I got this audiobook because I felt I should read Moby Dick. It’s a classic, well-written with loads of symbolism. But its not a book to enjoy, I don’t think. There are sections which are interesting, and others which are endlessly didactic, and I felt trapped as an unwilling student who’s entered the wrong class and may not leave. Albeit that the lecturer is brilliant with an excellent presentation.
I abhor whaling, since as a child I was taken to a whaling station on a school trip. The blood and gore, shock and tragedy have remained with me the rest of my life. Modern extermination of whales and other sea life is even worse. It hurts to hear how these beautiful creatures are killed.
I feel ashamed at what we humans do. Imagine taking a substance from a magnificent animal’s brain, one we cannot as yet decipher but suspect it has to do with audio waves and echos, and then selling it for candle oil!?!*? Unthinkable. But sadly true.
Nevertheless, the personalities, characters and overall descriptions are a study in themselves, and the narration by Frank Muller is a joy to hear. I grew to appreciate his reading of this book. At the start I was under the impression that he hated it, and wanted to get it over with as fast as possible. Later, I realised he’s the perfect narrator.
In rating this classic, I’m considering its value as a literary gem, not my personal level of enjoyment.
You never have to wait for anything if you bring a good book.
It is interesting that Melville was not appreciated in his day - I'll bet his reputation was resurrected by academics who need suitable material for torturing students in American literature classes.
On the positive side, I love that Ishmael is a voice for cultural and racial acceptance and I even appreciate the seaman's-eye-view of life on a 19th century whaling ship.
I found the ad nauseum descriptions and dated lessons in marine biology more than a little tedious. The language Melville uses is interesting and challenging, but the real issue is his lack of self-restraint in the various tangents he takes.
You can't just say my reaction is the result of a modern attention span, because they didn't much appreciate it in his own time either.
Frank Muller, may he rest in peace, could make the phone book entertaining if he read it aloud. This book is no different in that it's outstandingly read. However, the plot is very very slow. The language is artful and the themes are interestingly explored. The world of the 18th/19th century shipping culture is vividly presented, but if you're not a fan of a literary genre that prizes style of presentation over brisk plot movement and character development, you may not enjoy this book very much.
For example, at one point Melville goes on for over an hour about the color white. The prose of this section is arful, and that can be enjoyable if you like that sort of thing, but not otherwise. It took me a while of starts and stops to finish this one, but I'm glad to have Muller's work, even if the writing was not my cup of tea.
Most versions of Moby Dick begin with an etymology and extracts on whaling. I think it properly sets the tone for the book. I was greatly disappointed to discover that this version does not include this important section at the opening. I read on wikipedia that it was mysteriously moved to the end of the third volume in some editions, so perhaps it's included there. I also double-checked my print version, the Wordsworth American version, which does include they etymology and extracts at the start. I have also noticed that this reading is several hours shorter than most readings. I only hope that more is not taken out. I will continue to listen and provide further information if necessary.
(There were different English and American versions, but the English versions are supposedly longer.)
I must admit that I found Melville's leviathan of a masterpiece to be almost as much a trial as it is a triumph; the "documentary" material on whales and whaling is just vastly out of proportion to what is necessary to tell the story or add vividness and color. Frank Muller's narration, however, never flags in those qualities: vividness, color, urgency, and eloquence are its essence. I've never heard better narration of a classic.
Moby Dick is a many faceted novel. It has long sections which serve solely to educate the reader about the taxonomy and anatomy of whales and reads like a naturalist’s field book for an audience which would have no other means to visualize these enormous creatures. There are historical and economic essays on the role of whaling in society. Essays on vessels, equipment and crew with long passages about the life and duties of the whaler. Exacting strategies of landing a whale and method of processing its bulk, along with yields, storage and maintenance. But intertwined with all of the exposition, Herman Melville has incorporated a philosophical, introspective, adventure story with some surprising social commentary for a book published in 1851.
In the tenth chapter we have the marriage of Queequeg and Ishmael, both male characters. Some passages are merely suggestive, such as their union in the Innkeepers wedding bed, and some of the more genial bed play. Some are more overt.
“He seemed to take to me quite as naturally and unbiddenly as I to him; and when our smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were married…”
After which Queequeg divides his belongings and gives half to Ishmael. And again,
"How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts’ honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg – a cosy, loving pair."
Melville also interjects some surprisingly subversive religious opinions. When trying to convince the Quaker owners of the Pequod to allow Queequeg on board, Ishmael argues:
"I mean, sir, the same ancient Catholic Church to which you and I, and Captain Peleg there, and Queequeg here, and all of us, and every mother's son and soul of us belong; the great and everlasting First Congregation of this whole worshipping world; we all belong to that; only some of us cherish some queer crotchets no ways touching the grand belief; in THAT we all join hands."
Or this curious portion of their wedding where Ishmael considers his participation in idol worship.
“I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible Presbyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator in worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I… to do the will of God--THAT is worship. And what is the will of God?--to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me--THAT is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator. So I kindled the shavings; helped prop up the innocent little idol; offered him burnt biscuit with Queequeg; salamed before him twice or thrice; kissed his nose; and that done, we undressed and went to bed, at peace with our own consciences and all the world”.
Finally, and perhaps my favorite rumination concludes several reflections on man’s violence to one another.
"Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began. Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?"
Herman Melville’s work is full of complex and beautiful prose, and so much more than the simply revenge story I assumed it to be. Moby Dick is an accurate depiction of the knowledge of the natural sciences - and a window into social and religious consciousness of the 1850s.
I don't write book reports.
I'm not into classic movies and I don't like watching black and white shows and if its not in high definition, I have a hard time tuning in. When it comes to literature, there are some books that are truly timeless. Who would had thought that I would read "Moby-Dick." I really thought that it was some overgrown fish causing pirates on boats boosting their egos, trying to catch it.
Besides the whale, its kind of funny. Herman Melville had a subtle sense of humor that I really enjoyed. It's hard to explain to someone that hasn't read the book yet, but his humor in his characters shows in his work.
Anything performed by the late Frank Muller is a pleasure to listen to. As an avid audiobook listener, I first got introduced to the audio format by listening to Mr. Muller. In my ears, there is no one better than Frank. His narration was superb in anything that he read. It's very hard to replace his unique voice that others doesn't have.
Unlike television and film, I really enjoy reading books that were published way before my time.
I never would have imagined that the adventures of a group of whalers could be so eloquently relayed to a reader, but here's the book that does just that! Herman Melville's expression of even the simplest ideas are given with such incredible phrases that one has to sometimes rewind the narrative (I did, at least) in order to be sure they actually heard what their ears reported. His eloquent use of alliteration was of such spectacular skill that several scenes stood steadily in sight, stuff that easily brings a smile to to a serene listener's face.
We immediately are encountered by social dilemmas of racism and conflicting religious beliefs when Ishmael meets Queequeg for the first time. Fear is the first thing that Ishmael expresses, though he and Queequeg quickly become friends before they even head out on their voyage. On the ship, the existence of good and evil, even of a reigning deity, are examined as we hear of the history and beliefs of other shipmates. All in all, it's a diligent group of men who are either running from their lives on land or searching for something better than the lands from whence they came, even if it's something as simple as adventure.
Mr Frank Muller is an excellent narrator of the book and, though his accents for various characters are very subtle, they're still enough of a change to inform the listener that a new character is speaking, or that Ishmael's commentary has begun again. At times the narrative was so exciting and high-paced that I couldn't have understood what was being said without following along in my book, but, aside from that small glitch, the performance was fantastic. Mr Muller did a great job in delivering sometimes complicated phrases from an amazing author. Very well done, sir!
One of the top fiction works I've listened-to on Audible over the years.
Melville & Muller bring you through the exciting parts of the plot, and the intermingled encyclopedic parts about sailing, whaling & whales, without a hitch. When reading the book it is just far too easy to skip the encyclopedic parts even though the are a necessary part of the narrative fabric.
Very well read. Did not dip into artificial accents to depict the different characters. Something I have found annoying in other books.
This had already been a film, more than one. But no film could possibly do justice to this powerful & lengthy story.
Scientist, artisan, anachronism
Moby Dick: “they” say that you either love it or hate it. I love it. …. The foreboding sermon, the poetic prose, the facts and the lessons of the old whaling game.
I believe the ppl that hate the book have two reasons to: the lengthy factual descriptions of the ships, the whales and the job… the other is the graphic nature of some of the descriptions and the overall job (the stripping of the whale blubber for exmple). The loveable side of the book is the passionate heart of the characters, the detailed explanations of their convictions, - hansom or hideous, and such detailed depiction of the scenes and story that it takes you to the time and the place.
So the book is both beautifully written and passionately told but also occasionaly dry and perhaps to some overly factual. So we get the love or hate it response from those that read it. I like the historical side and the detailed information. There many lessons of the trade and the ship and the job and a lot to learn from the book. and there are vivid and passionate characters living in a fantastic and powerful story. There are many a lesson on the nature of the soul of men from all kinds of trade and temper.
What convinced me to “read” it, aside from the fact that it is one f the most heralded books of all time, is that I learned the story is based on several true experiences of both the author and some other ships of the trade in the time of the book. the author was employed on a whaling ship. He lived the life and learned the trade. He hear the stories. He traveled the world and he was tried by the times. He took all of this and made from it one of the greatest works of fiction human history has ever known.
So if you have an analytical mind and like to learn the scientific side of the story’s content AND you have a taste for deeply developed characters with complex natures and powerful emotions then this is for you. If you are not both then you may be able to live your life without the lengthy sailors yarn.
FAV quote: “better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian”
BTW- the movie version with Patrick Stewart is a wonderful rendition of the story. the actor playing Queequeg is just outstanding. His portray of the character was a perfect visual for me during the reading of this book (I saw the movie first, it put a face to each character)