by Herman Melville
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Its famous opening line, "Call me Ishmael," dramatic in its stark simplicity, begins an epic that is widely regarded as the greatest novel ever written by an American. Labeled variously a realistic story of whaling, a romance of unusual adventure and eccentric characters, a symbolic allegory, and a drama of heroic conflict, Moby Dick is first and foremost a great story. It has both the humor and poignancy of a simple sea ballad, as well as the depth and universality of a grand odyssey. When Melville's father died in 1832, the young man's financial security went too. For a while he turned to school-mastering and clerking, but failed to make a sustainable income. In 1840 he signed up on the whaler, Acushnet, out of New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was just 21. A whaler's life turned out to be both arduous and dangerous, and in 1842, Melville deserted ship. Out of this experience and a wealth of printed sources, Melville crafted his masterpiece.
Great reader of an even greater book...
Frank Muller reads Melvilles masterpiece with spot-on precision! I can't wait to get into my car for my 90 minute commute and find out what Ishmael, Ahab and the rest of the boys are up to next. It makes me realize just how beautiful the English language can be in the hands of a true master. Less than 12 bucks. Do not pass this up!
Melville, not Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne didn't write Moby Dick - Herman Melville did.
Hast thou seen the White Whale?
Moby-Dick is a magnificent book, but it can require a great deal of patience: it is an 'adventure' novel in which not very much happens. Its plot is very simple & very famous. Its beauty is in the slavish amount of detail put into it.
Melville uses nautical terms extensively, & he loves nothing better than to have Ishmael display his breadth of knowledge-- & because of this, I would recommend a printed copy with annotations IN ADDITION to this recording. The Norton Critical edition has ample notes, glossaries & diagrams which make it even more possible to become joyously immersed in the book. There are few novels that more strongly make me feel actually inside them. I've had the luxury of having both the explanatory materials & Frank Muller's narration (reading the notes after each chapter). His voice is rich & smooth. (There is one sentence beginning with the phrase 'His special lunacy...' that I listened to half a dozen times in a row, so alluring were Muller's inflections.
He voices Ishmael's erudition with genuine enthusiasm for the types, behaviour, appearance, historical significance, et cetera of whales (Melville does do the thing right); shows considerable comedic talent with Stubb's frenzied 'pep-talks' for pulling a whale in; & gives Queequeg's idiosyncratic take on the English language a sweet mixture of toughness & frankness. Queequeg & Ishmael's relationship is an interesting element of Moby-Dick. Ishmael refers to him as a 'savage' but evidently feels a strong sense of respect & comradeship toward him. Is it hypocrisy, or an obsolete, now politically incorrect, term, as people call Native Americans 'Indians' without meaning any malice? It makes me uneasy.
The most gorgeous parts of the book, though, are Ahab's mad soliloquies. It is almost frightening how well Muller ‘gets into character’.
"Leap! leap up & lick the sky! I leap with thee; I burn with thee; would feign be welded with thee; defyingly I worship thee!"