I've been trying to read Moby Dick for years. I would read a few chapters and then drag off and not be able to finish. This reader changed my whole experience with the book. Moby Dick is, of course, a wonderful book, but the reader added a whole new dimension. He brought the characters to life, which gave me a whole new perspective on their personalities (especially Ishmael). This perspective made the plot, subtext and interplay of the book so much more lively and exciting. Even the "boring" parts involving "all you need to know about whaling." Thank you thank you thank you so much, dear reader. You have a great talent!
I love this book but have found most of the unabridged audiobooks of Moby Dick difficult to listen to. This is a long book with parts that are not exactly high drama - so Hootkins' "overacting" is really good at pulling us through those long arcs. It is certainly the best Moby Dick audiobook out there. I would go out on a limb and say it's actually one of the best audiobooks I've ever heard (my Audible library has over 300 books). I wish each every audiobook was this good.
The reading of this book is a performance! I've began looking up book specifically read by William Hootkins. The store is rambling and fragmented at times, you sense Melville has a destination but is in no hurry to get there. His side bar chapters of sailor stories and whale descriptions were like commercials for products I didn't want to buy. But it was all part of the lush tapestry he was weaving so I didn't mind. Overall I loved it! I'd give it a 10>
Since joining Audible a year ago I have chewed through the classics and contemporaries like a wood chipper.
That being said, I say this:
Moby Dick is not just a great book, it is the best book I have EVER read.
None too familiar with it before tackling the read, I'd always for some reason thought it would be stuffy, dusty, old world reading. Nay, my friend. It was saucy, salty, and American.
The subject matter is absolutely riveting to the imagination. The deep inner thoughts of the characters are poetic and stirring. The manic, unresting, hungry intelligence of Ishmael illuminates a world I'd have never known existed, the intimate inner workings of an industry, and the beauty of the experiences had by men who might be dismissed as uneducated and rough. The stories are so spectacular, so grippingly entertaining, I'd often stop what I was doing while listening, hands stilled in their motions, and half smiling and wide eyed, waiting to hear what came next. And sometimes all I could say was, "No, freaking, way."
Treat yourself to Moby Dick.
Obviously Moby Dick is one of the classics, but William Hootkins brings it to life in the most extraordinary manner. I've heard a few different narrators do bits Moby Dick but Hootkins is monster. His range of voices is stunning and he manages to sustain it over 20 hours.
This is the first time I've heard William Hootkins narrate anything, but I would take a punt on almost any book that had him as a narrator.
I think that some miss the point of this book--I don't think it's about Ahab and the white whale. Rather, it's about Ishmael's obsession with whales in general. If you look at it that way, then you won't be looking for the book to get on with the Ahab story. It's also really, really funny at times. The narration is excellent, fabulous, splendid, and other superlatives. He brings out the humor in the book that one would likely miss in reading due to the differences in language style. I'm glad I listened, but by the end I was definitely ready to move on to something else. There are a couple of short chapters that seem out of place and could be removed in an abridgment, but I'm afraid that most of what would get abridged would focus the book on Ahab and the whale, and I really don't think that's the point of the story--just the backdrop for Ishmael's obsession.
Wow! Has to be the greatest American novel ever written; and Melville couldn't have done it without Hootkins. Funny, philosophical, so much deeper than I ever imagined; and most of it I would have missed if I had read it myself. Thank you Mr. Hootkins!