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Moby Dick

 
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Vlad Piranha
Dictator-Elect
Dictator-Elect


Joined: 15 Jul 2005
Location: Sector C Test Labs.
PostPosted: Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:51 pm 
Post subject: Moby Dick
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When I set out to conquer classical literature, I knew the White Whale would be on that list somewhere. After all, it's hard to imagine a more famous American novel than Moby Dick. It's referenced in all forms of media and famous the world over, America's greatest contribution to the written word, or at least that seems to be the reputation. Can Melville's epic tale of the sea live up to this kind of hype? The answer is no. For those of you who simply don't have the time or emotional fortitude to subject yourselves to its 654 pages of soul-staining anguish, you can simulate the Moby Dick experience by reading this review while punching yourself in the temple repeatedly and with all of your might.

The story centers around Ishmael, a sailor who explains that his cure for melancholy or wanderlust is to find work aboard the first good ship he can find whenever the urge sets in and spend months or years at sea to put his mind at ease. In this way he find himself consigned to the command of Captain Ahab aboard his whaling ship the Pequod. After some time at sea, searching for whales and meeting with some luck, Ahab explains to his crew that, apart from their primary duties, he has a special task for them. Somewhere in the ocean, he explains, swims a fearsome white sperm whale dubbed Moby Dick, and that a hefty reward awaits the man who spots it first.

As the novel progresses, it becomes abundantly clear to Ishmael and his shipmates that Ahab's missing leg was the result of another encounter with Moby Dick and that Ahab will stop at nothing to exact his brutal revenge upon the beast, the true, secret purpose for his voyage. When some crewmen make known their moral objections to Ahab's lust for blood, his barely veiled threats keep them in line. Ahab is so obsessive in regard to his quest that he has compiled years of research on sperm whales and their migratory patterns in order to estimate the whale's habitat. News is acquired by hailing other ships and, after months of good hunting and killing, intelligence suggests that the Captain is nearing his quarry. Somewhere in the waters of the Pacific near Japan is where Moby Dick is said to currently reside. Ahab's obsession reaches a level of focus that could only be described as pure lunacy and illness. When hailing another ship, the Demeter, for news, Ahab discovers that he isn't far behind his target. More importantly, the captain of that ship begs his aid in searching for a lost rowboat that was left behind after an ill-fated whale pursuit, the crew of which contained his 12 year old son. Hellbent on vengeance, Ahab leaves that ship's crew to its misery and continues pursuit, in spite of the pitiful sobs of its captain. Before long, Captain Ahab finally gets his wish.

On the horizon, the White Whale breaches and the Pequod begins the chase. Over a period of days, the wily animal tries to elude and outmaneuver Ahab and his men, but the Captain's obsessive research begins to bear fruit. He is not easily fooled and every time the whale dives to swim to safety under the cover of the ocean, Ahab is able to predict its course and continue the chase. During one of the encounters, when the whale is too breathless to dive again, boats hit the water in an effort to spear the creature. Spears are thrown and a man is pulled to a watery grave, tangled in the line that connects his ankle to the harpoon in the whale's flank. Further encounters are equally fatal, and the whale wishes only to escape, but Ahab is undeterred. Finally, after a third try to slay the monster, Moby Dick thrashes the boats to timber with his tail and turns and rams the Pequod, breaching its hull and sinking it. By grabbing a small life preserver from the deck, Ishmael is the only survivor of the wreck who isn't drowned. After some time floating helplessly in the water, the Demeter find him, its crew pulls him aboard, and they continue their search for the captain's lost son.

I'll be blunt, this is one of the worst books I've ever read and I'm pretty pleased with myself for managing to make coherent sense of the synopsis. You truly need to see the size of this novel to understand how hilariously over-sized it is. You could kill one hell of a spider with this brick. The biggest flaw of the book is what resulted in that size - a complete and utter lack of brevity or train of thought. Moby Dick is, quite literally, five times longer than it needs to be. The middlemost chapters of the book illustrate this point best. During this period, for every plot driven chapter, there will be three to six pointless and unrelated ones. The entire book reads like a poorly written documentary on whaling as there are countless chapters that describe the occupation down to its most irrelevant details. The chapter on how to extract the sperm was painful and boring beyond description.

Fewer than one hundred pages into Moby Dick, I was wishing someone would plunge a harpoon through my heart. Not since William Faulkner has an author taken such sadistic delight in wasting such a substantial portion of my time. Compounding Moby Dick's failure to remain on point is its narrative. The prose to this book consists of Melville waxing poetic about the sea and all its splendors and, frankly, he's terrible at it. Dialogue is written in a way in which no human being would ever speak and was difficult to read as a result. When I take this note into consideration, it's not surprising in the least that Mark Twain's body of work was so well received some years later. Strangest of all is how the narrative style changes from first person narration to a screenplay layout for no reason one at least one occasion.

What this all results in is a painfully boring novel with a childishly simple plot meant to poetically lead up to an obvious moral. There is nothing enjoyable about Moby Dick. Nothing. Melville is an amateur in every negative sense of that word. So horrid was this fetid monstrosity that I consider myself less interesting from simply having read it. Moby Dick is the literary equivalent to movie The Room. There is one thing that Moby Dick is good for, though. Herman Melville and his pitiful book will always serve a valuable purpose as a cautionary tale about the dangerous cocktail of enthusiasm and incompetence.

This book is still not the worst thing I've ever read....
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atatme
Atatame Who?


Joined: 17 Feb 2009
Location: Bozeman, Montana, United States
PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2013 3:49 pm 
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIoAYq9iD4A
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Insomniac
Sailor
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Joined: 03 Jan 2012
Location: Not the US.
PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2013 4:33 pm 
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atatme wrote:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIoAYq9iD4A

God damn it atat, I spent a good while watching all his videos.
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atatme
Atatame Who?


Joined: 17 Feb 2009
Location: Bozeman, Montana, United States
PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2013 4:50 pm 
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Insomniac wrote:
atatme wrote:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIoAYq9iD4A

God damn it atat, I spent a good while watching all his videos.


Good! They are awesome and he is generally right
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