(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)
I got it in my head last summer to read Moby Dick again after 30 years. Don't know what I was thinking, as I could not get past the first few chapters, I kept getting distracted and losing interest. On a whim, I downloaded this reading on Audible. I absolutely LOVED it! The narrator's unique voice and his colorful portrayal of the various (memorable!) characters in this long, rambling novel kept me fascinated and involved from the first minute to the last, many many hours later. In fact, when the novel ended, I kept respectful silence in my car for about a week, then listened to the whole thing over again, as there were many details that I seemed to have lost track of as the hours went on. Second time round, I was amazed at the symbolism, echoes, foreshadowing, and meditations on good vs. evil. I also kept trying to find clues as to why this is so often regarded as a great "American" novel--why American as opposed to any other country's? Still not sure about that, though I'm sure there are treatises and Ph.D's devoted to the topic if I wanted to pursue it. At any rate, I have come away from this narrator's reading convinced of Melville's brilliance and uniqueness as a novelist. I have simply never read (well, heard) a book like this one. I really think it's easier to have this novel read to you than to read it on the page. The discursions and treatises on whaling, shipping, the color white, depictions of the whale in art, blubber, ropes, shipboard carpentry and all the rest are fascinating when this particular narrator tells you about them in his distinctive accents and intonations. I don't know if I'll buy another contemporary novel on Audible again; I am pursuing readings of classic novels for the foreseeable future.
I must confess that I hated this book the first time I read it and so was very pleasantly surprised to find that listening greatly improved the experience, so much so, that I've actually begun reading it again. Its true, parts are dull (catalogue of whales, etc.), but other parts are, amazingly, quite funny. I can finally see why it's considered one of the greatest of all American novels -- the adventure plot and provacative themes make for an engrossing listening experience. The only negative (hence the four-, instead of five-, star rating) was the narrator -- at times, I found his diction and tone a bit annoying.
I can't believe some found the narrator sub par. This guy did a great job with tough material and did so in a way that kept the story moving. I could never have read this book by myself and finished it. My hat is off to the narrator, excellent job. Bravo.
As for the content of the unabridged book, be prepared for lengthy dissertations on what the color white means, how whale is best prepared and whale anatomy. This book is best listen to in small segments but in the end you will be left with a sense of accomplishment for sticking it through. You will also be rewarded with a much better understanding of what it must have been like to be on a whaling vessel in the late 1800's.
Moby Dick is a brilliant novel, but it requires incredible attention. You need a reader who brings life to the words. Of the dozen readers with their versions of Moby Dick out there, Anthony Heald's is by far the best. He brings Moby Dick to life.
I approached this book with trepidation as I had heard it was formidable in terms of the patience required.
By the end of the book I was thinking that THIS is the way to experience the book! Like a Shakespearean play, which is richer in the "performance" than on the page, an audiobook of Moby Dick sweeps you into the action without burdening you with the unfamilar patterns of 19th century prose.
Starts a bit slow, but before you know it, you're just eager to see what happens next. By the end of it, I had a true appreciation for just how good, and how deserving of respect, this novel is.
Finally! I have experienced Moby Dick at a depth and breadth that allows me to personally appreciate why many consider it a great American novel. Far exceeding my goal of getting me through the chapter about species of whales, this Audible edition involved me to the extent I could experience how incredibly unique (alien, really) and breathtakingly adventurous the life of a whaler was. Now...I wonder...is Ulysses within reach as a potential aesthetic experience?
A great book and a great narrator. What more can you ask for? I only wish there were more of Melville's sea adventure books available as audio books.
This was my first encounter with Melville and Moby Dick, but it won't be my last. I loved the hodge podge of so many different kinds of writing, from sermons to adventure stories to anatomy lessons to art history to plays. Whalers speaking in shakespearean-style verse! Melville's writing style is flamboyant and he's good enough to pull it off. The reader did a great job with this very complex work.
This book is as deep as it is difficult. When listening, make notes to look up obscure references to mythology, religion, and so forth. The book cannot be properly appreciated without understanding, for example, the connections between Perseus, Hercules, and Prometheus, or what the myth of Narcissus says. The ideas he works with are highly philosophical--he is criticizing and agreeing with certain philosophical positions and developing his own position as he wrestles with The Great Questions. This book cannot be fully appreciated in one, two, or even three readings--which is one reason why it is one of the greatest classics of all time. Take your time. Stop and think about the significance of strange passages. For example, the chapter on the whiteness of the whale, and the chapter on the study of whales, which reviewers were frustrated by, have significant meanings--they are not excess fat that should have been cut. Listen closely and you'll catch the humor, beauty, and sublimity of this masterpiece. After listening, return to it again in a few years. The second time around will likely yield a much richer experience.
This is my favorite novel of all time, and the reader of this unabridged version does it justice! Having read Moby Dick many times, it's nice to enjoy the audio version that gives it a new dimension, to be sure.
"better off with an abridged version?"
I read Moby Dick when I was a student and recalled that it was a bit of a struggle to get through to the end. Listening to it again made me remember why. Although the book is rightly regarded as a classic, to the modern reader, it is terribly padded in the middle with long dissertations on all aspects of whaling, sometimes in minute and confusing detail which rather detracts from the momentum of the story - which is undoubtedly a thriller when it is allowed to get going. Although I am not generally a fan of abridged versions, I think this book might be an exception.
On the plus side the reader does a masterful job and I think it was his superb performance that made for an entertaining experience, and kept me going to the end.
"Brilliant Novel, Brilliant Performance: Flawless!"
I first read Moby Dick when I was about fourteen and loved it. I saw the movie with Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab on t.v. as a Sunday afternoon matinee and enjoyed that too but the movie was all about action and not about the music of language so it never matched up to the book for me. The novel is poetry and a 'stream of consciousness' and a rich exploration of a million ideas about the rewards, laments, pleasant and unpleasant sensations of life. It is a 'classic' because it endures reading after re-reading and throughout a lifetime it is always a new experience to read it. Now in my fifties, I must have read Moby Dick maybe twenty times and I guess I will read it many more times in the years ahead.
Don't ask me for a synopsis of the 'story' because for such a sophisticated novel, any synopsis is a betrayal. Okay, you twisted my arm, here's a brief summary: an American feels jaded by life on land, goes to sea in a whaler, befriends Queequeg, a Pacific Islander harpoonier, is drawn into Captain Ahab's obsession with hunting down a great white whale that had previously injured the captain, leaving him with only one leg (and a peg leg made of whalebone), with dramatic, tragic consequences. In the course of which narrative, the author gives us vivid descriptions of scenes and characters, wonderful asides expressing pithy opinion on virtually everything under the sun, and generally presents himself, the author, as the most fascinating human being amongst a whole cast of amazing and interesting people, his characters, none of whom is a mere stereotype but all sublimely unique and a Romantic hero - all 'cool' (Melville's own term). You can't spend time amongst such elevated company without feeling inspired and inflamed with a desire to be a Romantic hero too - you can see why I fell in love with the book as a fourteen-year-old, chuckle. Now over fifty, no longer a hero to myself or anyone, I still love the author's imagination and artistry and his moral courage able to paint humanity as so absolutely admirable and always noble or at least 'cool', even when 'lowly sailors' in their right mind and eating dumplings or respectable Captains, crazed, and stumping the deck in the graveyard watch.
A favourite book, I was wary of buying an audio recording because who could ever match up to the narrator in my own head and summon up the same rich and fascinating inner images and the same varied emotional responses? The movies failed, could an audio performance succeed? I tried all the versions of Moby Dick on offer through Audible.co.uk and settled on this version because I was bowled over by the performance of Anthony Heald. I can't praise it enough! He reads with sensitivity, a deep engagement with the text, a dramatic flare. I called Moby Dick a 'stream of consciousness' and as such it needs to be 'inhabited' so the text flows, it has to feel like it is coming spontaneously from a human soul, someone who is letting us share in his experiences, sensations, thoughts as they occur. Anthony Heald is able to do this and his reading brings out all the rich complexity of the text, its poetry, and all the rich complexity of the characters, their varied feelings and thoughts. You 'live' Moby Dick with this performance. It deserves some sort of award. Are there Oscars for audio performances? This recording makes all the others sound like computer generated text-to-voice.
Warning: a great novel is not like a trashy paperback, you cannot read it with half your attention and 'get it'. A great novel requires you to read it with respect, full attention, pulling your own weight in the author-reader partnership. Similarly, some audio books are so badly performed you can tune in and out and miss little. Shrug. But other audio books, and this version of Moby Dick is certainly one, enshrine great solo performances by excellent character actors and deserve the same committed attention you'd give an actor in a theatre. Bottom line, to get value from anything you usually have to put effort into it. A willingness to devote attention to this great book, whether you read it or listen to an unabridged audio recording of it, will bring great reward.
Note: this recording misses out the material included at the beginning of the printed book (copyright, contents, introduction, etymology, extracts) and begins with 'Chapter One: Loomings'. I do not find this spoils my pleasure but other reviewers have complained that these omissions mean the recordings are not acurately described as 'unabridged'. I guess it would matter if this were my only copy of Moby Dick but since I have both print and eBook versions the omission is trivial for me.
Summary, if you love classic literature and are willing to invest attention to a masterly performance then I most heartily recommend Moby Dick as read by Anthony Hearn. Absolutely TOP MARKS. Personally, I will be looking out for more performances by Mr Hearn. Call me a fan, chuckle.
I loved this version of the book, the narration brought all the characters to life. A great listen, highly recommended.
"Good book but goes off plot a lot"
I enjoyed listening to this book. One of the main reasons is the narration. Anthony Heald really made the book come alive. I am not usually a fan of dramatic readings but it worked brilliantly for me this time.
I did find the book a bit hard going when the author went off plot and started talking about whaling. This happened a lot in the middle and it did detract from the rhythm of the story. But this book is a classic and who am I to argue with it.
Overall it’s a good listen.
This is a book I've wanted to read for some time, but just didn't get around to it. I finally decided on the audio version as the best way to tackle it. It was a really good choice. The narrator, Anthony Heald was excellent, the story was absorbing and all the peripheral facts about whaling and whales and life at sea as it was at the time were totally absorbing.
"Very much NOT "unabridged"..."
Start this up and you will quickly be rewarded with the famous line "Call me Ishmael". Only problem is that this doesn't come up in the novel until after two prefaces - a short "Etymology" and a longer section of "Extracts". This second in particular - 15 pages long, in my edition - is not a part of the book that anyone should miss. So, for that reason, one star.
If it's abridged, say so.
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