Thursday, March 15, 2012

moby dick


Oh Moby Dick.

I'll say this first: I'm glad I read it-- I had to, of course. It was for a class-- but still, I'm glad I read it because I'm glad to add any classic book to my list of "books read." Reading it in class and with a teacher who clearly thinks a lot of Melville, I probably enjoyed it more than I would have on my own, but still it was hell.

It begins like a sort of adventure story, like what I was expecting. Ishmael and his new friend Queequeg meet and seek out a whale ship for work. They come upon the Pequod and despite warnings that the captain is crazy, they join the crew. A few weeks pass before the strange, reclusive Captain Ahab reveals the true purpose of their journey: to find and kill Moby Dick, the white whale that bit off his leg years before and, to put it simply, made him go crazy. The novel changes dramatically after that. Ishmael and Queequeg rarely come up. The sea-faring, adventure novel becomes a slow, laborious piece of work. Half of the chapters are just about cetology (the study of whales) and the other half are incredibly boring. We're just waiting for Moby Dick to show up so Ahab can have his big chance at revenge.

It's not a bad idea for a story and some of the writing is really good, but the book suffered from a serious lack of editing. If this book showed up at a publishing house today, the editors would rip it to shreds and piece it back together again with major deletions and additions. The chapters about cutting whale blubber, the kinds of whales, what a whale looks like, the whale's penis (no joke) should be greatly shrunk and integrated into the action of the plot. Ishmael needs to have a larger part in the middle/end of the novel. Queequeg, too.

I'm just happy to be done with it, honestly. I couldn't take another chapter on how to thin sperm . . . or what a whale's head looks like . . . or how a whale's foreskin can be used as a sort of rain-jacket . . .

Oh Moby Dick. Oh Melville.


TITLE: Moby Dick
AUTHOR: Herman Melville
PUBLICATION DATE: 14 November 1851
VERDICT: 1/5 stars.

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