Moby Dick took me by surprise! I didn’t make the opportunity to read it in high school, since it was never assigned, and I wasn’t as much of a book worm then as I am now. I’m so glad I finally made time for this book.
Melville’s exquisite pontification of all things whale is simply astonishing. The story itself could have been told with very little detail lost in one quarter of the words. Indeed the story itself could have simply have been wrapped up neatly as a short story. But the masterpiece that is Moby Dick is much more than the sum of it’s parts. Melville’s command of the English language is second to none as also is his knowledge of all matters leviathan and literature. And while he uses tall words, most chapters are thankfully short and pithy.
When we learn about the theme of Moby Dick in our youth, we simply can’t imagine what all the fuss is about, especially in these days when whales are seen a simple, serene sea mammals who were nearly driven to extinction not many decades past. But in the age this book was set, whales and whaling was a much different subject. Whales were both better known and less understood. By saying that they were less understood in no way diminishes what was understood of the whale in that time. There was a surprising great deal understood about them. But it seems so far fetched in our modern imagination that this would be a significant topic for a book. All you have to do it read the book and that view will be forever shattered.
I’m writing as though the subject of the whale is all Moby Dick is about. But of course it is not. The rich veins of deposited meaning could be mined for a lifetime and never fail.
I’m going to re-read Moby Dick. This is a book that deserves to be read and re-read slowly.