The New York Times best-selling author of seagoing epics now celebrates an American classic.Moby-Dick is perhaps the greatest of the Great American Novels, yet its length and esoteric subject matter create an aura of difficulty that too often keeps readers at bay. Fortunately, one unabashed fan wants passionately to give Melville's masterpiece the broad contemporary audience it deserves.
In his National Book Award- winning best seller, In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick captivatingly unpacked the story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex, the real-life incident that inspired Melville to write Moby- Dick. Now, he sets his sights on the fiction itself, offering a cabin master's tour of a spellbinding novel rich with adventure and history.
Philbrick skillfully navigates Melville's world and illuminates the book's humor and unforgettable characters-finding the thread that binds Ishmael and Ahab to our own time and, indeed, to all times. A perfect match between author and subject, Why Read Moby-Dick? gives us a renewed appreciation of both Melville and the proud seaman's town of Nantucket that Philbrick himself calls home. Like Alain de Botton's How Proust Can Change Your Life, this remarkable little book will start conversations, inspire arguments, and, best of all, bring a new wave of readers to a classic tale waiting to be discovered anew.
©2011 Nathaniel Philbrick (P)2011 Penguin
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
A nice series of loose essays exploring Moby-Dick (don't forget the fierce harpooned-like hyphen), Melville's life and Melville's relationship with the shy Hawthorne. It is a good but way-too-way short look at the annihilation of writing perhaps the greatest of American novels. WRM-D? is a beautiful love letter to an amazing novel and one of America greatest wandering, stoic poets; born 50 years too soon to recognize the joy or satisfaction of seeing his own pages being cut in 20th Century and the Modern world.
If you're planning to read (or listen to) "Moby Dick," you might want to give this short audiobook a try first. It's a useful audio introduction; it will clue you in to at least some of what Melville was trying to do and what his life circumstances were when he undertook to write the book. (I never knew, for example, that his first draft was a more conventional whaling yarn, and that it was only after meeting Nathaniel Hawthorne that he began to re-envision the story as a much darker, more cosmic tale.)
Philbrick does a good job describing his own thoughts and the basic facts of the case. He's much less effective as a narrator when he's reading passages from the novel, which happens quite a bit: if you've experienced Anthony Heald, Frank Muller, or one of the other outstanding narrators of the book on Audible, it will be hard at times to hear Philbrick going through the same material. It's not that he's really BAD, it's just that his straight-ahead delivery is very much at odds with the flights of language so common in Melville.
Still, as I said, it's a useful introduction; it has a lot to say about Melville, whaling, mid-nineteenth-century America, the Bible, Shakespeare, and literature in general. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in "Moby Dick."
So Many Books, So Little Time
Whether or not you have read Moby Dick, this brief but thorough examination is filled with facts, opinions, and background material that can provide a compelling introduction to those who have not read it or a satisfying supplement to those who have. I've read Moby Dick, I've listened to the audio book, I've seen the movies, and I've argued with people who find it tedious and over-wrought. I, personally, love Moby Dick. This book, like its inspiration, is one I'll read again just to absorb the wide variety of information it contain. I especially loved the authors background material on the relationship between Melville and his hero, Nathaniel Hawthorne. Like the author I am a former Pennsylvanian, now a New Englander and I was struck, also, by his discussion of the steel mills in his native Pittsburgh (I remember them well) and the way in which Melville foreshadowed the changing face of American industry. Just a wonderful work!
I had not read Moby-Dick before I picked this up, but I had read “In the Heart of the Sea,” also by Philbrick. I would highly recommend “In the Heart of the Sea” as an excellent intro to Moby-Dick, much better than this slight piece. All the most interesting things in this book are also in “In the Heart of the Sea” so I would say you can skip this one.
In writing Moby Dick, Melville reflected his times, the 1950's, as tensions were growing in the country that soon lead to the Civil War. The story, and his characters, embody basic truths about the human condition, and about society, that have meaning for us today, over 150 years later.
The author gives us a lot of information about Melville's personal life, and about the sacrifices he (and his family) made to complete the book. Of course, he discuses the book, too, but I would have liked additional commentary about the story, itself, the symbolism and the characters.
I was fascinated to learn about Melville's close friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne and how Hawthorne's gentle influence caused Melville to completely rewrite (and improve) Moby Dick. I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to deepen their understanding of this great novel.
Although it gave interesting biographical and background information about Melville and his whale story it was not an exciting or wholly put together narrative.
Unless a determined fan or wholly ignorant of this great book most people could easily pass on listening to it and not miss much.
Not sure but a professional may could have done more with the material.
I was disappointed somewhat because given the title I was sure when I finished that I would want to rush out and read Moby Dick again soon. It didn't happen.
Nathaniel Philbrick admits that Moby Dick is not an easy read and his sincerity is one reason why his passion and enthusiasm for Moby Dick could be contagious. He provides a solid argument for why one should still attempt to read / listen to Moby Dick, a little at a time. I was thinking of buying a book titled 'Moby Duck' about little yellow plastic ducks, ocean pollution and the environment. It is on my wish list. I wondered whether reading Moby Dick was a prerequisite for enjoying 'Moby Duck' and why I would be interested in reading about a man obsessed with killing a whale. So, I listened to Nathaniel Philbrick's 'Why read Moby Dick?'. It was quite persuasive. I think I will dip into Moby Dick sometime. It certainly made me want to listen to Nathaniel Philbrick's books about seafarers and storms.
A good listen overall.
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