Friday, August 9, 2019

Moby-Dick, or, the WhaleMoby-Dick, or, the Whale by Herman Melville
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not only is this a polarizing book for readers in general, but it is also a polarizing book for me.

I read it first when I was a teen and was amazed at its complexity and subtlety and the amount of scholarship that went into it. Not to mention the author's passion. But I also ABHORRED the subject not only because it is a nasty piece of real history, but because it made me roll around in the gore. And such gore... I would have preferred getting thrown into Dead/Alive as a character rather than have to live through the chop-chop of a whale surgeon.

Let me be perfectly clear. I loved to hate this book. But one thing I cannot do is hate the quality of it. It's about as untraditional as you can get. Brief moments of fantastic, mind-blowing action in between weird meta moments and then sheer-rock-wall cliffs of academic exposition.

We get a 360-degree look at the whole damn whaling industry, and that means we also get the heroism and the demonization of the sailors, of Captain Ahab, the camaraderie, the mean terror, and the iron-heart determination to see a thing through no matter the cost.

Oddly enough, this aspect isn't the strongest aspect, IMHO. I honestly got the feeling that Moby Dick was a condemnation of the whole enterprise even while it was glorying in it. This time, anyway.

I'll shorten this review, but honestly, I could go on about how freaking wonderful the language was, how many allusions, poetry, and how bloody-minded it was about giving us all a supremely clear picture of that hellish industry, but I'm sure this quick take will imply it. :)

Better on a re-read. Probably better on a third or a fourth.


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