Thursday, July 17, 2014

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, Chapters 51 - 90

So, I'm up to Chapter 90 of Moby-Dick.  I really did mean to finish by July 15, but I'm pretty certain that's not going to happen.  I have made some real progress, and I hope to finish it in the next couple of weeks.

I'm very glad that this book is all in short chapters, because I don't know how much I could sit down and read straight through.  In all honestly, if I didn't have the audiobook in the car, I don't know if I would have gotten this far.

There's really not that much narrative at this point -- Ishmael and the boys are on the hunt, and there are far, far more asides than actual plot.  I understand this is probably ground-breaking and experimental, but I'm beginning to understand why this is a book that people either really love or really hate.  There's still not so much character development -- I understand that Ahab is on a quest for revenge against the white whale, but other than that, not much insight into his character, or Ishmael either.  He seems more like an omniscient more than anything else at this point.  Well, there are still about 45 chapter to go, so I suppose that part is upcoming.

What I'm really learning about so far is whales -- the differences between the different types, their anatomy, habits, you name it.  Ishmael (or Melville, I suppose) seems in awe of whales, almost reverent about them -- it's sort of shocking how much he seems to admire them, yet in the very next chapter, or even the next paragraph, will then go on describe how they're going to kill these magnificent creatures.  I'm learning much, much more about the butchering of whales than I would like.  So far, when it comes to Man vs. Whales, I'm firmly on Team Whale.  I'm not a vegetarian, I do eat all kinds of meat, but there's no way I could bring myself to ever eat whale, especially after reading this book.  Maybe I should start on a krill diet.

That being said, the writing is mostly excellent, but I'm finding the story kind of uneven overall -- some chapters are fascinating and others just bore me to tears.  Frank Muller's narration really does enhance the story.  I'm down to the last five discs, so I should finally finish it up in the next week or so.

Is anyone else still working on Moby-Dick?  How are you enjoying it?  


  1. You can strike "probably." It's ground-breaking! It's experimental! One piece of ground that the book broke: it turns out novels to not have to be about characters.

    Ishmael is definitely on Team Whale with you. If you like, you can go back to Chapter 1 and tally up the water references.

  2. I once worked my way through the first part of Mody Dick but gave up even before Ahab had come on deck. I remember liking what I read, though.

    I'd love to have Tom outline what was ground-breaking about it. I suspect it has lots of "firsts" in it as far as the developement of the novel goes.

  3. I feel I have done my part already! This is more or less that outline. Plus there was a week devoted just to Moby-Dick.

    The whole line of information-packed, sprawling American shots at the sublime, Pynchon and Gaddis and Wallace, crowd, come right out of Melville. Here I say just that, but in the context of Sergio de la Pava.

    Still, what most amaze me if that Melville often wrote prose in blank verse. Did he do it on purpose? Or did he unconsciously fall into the rhythm? It is very strange.

  4. Moby Dick is a "one of these days I have to read that" book. But I know I'm not going to get to it any time soon.

  5. Karen, this isn't a comment on Moby-Dick, which intimidates me so much I've never tried to read it!

    I've nominated you for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award:

    Thanks for inspiring me!