Beginning Moby Dick

I’ve started reading Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. I mention Melville’s name not because there is another Moby Dick (a Disney prequel about Ahab’s troubled youth where he forgets to believe in himself?). but because I’m afraid it’s too easy to think of this book as unbirthed, always swimming around in the deep like the whale himself. It’s better, I think, to remember that a man wrote this monster into existence and that it can be read and tamed.

“Whales- Mammal or Fish? Moby Dick is the stupidest book ever written.”
SuperBruinMan at Bruins Nation, from The Stupidest Book Ever Written

Or maybe not. Melville is a classic example of the artist ignored in his own time. His peers were unable to appreciate this thing; what hope have I? Moby Dick has been over-interpreted, under-interpreted, and variously and conflictingly interpreted for over 150 years. Can I add anything interesting to the discussion? Probably not. Hopefully, and more likely, definitely, it can add something to me.

7 responses to “Beginning Moby Dick”

  1. Annie says:

    I read Moby Dick in college and ended up loving it. I keep planning to re-read it someday. Will look forward to your thoughts–

  2. Ian says:

    Comin’ up. I should also post my three-year old son’s surprisingly perceptive thoughts on Moby Dick as well. My wife has been reading him an edited version (by the publisher and by her) of the tale.

  3. Clemens says:

    Don’t try to interpret it! It’s a hell of an adventure story. And a whole lot more.

  4. Ian says:

    But – but – I must, Clemens! Although your, “whole lot more” leads me to question the veracity of your advice.

  5. Anastasia says:

    I have never read Moby Dick. It was never in our high school curriculum (although we had a bunch of English & Australian authors to choose from), and I’ve always wanted to read it, but it’s also the kind of book that has a huge reputation, and can induce a headache on thought alone, but it’s in the overrall plan. It’s become like one of the things I must do before I die.

  6. Ian says:

    I’m about 1/6 of the way through, Anastasia, and I’m loving it. It’s one those books that has to be read at the right time, I think. I would have totally missed, misunderstood and ignored all the biblical allusions the first time I read it, missing half the book, for example.

    And welcome to Upper Fort Stewart!

  7. […] As far as plot-avoiding chapters in incredibly long classic-fiction goes, Cetology isn’t so bad. Melville is usually very entertaining. And there’s at least some foreshadowing of how our first meeting with the majestic and formidable whale will play out. By the way, the whale, Melville will have you know, is definitely not a mammal, but is, in fact, “a spouting fish with a horizontal tail.” You shouldn’t have given up so soon SuperBruinsMan. […]

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