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.
©1987 Recorded Books, LLC.; (P)1987 Recorded Books, LLC.
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.
and now I love the story even more. There are more expensive versions but I liked this one the best. It did take forever to listen to but I came to appreciate more and more of the subtleties of the story. If I were assigned this in school I would get this audiobook for the work which would keep me awake far longer than the book. I found Frank Muller's voice excellent.
Moby Dick: An overly exhaustive exploration of 19th century whaling with an interesting short story about a man and a white whale presented serialized within a mass of unnecessary words of cetacean proportions. Saved only by the many double entendres around the word sperm.
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.
Rye-and-Indian, baked daily.
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.
"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.
"Dissertation and Melodrama... Both Great"
Moby Dick is amazing in many ways. More than half the chapters form an extended dissertation on the whale (leviathan) that covers a great sweep of literary and historical references. The other part - intertwined with the dissertation - is a bold and strangely told story of the obsessed Captain Ahab and the White Whale, a story most of us know in outline from the cinema if we have not read the book. Yet the unconventional telling is a bonus: characters talking aloud to themselves to advance the story, elements such as the mad boy Pip that seem to come straight from Shakespeare, and the rather gothic line-up of omens and portents, give a genuinely disturbing tenor to the story.
The prose rises to brilliance at times and there is great humour in the narrator's way with words. Not an easy read but one that rewards persistence and also illustrates why Moby Dick occupies the place it does in the Canon.
"Wish I had read an abridged version"
Moby Dick was a struggle. The actual story and plot, when it was progressed was good. The story telling and language was good, even great at times. But for huge stretches nothing moved forward, just encyclopedic detail about whaling, and I found myself drifting in and out on a regular basis. Had Hemingway written this it would have been 200 pages and perfect.
On the plus side though, far better to listen than read, as Frank Muller's narration is fantastic as always.
"Full of fascinating facts about whaling."
I would imagine the audible version is easier to digest. There are lengthy description of the whaling industry. This was obviously factual and interspersed with the story. Perhaps easier to follow in this format.
A good performance, I had no difficulties listening to the reader.
Included on the 1001 books to read before you die list. I loved it and particularly the unusual format of fiction interspersed with fact. It's worth background reading about melville's life first; seemingly as adventurous as the novel! That prior research facilitated the whole experience, he speaks from first hand experience of much detailed. One of my favourite classics read.
"Intelligent but ultimately too boring"
Melville, no, Muller yes
Anyone venturing on the unabridged version of Moby Dick must know they are in for a difficult voyage. I was surprised how erudite and intelligent the writing was and for a while I enjoyed it, partly thanks to the skillful and gritty narrator. Unfortunately it was ultimately just too dull and after 8 hours I decided there were better things to listen to.
Less than half of the book is actual narrative. The rest is like a series of essays on whaling. That in itself is ok, the trouble is that some of the essays are utterly tedious, for example, the section summarising the scientific knowledge of whales in the early 19th century. It is presented as an extract from an encyclopedia and it sounds unfortunately genuine. I don't want to read a 19th century encyclopedia for entertainment, especially when it goes on for half an hour listing mind-numbing trivia. The essay on the specialness of the colour white lasts even longer and was, for me, the final straw. If you do take this book, you might like to skip ahead when you reach those points. (One of them I remember was around chapter 42)
"Tends toward the florid"
This book may have been better in the abridged format, I have found it over descriptive and kept loosing interest before the real action started. The narrator has a nice voice but tends to the over dramatic even when there is no drama going on. I think it is worth persisting with though as it is an epic tale and one of those books everyone has heard of but few have read.
"head team through"
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