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Why Read Moby-Dick? Paperback – September 24, 2013
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“Gracefully written [with an] infectious enthusiasm…”—New York Times Book Review
“Brilliant and provocative…”—The New Yorker
“[A] slim, passionate manifesto…”—Chicago Tribune
“A slim, easy-to-read argument on why you should definitely put [Moby-Dick] on your bucket list.”—History Wire
“WHY READ MOBY-DICK? reels in a compelling case… short, lucid, intelligent… Philbrick’s more like a literary color analyst, helping readers see the novel better while also creating a sense of excitement about it.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“This slender volume is packed with reasons why you might want to read the whaling classic.”
“This slender, pleasant, sincere book by the maritime historian and naval enthusiast is more than a respectable tribute unencumbered by academic prose. Approaching Moby-Dick from outside the academy is refreshing, and Philbrick’s enthusiasm is contagious….So put me down for a reading of Moby-Dick in 2012, and count Philbrick’s book a success.”—The New Republic
“Philbrick does the literary world great service by bringing Moby-Dick back into popular attention and also by his skill in keeping American history fresh and alive.”—Aspen Daily News
“Sure to swell the readership of Melville’s masterpiece.”—Booklist (Starred review)
“In this cogent and passionate polemic for Melville’s masterpiece, Philbrick… combines a critical eye and a reader’s adoration to make a case for Moby-Dick… Less lit-crit and more readers’ guide, this tome will remind fans why they loved the book in the first place, and whet the appetites of trepid potential readers.”—Publishers Weekly
“A slim celebration of the elements of a literary masterpiece…Philbrick is an enthusiastic salesman for a sometimes daunting novel.”—Kirkus
“So you liked Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea, which re-created the wreck of the whaleship Essex, inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick? Then you’ll love Philbrick’s new book… From a wonderful and knowing writer.”—Library Journalt
About the Author
Nathaniel Philbrick is the author of In the Heart of the Sea, winner of the National Book Award; Mayflower, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Bunker Hill, winner of the New England Book Award; Sea of Glory; The Last Stand; Why Read Moby Dick?; and Away Off Shore. He lives in Nantucket. His new book Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution, will be published in May 2016.
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His essays are not earth shattering revelations, but they will imbue you with a desire to dig deeper, reread, check out some commentaries, and enjoy the work a little more than viewing it as a chore.
While the list price is somewhat ridiculous for a collection of essays, the prices you can get for it used/discounted here help a great deal. Don't get me wrong, it's a great series of essays (though nothing truly shocking), but I wouldn't spend 30 dollars for the hardback. I won't review on the price--the content is quite good.
Philbrick gives us an entry into Moby Dick that is personal and easily accessible, and so does Melville's book a great service. All too often, Moby Dick is read at too young an age*, an age where the wry, often sardonic and subtle humor is ill-appreciated and the references are difficult and obscure, and this has given the book a bad rap - a rap as a difficult, daunting work, one a reader must steel themselves for and endure. In reality, for those who enjoy the humor, and who have enough reading behind them so that a not-too-subtle dig at the philosopher Locke, mentioning him by name, or a joke about Jonah or Job, can bring a chuckle, this is a most readable and enjoyable book, and Philbrick gets that across. He demystifies the book.
Philbrick also gives you some tools to make the read easier. By pointing out some elements of Melville's humor, which is sometimes so dry you only spot it if you're looking for it, and some of Melville's approaches to writing and characterization, he sets up an easier reading of the book. He gives you tools to climb that mountain (and, again, the mountain really isn't as tall as it looks).
Philbrick's reading of the book will not be everyone's reading. Philbrick, like DH Lawrence before him, reads Moby Dick as deeply intertwined with the pre-Civil War American experience and particularly with slavery; I've never quite bought that reading, but am happy to acknowledge it is both an interesting reading and a supportable one, one worthy of more discussion. Philbrick is so open and easy going and approachable about his reading that this book almost feels like a start of that discussion. Reading Philbrick, I almost feel that he's pulled up a chair and some grog by me in a Nantucket Inn and we are off reading the great Moby together, and that is comforting. He's a good soul, a sailor himself, and a boon companion like Ishmael.
Thank you, Mr. Philbrick. On first hearing of your book, I was ready to dismiss it. Luckily, I picked it up, read it, and am now deep into my next read of Moby Dick and appreciating the companionship. You have done your job quite well.
* Harold Bloom says he first read it at age 9 and still sees Ahab as a hero - a reading I can only attribute to a too-early reading with limited comprehension having too lasting an influence.
Actually, I would prefer that you read Charles Olson's _Call Me Ishmael_, an amazingly intelligent and personal exploration of MD by a gifted writer.
Do it. dk
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Essex whaling ship which was destroyed by a whale.Read more