encyclopedic explanations and subjective interior monologues. Melville is constantly breaking up the narrative with omniscient recitations of fascinating information about his subject matter. And like Ulysses or the Waste Land, he piles on the reference to Shakespeare, the Greeks, Christianity and the Hebrew traditions.
There are many references with regard to Ahab and the Whale regarding evil and Satan. Yet Ahab has great respect and reverence for Moby Dick. Ahab himself knows he is obsessed and but can have great compassion like his feelings for the lowly addled Pip. So yes there is evil afoot in the book but it isn't the kind that that creates simple polar opposites. As Ahab describes Moby-Dick (has) `an inscrutable malice sinewing through it' that describe the book as well. There is evil and there is also goodness that coexists in the book making the reader feel that he has to take sides. If the reader resists this temptation he or she will experience the awe of a deep and ever expanding mystery.
So why four stars and not five? The final chapter of this wonderful book seemed vague and the concluding paragraphs felt like a contradiction to every valid point in the previous pages. It is almost as though the editor said to Philbrick: "Geez, you can't end the book on such a dark note. Put in a rainbow, or something." Melville was a complex, needy and troubled person, as this book recognizes. He was probably bipolar (although the word is never mentioned), and certainly had a strong streak of depression in his personality and life experiences. That Melville somehow clung to youthful dreams through the end of his life is just a little too improbable. That a scrap of paper found by Melville's family after his death is the evidence of such hope is very weak evidence indeed. That he managed to live out his life in obscurity after failing to achieve family harmony, financial success or artistic recognition does not suggest hope as much as resignation. Philbrick is certainly entitled to this opinion, although for me, as a reader of this tiny gem of a book, it seemed a falsified conclusion, unworthy of all of the sensitive and almost poetic content in the rest of the book.
When it says "performed by Frank Muller" they aren't kidding. He doesn't just narrate, he does the voices of each character and he makes it all sound so interesting. Frank Muller is a true talent at audio books.
As for the story, it is a classic with surprisingly humorous parts. Slogging though the book would've been a chore for me and I'm glad I found a way to experience the story of Moby Dick that I find thoroughly enjoyable. I highly recommend this audio book.