When Melville's father died in 1832, the young man's financial security went too. For a while he turned to school-mastering and clerking, but failed to make a sustainable income. In 1840 he signed up on the whaler, Acushnet, out of New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was just 21. A whaler's life turned out to be both arduous and dangerous, and in 1842, Melville deserted ship. Out of this experience and a wealth of printed sources, Melville crafted his masterpiece.
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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.
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.
I value intelligent stories with characters I can relate to. I can appreciate good prose, but a captivating plot is way more important.
I've been working my way through intimidating classics, and Moby-Dick was near the top of the list. I've heard that it was slow and boring. I was prepared for the worst, but I jumped in anyway.
I was immediately blown away by the prose. Wow, Herman Melville sure could put a sentence together. I mean, you instantly see why this is such a respected novel. And behind all the elegant phrasing, there is such wit!
I never knew Moby-Dick was supposed to be a funny book, but it is. And I'm just talking about the humor that has stood the test of time. I imagine there were plenty of jokes in here that I totally missed, given how subtle Melville's sense of humor could be.
Now, the key to listening to Moby-Dick is to forget about the plot. That's not what the book is about. The book is a collection of tangents about the sea and whales in general. If you're waiting for Ahab to battle his whale the whole time, you're going to be bored, and you're going to miss the best stuff. This is why I'm giving the story a 3/5 while I'm giving the book a 4/5. The book isn't about the plot. It's about everything else.
I'm not giving the story a full 5/5, because even while recognizing that it is brilliant, I have to say that it was still a lot more work to get through than other classics. I enjoyed the book in spite of its meandering, but I need more than pretty prose and wit to be happy. I do need a driving, progressing plot to keep me happy for 20+ hours.
Moby-Dick is irrefutably a masterpiece but the performance by Frank Muller truly captures the essence of every moment of the novel. Never before has the fluidity and rhythm of Melville
been so apparent to me than when I listened to this audiobook. It truly brings new life to a timeless classic. I couldn't recommend it highly enough to a first time reader or someone revisiting the book.
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.
Thoreau's 'Walden' and Ayn Rand's 25th anniversary introduction to 'The Fountainhead' summarize my library well.
Moby-Dick is in my Top 3 favorite Audible titles I own. Muller's narration is exquisite, and plays perfect complement to the wide variety of characters aboard the Pequod and scenes inland and at sea. Excellent production quality as well.
I see how many could tire of all the technical and cetological detail, but I loved it. Mind you: there was no YouTube, no Wikipedia, not even National Geographic in Melville's time. All anyone knew of whalers was what they saw in an inland mess hall: scruffy men quietly hunched over their food. Melville takes you into their minds and hearts of the seafaring life more than any modern media today can, with a writing style that bucked the trend in the 19th century. All without an editor telling him there weren't enough sex scenes or that no one has the patience for 135 chapters. A masterpiece, indeed.
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.
Everybody knows the story of Moby Dick so there is no point in trying to critique it. The narrator is Frank Muller and he is fantastic. I first heard Muller reading Sea Wolf available in Audible.com but unfortunately not the UK equivelant. Muller has the perfect voice for adventure yarns and his reading of Moby Dick is so well suited. I was saddened by his untimely death as I consider him one of the best audiobook narrators. It is he that makes this classic novel very much a classic audiobook.
Two things i've been doing for many years; listening to audiobooks and trying to read Moby Dick-normally getting about 3 pages in and giving up, and then telling people what a load of rubbish it is. Frank Muller is for me the king of narrators, and he deftly brings each of the characters in Melville's masterpiece to life,as a result i now consider Moby Dick to be the best book i've ever 'read', and by a nautical mile the best audiobook i've ever listened to. Essential.
"Great narration, but Melville needed an editor"
If you've already decided you're going to listen to this famous American novel, this is a great edition to pick: Frank Muller is an absolutely joy to listen to. His pitch and speed are very easy to listen to, and he handles the wide variety of characters, scenes and expositions expertly. Highly recommended.
On the other hand, if you're trying to make your mind up about the novel itself it's not so clear. While Moby Dick has a great central story, it's not nearly as long as its enormous length implies. This regular length story is padded with an enormous amount of detail. Most, but by no means all, of this detail is interesting, but having sections of encyclopaedia unapologetically crammed into various parts of the story is jarring. Melville could have done with a good editor, who would hopefully have forced him to weave the pertinent detail into the story and leave the rest out!
The other issue is the characters' use of language. The novel was published in 1851, so obviously you'd expect a certain amount of archaic language. However, I suspect that this dialogue would have been considered flowery and archaic even in 1851. Pompous, even.
I don't want to leave you with the impression that it's a bad book: it's not. I have enjoyed it, and its insight into whaling in the first half of the 19th century. However, despite its reputation, it's certainly not without some significant flaws.
"An amazing classic"
I came to listen to this book having seen the film and with some knowledge of the story. But the book has more in it than I could ever have imagined. It is truly a work of great fiction. The main story itself is only probably a tenth of the book. The other nine tenths contains tales and facts which will entertain, amaze, inform you and even make you smile. Reading the book would always be a daunting prospect but not so listening to it read by a master story teller, Frank Muller, it is sheer joy. I heard his voice in my head long after I stopped listening. I cannot recommend this audio too highly.
"This is the one"
Yes, its long, and sometimes you want to give up, but dont because duration is its theme and this is a novel you live with while reading and thereafter. And there are several audio versions, but Muller's the definitive one.
"The Reader makes it."
The depth of interpretation from Muller is magnificent.
I am British born Irish, maybe we hear differently ? I too tried to read this as a youngster, and gave up. This rescues the book for me and the relevance of all sections of the story are clear.
The story is a wonderful attempt at the Classical; Odysseus and all that.
But it is tied to one era and serves that well. It is educational from the need to take your harpoon to bed with you to the nature of ships' captains houses and of the chapels.
All Muller did was very, very good. This is the most demanding and the most successful.
I think not possible; it is too long. But in the sense that once in you do not want to let go - Yes.
Don't be dissuaded by the length of the book nor the departures into emotional description.
Evocative, crafted and clever. This book is a masterpiece of storytelling as carefully honed as a walnut skinned whaler's personal harpoon.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable classic. If you haven't listened to it yet, then do.
"Thank heavens for audio"
It is genuinely funny in places. It's interesting. It's atmospheric. At times it feels like you're travelling to distant parts of the globe. There are great characters. Melville varies the storytelling format.I can't say I loved every chapter, and there were occasions when I felt like screaming, "Enough already with the whale documentaries!" And just when you thought there was really nothing more to say about that particular species of fish (and yes, Ishmael insists whales *are* fish, several times) he comes out with something else to say about them. He tells us all about their heads, their noses (really!), their teeth (did you know they don't have fillings? thanks, Ish, I never would have guessed), their tongues, their tales and so on and so on and so on...As other reviewers have noted, only a fraction of the book is actual narrative. But when Melville is in storytelling mode, he's amazing!
A scene quite late on [so SPOILERS] when Ahab's obsession has got way out of hand. He's just pulled a gun on Starbuck, his first mate. Starbuck, knowing he can't impress Ahab himself, says, "Ahab, beware Ahab!" And Ahab responds as if he's received a deserved slap, and actually changes his behaviour. A little. For a while.
The simple matter is, I would never have persevered. I'd been meaning to read the book since around 1980 because Philip Jose Farmer had written a sequel to it, but was put off by its huge size (it's a whale of a book - ha ha, bet nobody else has ever made that joke!), its age, its subject matter (I was wearing a Save The Whale badge at the time) and the fact that I didn't read anything other than science fiction at the time.So, three and a half decades later I thought, hey, maybe I could listen to it instead!I've given Muller 5 stars because his reading is excellent. Not only does he do different voices for each character, he manages to convey a bantering double-act. ("I never drink--" "Water!") He never sounds bored, not even when he's got to the bit where Ishmael describes every last bone of a whale's skeleton. When Melville decides to write a chapter in the form of a play, Muller differentiates between dialogue and stage directions.Despite all this, I still recommend having a copy of the novel to hand and dipping into it from time to time, sometimes reading and listening at the same time.
Not exactly. Although there was a chapter title quite late on which gave me a jolt. It's a two-word title; the first word is "Queequeg's".
I am just so happy to have this monster of a classic under my belt. I expect I'll dip into the printed novel from time to time, and maybe listen to a dramatised or abridged version - one that doesn't have a chapter on the size of a blow-hole, or a chapter on things other than white whales that are white.
"Good book but too much detail"
This book is 136 chapters long and although the chapters are not long most are dedicated extreme detail which frankly is rather unnecessary. abridged version may be a better option. well read though
"A wonder of the watery and literary world"
Moby Dick, grippingly read in this version, is a true and unique classic. Yes, it is unorthodox in its construction, mixing together adventure and myth, an examination of the technique, history and sheer brutal power of the whaling life, symbol and reality - but that mixture is part of its uniqueness and power
Captian Ahab hunts the white whale which wounded or "dismasted" him halfway around the world. His hatred for the beast is so powerful that it stills any opposition to his quest and leads to ultimate destruction. Is this a prophecy? Man wounds nature until nature destroys man? You can read the whole book in so many ways.
I love the way small objects in the great whale hunt become ambiguous emblems. A tomahawk becomes a peace pipe; a coffin becomes a life-saver and so on.
It's a book like the sea itself. It has storms and squalls and beauty and ferocity and some doldrums and calms. But even when it is at its most wordy, you know that the whale will rise again from the depths to strongly tow the book and Ahab's ship along.
The narrator does a fine job. His voice is steady but dramatic and there are no slips or hesitations. A perfect reading.
It's tragic that after publishing this book in 1851, Herman Melville, harpooned by critics, sank more or less out of sight and the book was only "rediscovered" as a masterpiece around the 1920s.
If you haven't yet boarded The Pequod or encountered its crazed captain, this audible version of the book might start your voyage out in great style.
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