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Publisher's Summary

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville is a classic of American and world literature.

Written in 1851, this is the incredible story of the crazed captain Ahab who, consumed by his desire for revenge, drives his crew to scour the oceans of the world for the fearsome white whale, Moby Dick. It soon becomes clear that Ahab will stop at nothing and is prepared to risk everything, his ship, his crew members, and his own life.

Herman Melville (1819 - 1891) was an American novelist short story writer, essayist and poet.

Please note: This is a vintage recording. The audio quality may not be up to modern day standards.

(P)2009 RNIB

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  • JAY
  • SHERMAN OAKS, US, Canada
  • 12-05-10


I am writing this review in response to all the other reviews that were critical of Mr. Duncan Carse narration. If the listener takes the effort to listen, he or she will realize Ishmael is not an illiterate seaman as played by Richard Basehart in the movie version of Moby Dick. Ishmael is well educated, as indicated
within the first few pages. Ishmael speaks of the Old Persians, the Greeks. This is the language of an educated man, especially in 1851. The other readers(god bless them as Joe Biden would say)pass over these lines without a twitch. Mr. Carse speaks them as if he has experienced them. Everything can be criticized in some manner, which the modern intelligence seems to relish. It is truly difficult to feel sorry for some one who has broken his arm if you haven’t broken a bone. Mr. Carse make you feel he has experienced everything he talks about. I think the problem is not with the narrator, but with the readers. Oooops

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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The Appalling Beauty of this Whaling World

What a strange classic is Herman Melville's Moby-Dick (1851)! Scientific, philosophical, comical, beautiful, terrible, and exciting, the novel is written with what Ishmael (Melville's narrator and alter-ego) calls "a careful disorderliness," featuring motley modes, like adventure, natural history, drama, and allegory, and an exuberantly encyclopedic approach fit for his "mighty theme." The novel is Biblical, Shakespearean, Hawthornian, Cetacean, and American.

Ishmael begins his narrative by telling us that some years ago, feeling grim and drizzly, he decided to go to sea on a whaling ship to purge his spleen. He and his bosom buddy, the harpooner Queequeg, a cannibal prince with a profile like George Washington's and a body tattooed with illegible hieroglyphs that might hold the key to the truth of the universe, join the Pequod, captained by the soul-scorched and charismatic Ahab. Captain Ahab soon seduces the crew into swearing an unholy oath to help him hunt and kill the famed White Whale, Moby Dick, who by biting off his leg drove him into a monomaniacal quest for revenge.

Throughout that narrative Ishmael interweaves passages about the physical, behavioral, and symbolic aspects of sperm whales and about the history, tools, strategies, dangers, and noble nature of whaling. He relates such passages with vivid descriptions, humorous metaphors, and interesting allusions to myriad eras, cultures, religions, and artifacts. A reader sympathetic to whales may recoil from Ishmael's depiction of their callous butchery or assertion that they will never be in danger from over-hunting. Nevertheless, he also respects and empathizes with the sublime leviathans.

Ishmael, a "subterranean miner," attempts to "pierce the profundity" lurking beneath the surface of the world to attain the Truth about life and its dark realities--and so to appall rather than please his readers--and ambitiously attempts to compass his vast subject, the whale and all it signifies throughout human history. He speculates on fate and free will, belief and unbelief, civilization and savagery, community and alienation, and our brief lives in a dangerous world in which "all men live enveloped in whale-lines."

The reader Duncan Carse speaks with an austere and educated tone for Ishmael's base narration, from which he deviates to amplify the different personalities of the various characters. He handles Melville's many long and complex sentences with agility and clarity. His reading enhances the meaning and interest of the monologues and asides of characters like earnest Starbuck, jocund Stubb, grim Ahab, and divinely insane Pip.

Carse, however, more than a few times misspeaks a word and then quickly catches himself and reads it correctly (e.g., "a wissing--missing boat"). It's nearly unnoticeable, but such moments should have been edited out of the audiobook. Worse, the whale etymologies and literary extracts collected by Melville's "consumptive grammarian" and "grub-worm librarian" that preface the novel are absent.

In closing, I'd like to share some great lines from Moby-Dick:

"Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian."

"Though in many of its aspects this visible world seems formed in love, the invisible spheres were formed in fright."

"There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own."

"One serene and moonlight night, when all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude; on such a silent night a silvery jet was seen far in advance of the white bubbles at the bow. Lit up by the moon, it looked celestial; seemed some plumed and glittering god uprising from the sea."

"Let us all squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness."

"In that sloping afternoon sunlight, the shadows that the three boats sent down beneath the surface, must have been long enough and broad enough to shade half Xerxes' army. Who can tell how appalling to the wounded whale must have been such huge phantoms flitting over his head!"

"Cannibals? Who is not a cannibal?"

"The rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her monmaniac commander's soul."

"Look not too long in the face of the fire, O man!"

"I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look."

"Give me a condor's quill! Give me Vesuvius' crater for an inkstand!"

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Kimberley
  • EUGENE, OR, United States
  • 12-29-09

Great listen

Read beautifully and clearly. It is easy to get lost in the story and characters with this reader. Audiobook is an easy way to dive into the classics while exercising, working or traveling. Moby Dick is an incredible adventure with lovely and formidable characters challenging "evil" in the mysterious, primordial ocean.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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The Voice of Antiquity and Experience

When I decided to get Moby Dick I took some time listening to the many samples and reading the reviews.
In the end I opted for this version (at the time there weren’t many good reviews) and I am so glad that I did. I enjoyed every minute of it and encourage you to get this one too. Why?
Some reviewers have criticised Duncan Carse’s delivery from various angles - being dated, questionable accents, poor editing etc.
I am not sure when this recording dates from, but I guess from 1940’s or 50’s.
While the received pronunciation might seem to be from a different age, Carse’s voice and delivery is perfectly suited to the story. I also thought his accents were great. They are not perfect renditions, but they do not lack character and Ahab in particular inspires dread and foreboding. The often archaic terms and expressions do not trouble Carse in the slightest and seem completely natural to him. As for the recording. It isn’t perfect, but I found the sighs, sounds of pages turning or of corrected mispronunciations to be charming - they lend a warmth from which you can imagine the reader sitting by a roaring fire on a cold night.
It turns out that Carse was an explorer himself who surveyed the antarctic and South Georgia for the Royal Geographical Society either side of WW2, during which he served in the Royal Navy. His bio is full of adventures not unlike that undertaken by our hero Ishmael and he would have been familiar with many of the sights that Ishmael describes as well as the nautical terms.
Some reviewers have advised getting an abridged version.
Please don't!
I think these reviewers are missing the point. The plot is a vehicle for all the tangents and asides about whaling, philosophy, religion, culture, relationships, the human condition. On it’s own, the plot doesn’t amount to much. If you want an abridged version how about (Spoiler Alert): Man joins whaling boat. Man describes whaling boat. Man discovers captain has unhealthy obsession with Big Whale. Search for Big Whale. Find Big Whale.
The joy of the book is in the wandering narrative and detailed descriptions.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Christopher
  • Friday Harbor, WA, United States
  • 03-25-11

Excellent version

This is an excellent version of Moby Dick. I had to read the book for a book club and decided to go with an audio version. It was an excellent choice. The narrator's voice is perfect for Ishmael, calm and introspective. The sermon chanter is exceptionally powerful.

A well done recording of a book I probably would not have enjoyed had it not been for this fine recording.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Moby Dick

Would you consider the audio edition of Moby Dick to be better than the print version?

well if one has no time to read the book this is the best thing

What other book might you compare Moby Dick to and why?

Nickolas Nickelby

Which scene was your favorite?

So far; The first time Ismael meets and learns of his savage harpooner room mate Queequeg

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

American Classic Moby Dick the White Whale

Any additional comments?

I am enjoying listening to this book This version or reader is to my liking!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Seth
  • California, CA, USA
  • 05-02-09

Very poor narration

The narrator is British, which creates terrible dissonance for the "great" American novel. The narrator has zero command of American English accent, which is fine, except that he tries to fake the accent when reading lines from American characters. He butchers the accent and greatly distracts from the novel. The narrator does, however, read at a leisurely pace, which is at first annoying until you realize it's a perfect fit for a 3-year voyage at sea: unhurried and plenty of time to tell the tale. The novel itself is rough going, with some parts very smooth and others, such as the cataloging of whale species, murderously boring. On the whole, however, this audio book has made my morning commute in LA a joy.

8 of 13 people found this review helpful

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A brilliant performance worthy of so great a work.

About Melville’s story this review will remain silent. The novel’s vastness and power as a tale of adventure are well known to all who read, and all who love the sea. The tortured self-analysis revealed in Captain Ahab’s speeches enshrine this book in the canon of Western literature and need no further praise from me.

What made this reading of the text unique was the spare intensity of Duncan Carse’s performance. Like Coleridge’s ancient mariner, Mr. Carse captured this listener’s attention completely, making it difficult to interrupt his tale and return to the necessities of daily life.

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Good American classic, but a difficult listen for a commute.

Good American classic, but a difficult listen for a commute. Much of this book is devoted to painting a picture of sea life and whaling. The narrative storyline is spread out such that you might actually feel like you are on the voyage. With the exception of a couple minor character voices that are difficult to understand, the narrator of the audiobook delivers a strong performance and is especially believable as the story's educated narrator, Ishmael.

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I Changed My Point of View

I bought this version so I could contribute to the reviews. I grew up on Cape Cod, lived on Martha's Vineyard, and I presently live in New Bedford, so this is a very special story for me. I've listened to Moby Dick a number of times and seen both movies (the first one's better if you can get a copy). I agree with all the good things that have been said about the story, and said better than I could have.

I had wanted to put in a good word for the narration, because in the mid-1800's American accents had not been homogenized by radio and TV and many people must have sounded like the British sound to Americans today. And Duncan Carse started out sounding well enough.

But alas, he should have stayed away from accents altogether. Besides his attempt at early American, which would have been all right with me, his entire repertoire of other accents sound like Scotsmen, and that's enough to distract me from the enchantment of the tale.

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  • Dez V
  • 05-05-17

interesting classic, ponderous at times

worth listening to, as it is a milestone in American literature. good narration,
these long books always easier to have as audio

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  • James
  • 11-08-10

dont buy it

sorry i could not get into it.

0 of 6 people found this review helpful