December Book Review

Moby Dick
Moby Dick,
by Herman Melville

Moby Dick

“Call me Ishmael.” It may be the most quoted opening line in fiction, deployed by literary dilettantes to impress their friends. But how many have actually read the book? It took me forty years of procrastination to get around to it. Ishmael turns out to be a very leisurely narrator. His story moves forward in fits and starts, pausing for ruminations that have the feel at times of an instructional manual on whaling. Other ships are encountered and other whales hunted and killed en route to the long-awaited confrontation with the monstrous leviathan, Moby Dick. Melville transports the reader into uncharted territory, populated by exotic characters like Queequeg, Tashtego, Daggoo and Fedallah, and brimming with nautical terminology that will enrich your vocabulary. His ornate prose, with its Biblically incantatory rhythms, is an antidote for the breakneck pace of modern life. You can’t skim it, as you would a Web site. So take a trip in pursuit of the white whale with the obsessive Captain Ahab and the crew of the Pequod. If your only acquaintance with Melville’s tale is the movie version, you’re missing the boat.


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