Aedes
 
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 08:55 pm
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
I listened to the free complete unabridged recording at librivox.org, masterfully narrated.

LibriVox Moby Dick by Herman Melville

It takes a lot for a book to make my top ten list, but this one just has. In fact, it's now one of the 6 books in my top 5 (because I can't bear to bump any).

There is nothing in the world like this book. It's the story of one of the most stunning characters in all of literature, Captain Ahab, who is a gloomy, brooding, obsessed, complex man who is completely consumed with finding the white sperm whale Moby Dick who in a previous encounter had bitten off his leg.

But the story is told by Ishmael, a sailor on the boat who himself is a strange character, unfettered, arrogant, encyclopedic, philosophical, and free from any moralizing. And the other inhabitants of the boat, like Queequeg, Starbuck, Pip, and Stubbs, and other characters elsewhere like Captain Bildad and Captain Peleg, are among the most unforgettable characters you'll see anywhere.

The book (the unabridged version, which I read) is filled with digressions about the taxonomy, anatomy, behavior of whales, the operation of whaling ships, the famous whalers through history, meditations on Jonah, etc. These can be long and tedious, but they're interesting enough. And they serve a higher purpose -- they make it possible for the ship to travel great distances over great time, without those intervals being part of the narrative.

The book is deeply meditative, dark, and philosophical. Of most note to me is the sheer godlessness of Ahab, possessed in his thirst to find Moby Dick.

The language is amazing -- some passages are just lurid, delicious, hypnotizing, as perfect as anything written by Milton or Shakespeare. In some sections the language is meant to evoke stage directions, quite effectively. In others they're soliloquies worthy of Hamlet or Lear.

See this meditation by Ishmael.

Quote:
Look not too long in the face of the fire, O man! Never dream with thy hand on the helm! Turn not thy back to the compass; accept the first hint of the hitching tiller; believe not the artificial fire, when its redness makes all things look ghastly. To-morrow, in the natural sun, the skies will be bright; those who glared like devils in the forking flames, the morn will show in far other, at least gentler, relief; the glorious, golden, glad sun, the only true lamp- all others but liars!

Nevertheless the sun hides not Virginia's Dismal Swamp, nor Rome's accursed Campagna, nor wide Sahara, nor all the millions of miles of deserts and of griefs beneath the moon. The sun hides not the ocean, which is the dark side of this earth, and which is two thirds of this earth. So, therefore, that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true- not true, or undeveloped. With books the same. The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon's, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. "All is vanity." ALL. This wilful world hath not got hold of unchristian Solomon's wisdom yet. But he who dodges hospitals and jails, and walks fast crossing graveyards, and would rather talk of operas than hell; calls Cowper, Young, Pascal, Rousseau, poor devils all of sick men; and throughout a care-free lifetime swears by Rabelais as passing wise, and therefore jolly;- not that man is fitted to sit down on tomb-stones, and break the green damp mould with unfathomably wondrous Solomon.

But even Solomon, he says, "the man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain" (i.e. even while living) "in the congregation of the dead." Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it invert thee, deaden thee; as for the time it did me. There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.


(bold is mine -- just amazing writing)
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Theaetetus
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 09:41 pm
@Aedes,
Moby Dick is actually the next book I am reading once I finish Notes from the Underground. I have tried to pick it up in the past, but never had enough time to fully dig into the book.
0 Replies
 
William
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 09:44 pm
@Aedes,
Good book, huh Paul? More later. Got an early appointment tomorrow at the "Doc's". (7:30 no less). Later.

William
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 09:44 pm
@Aedes,
Notes from Underground is phenomenal. Man, what a great book. The Brothers Karamazov is the only novel by Dostoyevsky that I like better than Underground (both are in my top 10, but Karamazov is in my top 3). The second part of Underground goes a lot faster than the first.

If you've got enough iPod time, the Librivox recording of Moby Dick is outstanding. I've got a 2 hour round trip commute to work, so I've got plenty of time to go through these audiobooks (I'm reading A Tale of Two Cities now).

Yes William, it's phenomenal. It was next on my list even before you recommended it (but Les Miserables and Musketeers are higher now thanks to you!)
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 10:11 pm
@Aedes,
Notes from the Underground is a must read. I started Karamazov some time ago, but abandoned the project for other works. My current re-reading of Don Quixote has rekindled my interest in the longer, monumental work so perhaps I'll grab Karamazov again.

Moby Dick, I'm ashamed to say, is a book I have not read. Because I already own the book, I'll probably give Billy Budd a read before I jump into Moby Dick.
0 Replies
 
JLP
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 10:39 pm
@Aedes,
Herman Melville is one of my favorite authors. His mastery of the English language sets him apart from most writers, even the greats.

A cherished, poignant line from Billy Budd:

"In fervid hearts self-contained, some brief experiences devour our human tissue as secret fire in a ship's hold consumes cotton in the bale."
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 11:24 pm
@Aedes,
Totally agree about his mastery of the English language. Ahab's tormented soliloquies are Shakespearian in both language and psychological force; Ahab reminds me a lot of King Lear and Hamlet.

In my mind John Milton was the absolute apothesosis of English mastery, bar none. James Joyce was a different sort of master -- he not only mastered English but he toyed with it.
JLP
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 08:13 am
@Aedes,
Part of the satisfaction one receives from reading authors like Melville, Milton, and Joyce, lies in the challenge their works provide.

Their styles, while very different from each other, remain "thick" enough to provide layers of analysis, study, and interpretation. The re-read value is high.

Melville seems challenging until one reads Finnegan's Wake.
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 07:00 pm
@Aedes,
I don't find Melville's, Milton's, or Shakespeare's language challenging. It's ornate and exquisitely crafted, but not hard, per se. Joyce is a different story, but that's because his writing is so full of puns and so many 'affected' styles that it's got many layers of craft. I'm an enormous Ulysses fan, it's in my top 3 or 4, but Finnegan's Wake is something I haven't dared yet. I need to read it alongside a book of criticism and that's a very slow endeavor.
0 Replies
 
ughaibu
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 05:56 am
@Aedes,
Great site, thanks for posting that.
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 05:01 pm
@Aedes,
Who is Ishmael, and how white was the whale???
0 Replies
 
William
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 07:21 pm
@Aedes,
Moby Dick is man's wrestling nature and losing. It's use of thousands of metaphorical phrases illustrates our naivete of her and all she is that we are helpless against. To say this work is deep is an understatement and why Melville chose the sea and it's majestic denizen to tell this tale. It's no fluke, ha! Man is no match for her and he must reach a balance with her or he will sink to the depths as Ahab did.

William

P.S. Fido, the whale actually existed and why Melville used the backdrop he did.
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 08:21 pm
@Aedes,
Yer nuts...It is all about religon..It is a metaphysical journey of a man determined to meet his fate as a man, driven to strike back at the snake that strikes his heel... Nature in all its violence is God...

Think of it for a moment, the names out of the Bible, references to paganism and religion left and right, including preaching from the pulpit...
0 Replies
 
William
 
  1  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:06 am
@Aedes,
Yeah, Fido you are right. I can imagine how god would get a little pissed. And the "yer nuts" comment is a bit of a digression for you, don't you think? I respect your opinion and please reel in your ego. They're many ways of interpreting Melville as I mentioned in his use of metaphors; I just offered mine.

william
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 10:14 am
@William,
William;133539 wrote:
Yeah, Fido you are right. I can imagine how god would get a little pissed. And the "yer nuts" comment is a bit of a digression for you, don't you think? I respect your opinion and please reel in your ego. They're many ways of interpreting Melville as I mentioned in his use of metaphors; I just offered mine.

william

Let me apologize... I could have been more tactful especially since I don't know it all...
William
 
  1  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 12:56 pm
@Fido,
Fido;133425 wrote:
... Nature in all its violence is God...


Fido;133559 wrote:
...I don't know it all...


If you don't mind, let me comment on these two quotes. I believe we are a part of God and it is in the Earth's violence we, in that we do not realize that in all we do, in our ignorance of that "assumed" notion, is what violence is, in all manners and forms. No one knows it all. When we are chaotic, the Earth vents her rage. Does that mean nature (god) will calm down otherwise? Well, let's give peace, and all that is, a shot and see what happens. Couldn't hurt and if I am wrong,then you can tell me what a "nut" I am.

William
Ding an Sich
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2010 11:39 am
@William,
I recall the part in Moby Dick where Ishmael in his observations states that the Sperm Whale is a "Kant's Head" while the Right Whale is a "Locke's Head". The book itself is very philosophical and I enjoyed it to the very end.
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2010 11:55 am
@Aedes,
Did you ever see the Movie Jaws, where Dryfuss sp, points at the shark and says: fast fish??? The term is an old one in law, but it has some points in common with philosophy which were not lost to melvile...
0 Replies
 
Martin Timothy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 21 May, 2010 09:57 pm
@ughaibu,
http://www.dockersunion.com • View topic - Moby Dick

http://img90.imageshack.us/img90/7806/mobydickk.jpg
Image file

Moby Dick online.
0 Replies
 
Deckard
 
  1  
Reply Fri 21 May, 2010 10:58 pm
@ughaibu,
Quote:
There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.
It is easy to identify ones spirit with high flying birds or even low diving birds so long as they can still fly high again... but in the end Melville spared not even this symbol.

Quote:
<!-- @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } -->
But as the last whelmings intermixingly poured themselves over the sunken head of the Indian at the mainmast, leaving a few inches of the erect spar yet visible, together with long streaming yards of the flag, which calmly undulated, with ironical coincidings, over the destroying billows they almost touched;- at that instant, a red arm and a hammer hovered backwardly uplifted in the open air, in the act of nailing the flag faster and yet faster to the subsiding spar. A sky-hawk that tauntingly had followed the main-truck downwards from its natural home among the stars, pecking at the flag, and incommoding Tashtego there; this bird now chanced to intercept its broad fluttering wing between the hammer and the wood; and simultaneously feeling that etherial thrill, the submerged savage beneath, in his death-gasp, kept his hammer frozen there; and so the bird of heaven, with archangelic shrieks, and his imperial beak thrust upwards, and his whole captive form folded in the flag of Ahab, went down with his ship, which, like Satan, would not sink to hell till she had dragged a living part of heaven along with her, and helmeted herself with it.

So anyway, call me Ishmael.
0 Replies
 
 

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