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Moby Dick; Or The Whale Paperback – June 2, 2013
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In this production of Herman Melville's tale of a tragic whale hunt, narrator Anthony Heald not only creates vivid characterizations--Captain Ahab's gruff mania, Starbuck's doubtful sensitivity, the prophet Elijah's visionary shakiness--he also dramatizes the many moods of the Pequod crew and the mercurial ocean itself. Heald's voice has the range of a piano, and he uses it like a virtuoso. In one minute his reading can move from slow and languid, reflecting a dreamy day at sea, to alert and brisk, evoking the suspense of a whale sighting. Heald's voice bristles dryly with humor or sinks with dread--a range necessary to tell this complex story of a man's obsession with conquering an enigmatic white whale. --AudioFile
About the Author
Geraldine McCaughrean is one of the most distinguished living children's authors. She has won the Carnegie Medal, the Whitbread Children's Novel Award (twice), and the Guardian Children's Fiction Award.
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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.
Melville's masterpiece, according to Philbrick, contains within its pages "nothing less than the genetic code of America." Because of this, the book becomes "newly important " as each new American crisis occurs. The "genetic code" in Moby Dick contains lessons in tolerance between cultures, compartmentalization of worldly and spiritual concerns, the labor theory of value, the impact of a harrowing occupations on the worker, perils of charismatic leadership, and the need for government to prevent angels from becoming sharks.
Philbrick is most effective in introducing the reader to the first anti-hero - Captain Ahab- and his fight to create meaning in a universe which can be seen as a vast practical joke on man. Nathaniel Hawthorne's emotional inspiration on Melville helped transform a more straightforward whaling story into a dive into the darkness. The white whale becomes a mask obscuring the "outrageous strength" and "inscrutable malice" of a hostile universe. Moby-Dick is nothing less than "evil personified and made practically assailable." Whether the whale is agent of darkness or its principal is unimportant, Ahab must strike a blow for man against him. The captain's metaphysical quest transforms him to obsessed and elemental hero: "They think me mad...but I am demoniac. I am madness maddened."
In a concise text that can be consumed in an evening, Philbrick may have achieved his goal of recruiting more readers to Moby-Dick. If so, this is an important accomplishment. He suggests that it is unnecessary to read the entire book if the alternative is to ignore it altogether because of its imposing length or its prolix manner. "The important thing is to spend some time with the novel. Even a sentence, a mere phrase will do." The rewards, as described by Philbrick, can be considerable.
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