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Moby-Dick | [Herman Melville]

Moby-Dick

Labeled variously a realistic story of whaling, a romance of unusual adventure and eccentric characters, a symbolic allegory, and a drama of heroic conflict, Moby Dick is first and foremost a great story. It has both the humor and poignancy of a simple sea ballad, as well as the depth and universality of a grand odyssey.
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Publisher's Summary

Its famous opening line, "Call me Ishmael," dramatic in its stark simplicity, begins an epic that is widely regarded as the greatest novel ever written by an American. Labeled variously a realistic story of whaling, a romance of unusual adventure and eccentric characters, a symbolic allegory, and a drama of heroic conflict, Moby Dick is first and foremost a great story. It has both the humor and poignancy of a simple sea ballad, as well as the depth and universality of a grand odyssey.

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.

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  •  
    Ethosian Earthquake Zone, California 05-19-13
    Ethosian Earthquake Zone, California 05-19-13 Member Since 2013

    You never have to wait for anything if you bring a good book.

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    "Elements of greatness smothered w/ too much detail"


    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amanda Arlington, TX United States 04-03-13
    Amanda Arlington, TX United States 04-03-13 Member Since 2014
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    "OMG! - A 30 minute story told in 21 hours."
    Would you try another book from Herman Melville and/or Frank Muller?

    NO, I will not ever read anything from Melville again, Frank Muller on the otherhand is great.


    Has Moby-Dick turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No


    Have you listened to any of Frank Muller’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Yes, he is always wonderful.


    What character would you cut from Moby-Dick?

    Everyone exept Ahab and the Whale.


    Any additional comments?

    Dont waste three days of your life you will not ever get back.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rick Kintigh Chicago, IL USA 10-08-14
    Rick Kintigh Chicago, IL USA 10-08-14 Member Since 2013
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    "more than a simple revenge story"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 09-08-14 Member Since 2014

    I value intelligent stories with characters I can relate to. I can appreciate good prose, but a captivating plot is way more important.

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    "Surprisingly funny"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim United States 02-14-14
    Tim United States 02-14-14 Member Since 2011

    Putting books on the back burner.

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    "Superb Reading"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew MURFREESBORO, TENNESSEE, United States 10-09-13
    Andrew MURFREESBORO, TENNESSEE, United States 10-09-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Tremendously Eloquent"

    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!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vira Pretoria, South Africa 08-28-13
    Vira Pretoria, South Africa 08-28-13 Member Since 2015
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    "A classic but hardly enjoyable"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ANDREW 07-04-13
    ANDREW 07-04-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Why is this book considered a classic?"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    The author should have focused on character development and dialogue appropriate for the characters.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Herman Melville again?

    No.


    What about Frank Muller’s performance did you like?

    Frank Muller did a good job with the material he had. He was consistent and clear with each character, so I was never confused as to which character was speaking.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    I was bored most of the time.


    Any additional comments?

    The author spent so much time describing whaling as an industry that I thought the book was commissioned by a whaling association or the Chamber of Commerce of Nantucket. The majority of the book is about whaling and whales, leaving a minority of the book about the actual story and the characters. The character development is shallow.

    The author, like Shakespeare, has a tremendous optimism about the articulation and eloquence of people from all walks of life, no matter the lack of education. Not only did this detract from good character development, but it bordered on the absurd when a ship's officer is trying to motivate the oarsmen during a whale hunt with a long, steady stream of similes and metaphors. It reminded me of a role playing game where super heroes and arch villains are encouraged to deliver paragraphs worth of taunting lines between blows in a furious fight.

    If, like me, you are listening to classics to fill holes in your education, either skip this book or listen to an abridged version. Most of "Moby Dick" should be extracted and printed as a new "Dummies" book on whaling.

    I am now more desperate than ever for George R. R. Martin to finish the next book in the series "Song of Ice and Fire".

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Littman OH 11-29-12
    D. Littman OH 11-29-12 Member Since 2014

    history buff

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    "A great way to take in a tough book to read"
    Where does Moby-Dick rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of the top fiction works I've listened-to on Audible over the years.


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    What about Frank Muller’s performance did you like?

    Very well read. Did not dip into artificial accents to depict the different characters. Something I have found annoying in other books.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    This had already been a film, more than one. But no film could possibly do justice to this powerful & lengthy story.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maynard Moravian falls, NC, United States 08-22-12
    Maynard Moravian falls, NC, United States 08-22-12 Member Since 2011

    Scientist, artisan, anachronism

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    "i'm a lover"

    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)

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • C. Wright
    Glasgow
    2/3/09
    Overall
    "A Classic"

    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.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Matthew
    United Kingdom
    9/4/12
    Overall
    "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.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Richard
    NEWCASTLE UPON TYNEUnited Kingdom
    8/23/10
    Overall
    "Essential listening"

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Peter
    Gt Yarmouth, United Kingdom
    11/24/11
    Overall
    "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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • hfffoman
    Kent
    11/24/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Intelligent but ultimately too boring"
    Would you try another book written by Herman Melville or narrated by Frank Muller?

    Melville, no, Muller yes


    Any additional comments?

    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)

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • James
    Chester, United Kingdom
    11/2/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. J. Mccarthy
    Ascot or Limerick
    9/17/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The Reader makes it."
    Would you listen to Moby Dick again? Why?

    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.


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    Have you listened to any of Frank Muller’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    All Muller did was very, very good. This is the most demanding and the most successful.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I think not possible; it is too long. But in the sense that once in you do not want to let go - Yes.


    Any additional comments?

    Don't be dissuaded by the length of the book nor the departures into emotional description.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Matthew
    Chesterfield, United Kingdom
    12/25/12
    Overall
    "Moby Dick"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    Manchester, United Kingdom
    3/18/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • janien
    hampshire, UK
    8/17/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Full of fascinating facts about whaling."
    Would you consider the audio edition of Moby Dick to be better than the print version?

    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.


    Have you listened to any of Frank Muller’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    A good performance, I had no difficulties listening to the reader.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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