(P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"The greatest of American novels." (Atlantic Monthly)
"[A]n intense, superbly authentic narrative. Its theme and central figure are reminiscent of Job in his search for justice and of Oedipus in his search for truth."(Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature)
This is not a book that can be appreciated with just one listen. Because it is a Classic it must be read again and savored. The characters are described with great depth and even humorous as we all are in some way. The story is interesting as it gives insight into 19th century life on the coast and at sea. It's truly amazing how whales were classified with so much detail and accuracy. Last but not least is the moral that you draw from having heard this masterpiece. The narrator is not too distracting but fair so I only give it 4 stars.
I can't believe I waited so long to listen to this American classic. It paints a full picture of the time period, the whaling industry and it's motivations. It's a great audible.com experience.
Have you decided to buy an unabridged version of Moby Dick, but are not sure which narrator to choose? This review is for you.
When I bought Anthony Heald's version of Moby Dick in early 2010, it seemed like the best unabridged version available: the reviews were strong and the sample of Heald's reading seemed imaginative and engaging.
But the reality was that I could not listen past the first few hours, though I tried on many occasions to keep going. The problem? Heald over-acts, and I find it really hard to sympathize with his interpretation of Ishmael's narrative voice. If the Ishmael in your head is crafty, cunning, is always on the verge of running his hands together slyly, and sounds a bit like a closet-case, then you won't mind Heald's reading. But for me, it's way overdone. The sample's breathy emphasis on the word "MAGIC" will give you a hint of what is to come even in far more pedestrian moments that don't merit this kind of tone.
I've decided to download the newest version (March 2010) read by Norman Dietz. Will let you all know how that one compares.
If you intend to listen to this entire book in order to follow Ahab's famous struggle against evil, you will be surprised at how little of it there actually is. Across 24 hours of listening, I finally gave up waiting for the whale to resurface, and found myself enjoying the detailed descriptions of the mid-19th century whaling industry and sailing vessels. Melville left nothing out of his descriptions of all things salty. If it's Ahab v. Whale you want, then I highly recommend the abridged version, because there is actually very little of it in this full length book. Melville's vocabulary and use of the English language is amazing...people just don't write like this anymore - which may be a good thing for book sales today. But just think, if you listen through the entire 425+ pages, you will be one of the few living people who actually "read" the entire book, and you'll be able to correct pseudo-intellectuals who dare to bring up the subject at cocktail parties.
Samurai films are my favorite genre pictures. Mainly what attracts me to them isn't so much that I love Japanese history or ever wanted to be a samurai, it's that I love how a good, proper samurai film teases out the action until the finale. Samurai films are about patience; the slow burn. Shots might linger on the rain, or cherry blossoms, or footprints in the snow, or the sounds of cicadas in the summer heat but the 'action' isn't until after two hours of build up.
For me anticipation is what I love, perhaps more than the resolution itself. I love waiting for something to happen but I never really was that excited for the thing itself. I suppose I just like having something to look forward to. Expectation and imagination is, typically, far more interesting than reality.
A samurai would spend his entire life training for battle yet, like the samurai in Kurosawa's 'Seven Samurai' not be victorious even once. There would be very little glory in a war; only the young and inexperienced would find it romantic while the old veterans would know there is never really any winning a war.
And that is what Moby Dick is for me: a samurai film set at sea where the warriors are all Nantucket whalers and the villain is a fish.
Melville, too, must have felt similar about anticipation as I do. His whole novel - though this is not a novel, it's really an epic poem - is imagination and anticipation and beautiful images of the sea and of death and of the whaling life. Yet in the end it's all so futile.
"Great God, where is the ship?"
One thing I hadn't counted on about Moby Dick is how even though everyone who hasn't read the novel is well aware of it and the events within, it's not a book you can really know anything about without reading. This is a book, like Ulysses, you have to experience. You have to live through this novel; it has to happen to you. This isn't a story to be told in the normal sense - in fact the book is almost everything but a normal novel after we set sail - this is a book whose art is in forcing you to live the events of the book as if you are on that cursed ship.
Something that really struck me is that our narrator who is so famously introduced to us in one of the great first lines in a book - 'Call me Ishmael' - slowly ghosts away as the novel goes on. What starts as a book about Ishmael's experience getting on the ship and learning about whaling (and the entire science of whales), he lets go of our hand and we begin floating about the Pequod like a disembodied spirit. We overhear everyone's conversations, even their private mutterings, and the point of view expands out to be in all places at all times. It's an unsettling sensation because Melville is physically enlisting onto that ship as a shipmate and after our initial training we are forced to watch the events unfold to their conclusion.
I also had no idea that the novel is not really a novel - not in the traditional sense. Moby Dick is, basically, postmodern but from the 1850's. I had expected a somewhat straightforward novel about the grappling with a whale, not 209,117 pages of epic poetry. I had not expected the novel to still feel so fresh as it must have been when it was written nearing on 200 years ago.
One last thing that I have to confess is that I don't believe Ahab was mad. Obsessed? yes, but not insane. He was a salty captain with 40 years of experience at sea and he knew what he was doing. I don't even think he had a death wish, I just think he saw an opportunity to be truly great and flew at it with everything he had. He was already a great whaler (how else would he have lasted so long?) so he knew he could defeat that fish if he really tried. And I don't see anything wrong with that, too. All those men knew what they were in for and if Starbuck was more of a man he might have stopped Ahab, but Ahab is the sort of person who winds up wither being great or being killed; he is no ordinary person.
He's very American in that way - he'll damn everything to get what he wants.
Overall and beyond all the great themes of the novel is just how damn well it's written. There is nothing like this book. The language is so seductive, the imagery so vivid, everything on that ship and the sea so perfectly realized that there were times I had to pinch myself that this was real. Some of the writing is so good that it almost doesn't even seem possible, as if it were written by some God.
Now that I'm done with the book I'm sad. I've now read Moby Dick and there are only so many great novels in the world worth throwing a harpoon at. But what a voyage getting there!
If you are not well read and you are not sure what to choose, know this; most people who are well read and lets say, are about to die, if given a choice of one book before going, might choose this book because its long and its THE masterpiece of writing and you would die after experiencing the highest form of human thought.
It took me over a month because I had to go back over and over to swim in it (tee hee).
The narrator performs as if he has been honored to do this genious work.
Travel a lot for work and spend a good deal of time in the car.
Of course its a classic. it really gives you an inside view of the whaleing industry in the days before oil from the ground. All machines and lamps used whale oil. No industrial revoloution without it.
I have listened to some horrible narrators but this one is definatly one of the good ones.
It's all here--history, natural history, anthropology, philosophy, and adventure--so rich, so complex. I admit that when I first read this book some 20 years ago , I also found the passages about whales and whale parts puzzling if not annoying. This time around, I loved them, found them profound and evocative, more compelling even than Ahab's famous obsession with the white whale. And Anthony Heald is a talented storyteller, obviously familiar with the material, who gives each word its due; I have no regrets about choosing his narration.
Unlike a lot of folks, I was not forced to read "Moby Dick" in school. My English teacher had a penchant for classic science fiction, so we read things like "1984" and "Brave New World." After I finished school I thought I would read it to see what everyone was referencing.
Ugh, what torture. I've tried several times to start the book over the years, and failed early on each time. Finally I decided to download it (and a couple other audible books, just in case) for a long car trip.
It worked perfectly. Having "Moby Dick" read made the inaccuracies of science and the outlandish details much more interesting. It was like sitting across the table from an amiably addled, elderly relative you've asked to spin yarns of the old days. This is definitely the way to experience this story.
this is an amazing, poetic work, and i've never heard any book so masterfully read. Anthony Heald reads Moby Dick with passion and precision, not as if he's reading another author's words, but as if he's dictating the work for the first time himself as he recalls the experiences.
evidently quite a few people find Moby Dick boring, but i don't (not even the section on whales, which i enjoyed as much as the rest of the book). if you're fascinated by language and the grace and elegance of the finest 19th-century English, you probably won't be bored either.
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