Moby Dick

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I searched, but there weren't any appropriate for reviving. Another monumental tome I didn't expect to enjoy that I am not only loving, but reading at work in front of surly pipefitters and electricians and recommending to them, because it is damn funny. And involving. I had no idea. How did I come to absorb (and accept) the idea that Moby Dick would be lugubrious, boring, and dry?

Jaq (Jaq), Tuesday, 29 November 2005 04:54 (sixteen years ago) link

i started a thread about it on ile last year: This is the thread where J.D. tries to read "Moby-Dick."

i left off about halfway through and just picked it up again a few weeks ago, and i'm almost done. i agree that it's a much more fun book than ppl say - i actually find all the technical detail about whaling pretty interesting.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Tuesday, 29 November 2005 05:01 (sixteen years ago) link

People who think the exhaustive detail about whales and whaling is superfluous are missing the point. Moby Dick is a book about obsession, and it's much more fun if you allow yourself to get into the obsession.

Abbadabba Berman (Hurting), Tuesday, 29 November 2005 05:30 (sixteen years ago) link

The only time I've tried to read this I couldn't get past the first few chapters. Which is a shame because so much of what I've read about this book sounds so good (including whaling details).

Casuistry (Chris P), Tuesday, 29 November 2005 05:38 (sixteen years ago) link

i still have another half or so to go. i got sidetracked.

it was a good thing the beginning turned out to be so funny. otherwise it would have been hard to press on.

Josh (Josh), Tuesday, 29 November 2005 06:14 (sixteen years ago) link

It's a great book. I have an edition with woodcuts of whales and the like. Ahab is a magnificent character, and Melville's a marvelous writer. I don't know why everyone thinks it will be so stuffy.

wmlynch (wlynch), Tuesday, 29 November 2005 06:36 (sixteen years ago) link

Oh and there was an interesting article on Melville in the last issue of New York Review of Books, but it's not online (well, unless you subscribe to the online thingy).

wmlynch (wlynch), Tuesday, 29 November 2005 06:37 (sixteen years ago) link

cuz old = stuffy

Josh (Josh), Tuesday, 29 November 2005 06:47 (sixteen years ago) link

I read this about 5 summers ago, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

o. nate (onate), Tuesday, 29 November 2005 19:21 (sixteen years ago) link

It's amazing. I'm re-reading it right now as well. It's very funny, indeed, and strange. Closer in some ways to Kafka or Sterne than one would imagine. And to Shakespeare, of course. Those whaling passages--which are also quite beautiful--can wear in spots, but I view them as sorta like the second-epilogue of War & Peace. Skippable if you must, and sort of...a humanizing flaw.

Dark Horse, Wednesday, 30 November 2005 20:48 (sixteen years ago) link

I started and didn't get going with Moby Dick a few times until my GF and I started reading it aloud to each other. We were living by the ocean and the rhythms of the surf and the prose supported each other. As a unique reading experience it measures up (for me) with Ulysses, Proust, Riddley Walker, Beckett's 3 novels (all read aloud at least some of the time). I was even fascinated by the chapter describing the rope.

steve ketchup, Thursday, 1 December 2005 16:21 (sixteen years ago) link

Ahab has finally shown his face! And in the Cetology chapter, Ishmael puts whales in Folio, Octavo, and Duodecimo categories, which I found hilarious. I did have to admit to a pipefitter yesterday that the language is a bit high-falutin' (he had asked me if it was regular english or not earlier in the week).

Jaq (Jaq), Thursday, 1 December 2005 17:56 (sixteen years ago) link

i'm quite interested to read this new biography becasue i'm so obsessed with "Bartleby". I haven't gotten round to MD yet though.

jed_ (jed), Friday, 2 December 2005 22:33 (sixteen years ago) link

Everybody otm, I started it out of some sense of "Oh I guess I should read this" and really enjoyed it. Including all the whale and whaling stuff, I liked getting totally immersed in that world. And some very strange, sensual stuff in there too -- the chapter where the men all have their hands immersed in whale oil is almost orgiastic.

gypsy mothra (gypsy mothra), Saturday, 3 December 2005 01:37 (sixteen years ago) link

i guess i should read this, huh.

tom west (thomp), Saturday, 3 December 2005 03:10 (sixteen years ago) link

For a short intro to HM (for any intimidated by the size of MD), I recomment "The Lightning-Rod Man" from the Piazza Tales.

steve ketchup, Saturday, 3 December 2005 05:46 (sixteen years ago) link

Oh god, I am down to the last 25 or so pages and it is so INTENSE. Like plummeting down a gigantic hill on an old rickety wooden rollercoaster, the sense of DOOM and BAD BAD THINGS just keeps piling on! Starbuck, why didn't you shoot him, when you had the chance that night?!

Jaq (Jaq), Friday, 16 December 2005 22:37 (sixteen years ago) link

And gypsy mothra, you are so OTM on that "squeezing the oil" chapter! My word!

Jaq (Jaq), Friday, 16 December 2005 22:43 (sixteen years ago) link

four years pass...

I am almost finished this, reading it for my classic book club. It is an amazing book... I can see where people who hail it as the greatest ever novel in the English language are coming from.

And yes, it is very funny, and it does lots of strange digressions, but when the action gets going, Jesus. The last 100-150 pages of my edition are astonishingly page turning.

The New Dirty Vicar, Tuesday, 23 March 2010 15:15 (twelve years ago) link

I tried this once, and failed.

quincie, Tuesday, 23 March 2010 15:52 (twelve years ago) link

the trick is to read it alound in your head in an "salty sea dog" voice

Fox Force Five Punchline (sexyDancer), Tuesday, 23 March 2010 15:56 (twelve years ago) link

a "salty, er

Fox Force Five Punchline (sexyDancer), Tuesday, 23 March 2010 15:56 (twelve years ago) link

have had this book out from the library since last...october. progress: 50 pages

丫 power (dyao), Tuesday, 23 March 2010 16:01 (twelve years ago) link

Yarrr, a land lubber eee be.

The New Dirty Vicar, Tuesday, 23 March 2010 16:17 (twelve years ago) link

ilx lubber more like it ;.;

it is just like an unknown puzzle till the end of the world (dyao), Tuesday, 23 March 2010 16:20 (twelve years ago) link

i find a lot of melville's other work more interesting than moby dick, it was kind of a disappointment when i finally got around to it

bernardyao (velko), Tuesday, 23 March 2010 16:22 (twelve years ago) link

I really enjoyed it when I read it earlier in the year, though I have a fondness for the tone of 19th-century encyclopaedias, which helped, I think.

I'm surprised at those who call it the Great American Novel, not because it's not great, but because it doesn't seem much concerned with America at all.

Attention please, a child has been lost in the tunnel of goats. (James Morrison), Wednesday, 24 March 2010 23:23 (twelve years ago) link

There is this theory that it is A Meditation On America - as opposed to a meditaton on whales and the maniacs who hunt them.

The New Dirty Vicar, Thursday, 25 March 2010 17:05 (twelve years ago) link

H. Bloom loves to compare Ahab to Andrew Jackson (it's been a while; is that conceit in the actual text?)...sometimes I think the "Great American Novel" hype is just because it's a great novel written by an American...

don't let it rest on the President's desk (Drugs A. Money), Saturday, 27 March 2010 01:50 (twelve years ago) link

harold bloom is fat

velko, Saturday, 27 March 2010 02:49 (twelve years ago) link

one month passes...

reading it now - awesome.

"I'm surprised at those who call it the Great American Novel" :

one way of interpretation is to see the novel as an allegory to how destructive totalitarism is as oppose to democracy.
in a way, the book is one out of many foundations for the american democracy, as portrait by art.

Zeno, Tuesday, 4 May 2010 12:54 (twelve years ago) link

Have been trying this and I started off really liking it, no problem with the the salty sea-dog prose and the characters were really striking; but then, my god, the endless digressions. History of whaling, crap cetology, how the crow's nest was invented... get on with the story already! I've pretty much given up ;_; perhaps there's an abridged version I could tackle.

the big pink suede panda bear hurts (ledge), Tuesday, 4 May 2010 16:02 (twelve years ago) link

Closer in some ways to Kafka

Which is interesting, because it's always been "Bartleby" that's considered a predessor to Kafka.

Anyway, after you all get done with Moby Dick, go read John Kessel's "Another Orphan," the story of a man who wakes up and becomes a character in that book. (It's much better than that description sounds. Trust me. )

Christine Green Leafy Dragon Indigo, Tuesday, 4 May 2010 16:35 (twelve years ago) link

A memorable sequence from chap 94, for those who like homoeroticism in their classics...

Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm
till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a
strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly
squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mistaking their hands for the
gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving
feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually
squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally; as
much as to say,--Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish
any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come;
let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into
each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and
sperm of kindness.

Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm for ever!

And this, which I found in reading ABOUt Moby-Dick

The largest monster in antebellum literature was the kraken depicted in Eugene
Batchelder’s Romance of the Sea-Serpent, or The Ichthyosaurus (1849), a bizarre
narrative poem about a sea serpent that terrorizes the coast of Massachusetts,
destroys a huge ship in mid-ocean, repasts on human remains gruesomely
with sharks and whales, attends a Harvard commencement (where he has
been asked to speak), shocks partygoers by appearing at a Newport ball, and
at last is hunted and killed by a fleet of Newport sailors.

I need to read that.

Christ, now there's a mission - I like to imagine the nanosecond I submit my interlibary form (as I most certainly will), it'll come back NO! NO! NO! with no other explanation given.

R Baez, Thursday, 6 May 2010 18:14 (twelve years ago) link

That sounds like a poem I would love!

this book sux

coining (Lamp), Thursday, 6 May 2010 19:55 (twelve years ago) link

I need to read that.

Full view over at Google Books, I see. It rhymes but it's written out in prose.

alimosina, Thursday, 6 May 2010 20:17 (twelve years ago) link

Argh! I can't find it. Link, please?

Try this one.

alimosina, Friday, 7 May 2010 15:13 (twelve years ago) link

Am so reading that at the w/end.

I had gained ten lewis (ledge), Friday, 7 May 2010 15:17 (twelve years ago) link

Slightly better than this at least.

alimosina, Saturday, 8 May 2010 03:31 (twelve years ago) link

Thank you so much for this! These are the best/worst couplets ever.

Magic! Thank you for the link!

Thank you for the link!

Heck, I'd never heard of this, uh, marvel until your post.

Abbott's next paper... "Polarities of Prophetic Vision: Paradise Lost and Romance of the Sea-Serpent"

alimosina, Monday, 10 May 2010 13:35 (twelve years ago) link

That sounds like a poem I would love!
--This is four-dimensional art; the 4th dimension is incredibly powerful. (Abbott)

mrsameh31, Wednesday, 12 May 2010 06:07 (twelve years ago) link

They don't even try to keep a consistent meter. I needed this so bad in my life right now.


Swilling Ambergris, Esq. (silby), Friday, 24 January 2020 21:48 (two years ago) link

otm all around, i loved the whale facts chapters (whiteness of the whale otoh...), especially the part where he bids adieu to the sulphur bottom whale lol

culture of mayordom (voodoo chili), Friday, 24 January 2020 22:02 (two years ago) link

Read it for a third time last year, the only book I’ve re-read in 20 or more years, gets more fun every time. The wrong science in the whale chapters never bothers me bc it always just ends up being in the service of teeing up some philosophical point in the last couple paragraphs anyhow, it’s never about actually teaching u about whales.

warn me about a lurking rake (One Eye Open), Friday, 24 January 2020 23:42 (two years ago) link

It was a good companion getting me through the dark weeks after USA Election Day 2016, I picked it up the morning after, thought it might be good to get a refresher on how to exist in a world filled with random disasters & unknowable evils

warn me about a lurking rake (One Eye Open), Friday, 24 January 2020 23:49 (two years ago) link

this time of year I always think about the passage early in the book where he talks about the special joy of looking out at cold winter night from a warm cozy indoor perch: it maketh a marvellous difference, whether thou lookest out at it from a glass window where the frost is all on the outside, or whether thou observest it from that sashless window, where the frost is on both sides... What a fine frosty night; how Orion glitters; what northern lights! Let them talk of their oriental summer climes of everlasting conservatories; give me the privilege of making my own summer with my own coals.

Also the part slightly later where he talks about how you cant fully enjoy being under a warm blanket in a cold room unless some part of you is sticking out to feel the cold & remind you how good you have it.

warn me about a lurking rake (One Eye Open), Friday, 24 January 2020 23:56 (two years ago) link

Love the whole book, but I miss Ishmael’s narration/asides when the book becomes more plot/Ahab/Starbuck focused towards the end.

culture of mayordom (voodoo chili), Saturday, 25 January 2020 00:17 (two years ago) link

i listened to e1 of talia levin's BIG MOBY DICK ENERGY podcast on stitcher: my conclusion is that the title and music have already palled but the discussion is engaging enough, bcz very enthusiastic (1st guest = ex-deadspin writer david roth) if not particularly deep so far*

*(viz they were both oddly stumped by what happens in the tale of lazarus and dives, possibly partly bcz this was a call forward to the next chapter which they hadn't reread with a view to discussing it, but still decided to discuss it anyway lol) (i mean i get not knowing much abt the new testament if you didn't grew up with it as an adjunct in yr education but it is probably going to be kind of an important element?)

mark s, Saturday, 25 January 2020 15:42 (two years ago) link


let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness

— Moby Dick (@MobyDickatSea) January 25, 2020

mark s, Saturday, 25 January 2020 15:52 (two years ago) link

I found critical biography among the most illuminating I've read about any novelist/poet in recent years.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 25 January 2020 16:05 (two years ago) link

Is Ishmael a reference beyond the name? Not very familiar with lesser biblical figures.

Stevolende, Saturday, 25 January 2020 16:14 (two years ago) link

He was Abraham's son with his wife's handmaid Hagar.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 25 January 2020 16:18 (two years ago) link

Ishmael was the child of Abraham and his wife’s servant Hagar, who was cast out from the family after Abraham and Sarah’s son Isaac was born. God promised to make Ishmael a great nation as well, separate from the line of Abraham that became the tribes of the Hebrews. So Ishmael might be a name implying wanderings, being an outsider, heterodoxy…

Swilling Ambergris, Esq. (silby), Saturday, 25 January 2020 16:18 (two years ago) link

patriach of Islam too

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 25 January 2020 16:19 (two years ago) link

There is a big picture of Melville in the cafe at the South Street Seaport location of McNally-Jackson bookstore which is quite appropriate.

TS: Kirk/Spock vs. Marat/Sade (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 25 January 2020 16:33 (two years ago) link

It has that quality of the eyes seeming to follow you about, like the portrait or a certain patriarch of the family Flintstone.

TS: Kirk/Spock vs. Marat/Sade (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 25 January 2020 16:38 (two years ago) link

god this is the best book ever. the way the "whale facts" chapters either explained things that had just happened or foreshadowed things to come was intoxicating, i always felt i was like running through these alleyways of lowkey narrative that inextricably bound the "actual" narrative

american bradass (BradNelson), Saturday, 25 January 2020 16:42 (two years ago) link

i have a moby-dick tattoo that i'm not embarrassed about, that is how much i love it

american bradass (BradNelson), Saturday, 25 January 2020 16:44 (two years ago) link


Swilling Ambergris, Esq. (silby), Saturday, 25 January 2020 16:45 (two years ago) link

I found Melville's poems harder going than Moby-Dick.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 25 January 2020 16:47 (two years ago) link

I tried to read Confidence Man, wasn't happening

I have not yet begun to fart (rip van wanko), Saturday, 25 January 2020 16:59 (two years ago) link

that's my least favorite of the novels I've read

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 25 January 2020 17:04 (two years ago) link

god this is the best book ever

literally true

i only know about lazarus+dives because they're a recurring symbol in MLK sermons

difficult listening hour, Saturday, 25 January 2020 18:27 (two years ago) link

I started trying to read Confidence Man cos Nick Cave was said to be a fan. Think I got a couple of chapters in. Must give it another go. This 30+years later.

Stevolende, Saturday, 25 January 2020 18:29 (two years ago) link

i picked his book of civil war poems recently and it was really a chore, tough going indeed

warn me about a lurking rake (One Eye Open), Saturday, 25 January 2020 19:36 (two years ago) link

christ, this revive scared me, i thought maybe melville had died or something

revenge of the jawn (rushomancy), Saturday, 25 January 2020 22:31 (two years ago) link

No, but 🚨 SPOILER/TRIGGER ALERT 🚨 I believe Billy Budd, Sailor is now in the public domain.

TS: Kirk/Spock vs. Marat/Sade (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 26 January 2020 01:07 (two years ago) link

Confidence Man is great, you guys mad.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Sunday, 26 January 2020 01:14 (two years ago) link

It was a popular choice when I was in high school, don’t know if that’s a relevant data point.

TS: Kirk/Spock vs. Marat/Sade (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 26 January 2020 01:18 (two years ago) link

Confidence is really good. Better than his poems, surely.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 26 January 2020 11:12 (two years ago) link

Alfred not liking Confidence Man, liking Ad Astra, world is mad.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Tuesday, 4 February 2020 08:37 (two years ago) link

eleven months pass...

my curvy cetacean wife

This excerpt from a rejection letter to Melville re Moby Dick is just amazing.

the more things change...

— Andrey (@andreyp_ap) January 21, 2021

mookieproof, Friday, 22 January 2021 20:07 (one year ago) link

five months pass...

i have a bookclub w my friend & we are currently reading “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”. i had never read Verne til now & i think i may actively hate him. wtf at this goddamn book.

but, my point is thus:

i pitched to my friend that we absolutely HAVE to read Moby Dick next bc Melville is such an excellent & enjoyable writer (imo)

& she agreeeeeeeeeeed

~snoopy dance~

i have 7 chapters left of Verne & at this point i dont care if the “mystery” of Nemo is that he sneaks onto land at night to steal children to power the submarine with human babies

i really fucking hate it & cannot WAIT to read Moby Dick again. it’s been at least 25 years since i read it for American Lit class at Uni

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 22 June 2021 01:00 (one year ago) link

Oh man you’re going to have so much fun. It holds up like crazy

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Tuesday, 22 June 2021 02:26 (one year ago) link


terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 22 June 2021 02:31 (one year ago) link

oddly enough there is an old ray bradbury essay where he compares ahab and nemo, tho not to any particular purpose that i can recall beyond “they’re both captains.”

i like verne actually, at least his best work, but i remember 20,000 leagues being a bit of a slog. he is certainly a strange writer and “wtf” is a reasonable response. he’s most enjoyable when he’s writing about something completely mad — tunneling to the center of the earth, traveling round the solar system on the back of a comet. but moby dick is so good and so unique that it’s hard to compare anything else to it.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Tuesday, 22 June 2021 17:58 (one year ago) link

yeah 20,000 leagues feels more like a vehicle for verne to show off about fish taxonomy & the inner workings of an electric submarine (while characters consume as much exotic marine life as possible). definitely light on the adventure that its reputation seemed to promise.

i read in that 2019 new yorker article about melville that Moby Dick was inspired by his reading Mary Shelleys “Frankenstein” for the first time while traveling to England
i’d never heard that before!
which makes me like it more

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 22 June 2021 18:18 (one year ago) link

i have just started reading moby dick for the first time! No spoilers!

plax (ico), Wednesday, 23 June 2021 12:59 (one year ago) link

Moby Dick is a whale.

Van Halen dot Senate dot flashlight (Boring, Maryland), Wednesday, 23 June 2021 13:30 (one year ago) link

also a fish

mark s, Wednesday, 23 June 2021 13:32 (one year ago) link

when i was small and my dad read me some (i guess very abridged/adapted) children's version of 2000 leagues i heard the name of nemo's sub as "the naughtiness"

this is the only thing i remember tbh (and it's wrong)

mark s, Wednesday, 23 June 2021 13:32 (one year ago) link

Moby Dick is people!

Rich Valley Girl, Poor Valley Girl (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 23 June 2021 13:33 (one year ago) link


Rich Valley Girl, Poor Valley Girl (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 23 June 2021 13:33 (one year ago) link

*disappointedly flings book across the room*

plax (ico), Wednesday, 23 June 2021 13:33 (one year ago) link

four months pass...

Moby Dick Restaurant; Northern Mariana Islands, Garapan Saipan PMB658 BOX10000

— Random Restaurant (@_restaurant_bot) November 21, 2021

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 21 November 2021 19:19 (ten months ago) link

nine months pass...

Nor is it at all prudent for the hunter to be overcurious touching the precise nature of the whale spout. It will not do for him to be peering into it, and putting his face into it. You cannot go with your pitcher to this fountain, and fill it, and bring it away. For even when coming into slight contact with the outer, vapory shreds of the jet, which will often happen, your skin will feverishly smart, from the acridness of the thing so touching it. And I know one, who coming into still closer contact with the spout, whether with some scientific object in view, or otherwise, I cannot say, the skin peeled off from his cheek and arm. Wherefore, among whalemen, the spout is deemed poisonous; they try to avoid it. Another thing; I have heard it said, and I do not much doubt it, that if the jet is fairly spouted into your eyes, it will blind you. The wisest thing the investigator can do then, it seems to me, is to let this deadly spout alone.

Still, we can hypothesize, even if we cannot prove and establish.... I am convinced that from the heads of all ponderous profound beings, such as Plato, Pyrrho, the Devil, Jupiter, Dante, and so on, there always goes up a certain semi-visible steam, while in the act of thinking deep thoughts. While composing a little treatise on Eternity, I had the curiosity to place a mirror before me; and ere long saw reflected there, a curious involved worming and undulation in the atmosphere over my head....

difficult listening hour, Thursday, 15 September 2022 15:16 (three weeks ago) link

That mix of levity and casual profundity feels so modern to me.

Abel Ferrara hard-sci-fi elevator pitch (PBKR), Thursday, 15 September 2022 15:24 (three weeks ago) link

where pynchon came from for sure:

We resumed business; and while plying our spoons in the bowl, thinks I to myself, I wonder now if this here has any effect on the head? What's that stultifying saying about chowder-headed people? "But look, Queequeg, ain't that a live eel in your bowl? Where's your harpoon?"

Fishiest of all fishy places was the Try Pots, which well deserved its name; for the pots there were always boiling chowders. Chowder for breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper, till you began to look for fish-bones coming through your clothes. The area before the house was paved with clamshells. Mrs. Hussey wore a polished necklace of codfish vertebra; and Hosea Hussey had his account books bound in superior old sharkskin. There was a fishy flavor to the milk, too, which I could not at all account for, till one morning happening to take a stroll along the beach among some fishermen's boats, I saw Hosea's brindled cow feeding on fish remnants, and marching along the sand with each foot in a cod's decapitated head, looking very slip-shod, I assure ye.

difficult listening hour, Thursday, 15 September 2022 15:43 (three weeks ago) link

Now I want chowder

sweating like Cathy *aaaack* (Boring, Maryland), Thursday, 15 September 2022 15:58 (three weeks ago) link

straight into my veins

Tracer Hand, Thursday, 15 September 2022 18:27 (three weeks ago) link

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