“Where the White Whale, yo?”
Ah, my first DBR. And possibly my last, as this could be a complete shit show. Approaching a review of Moby-Dick
in a state of sobriety just wasn’t cutting it, though. So let’s raise our glasses to Option B, yeah?
I fucking love this book. It took me eight hundred years to read it, but it was so, so worth it. Melville’s writing is impeccable. The parallels he draws, even when he’s seemingly pulling them out of his ass, which I swear to God he’s doing, because who can find this many parallels to draw when talking about a whale, are just perfect. He can compare any and every aspect of the whale—did you know this whole book is about a whale
?—to the human condition. And he does so in a way that is humorous and poetic. It is pretty remarkable, I tell you.
So here’s the thing: I had zero interest in whales before starting this book. But holy hell if I haven’t been googling the crap out of them lately. I mean, it’s the mark of a superior writer (isn’t it?) to command one’s attention—not just to hold it but to carry it forth hither and thither—for seven hundred pages of a book about a whale. It’s impressive, really, when you think about it. And yet, this book suffers a severe level of under-appreciation on TEH GOODREADS. It has an average rating of 3.33, which is extraordinarily dismal by this website’s standards (and with almost a quarter million ratings so far, it is unlikely to migrate much from that figure). So in an attempt to understand what it is people hate about this book, I filtered the community reviews to show 1-star results, and here is what I’ve discovered:
• This book would have been great, admits Anulka, if it weren’t for that darn tootin’ whale interfering with the story.
• The language is too much for Gil Michelini, who believes words have their place (after all we are not heathens!), but they simply do not belong in this novel.
• Marlan’s complaint is that there is too great a lack of story here, so much so that it feels crammed in. It’s like trying to squeeze a cookie into a breadbox.
• Some have experienced extreme aversions to this book. It has made Colleen seasick, quite frankly; it has totally messed up Edwin’s mind; and it has made Robert want to light himself on fire. Even Liz has acknowledged a preference for drowning if such an option existed as a substitute for reading Moby-Dick.
• Tracy Dunning would recommend renting the cartoon version, which far surpasses the actual text in storytelling capability.
• Still others have been befuddled by this novel’s ability to hoodwink its readers into thinking they like it (when in fact they don’t), a bizarre phenomenon Esther Hansen can personally attest to.
• Finally, Keya offers a sobering perspective, which is that people are only reading this book to read it, meaning that if they weren’t reading it, then it would simply be a book not being read. Truly, Yogi Berra couldn’t have put it better himself.
But Keya does bring up an interesting point here: why doesn’t
Ahab just “get over it” and live his life? I mean, should that be so hard? In some sense, the White Whale is nothing more than a stand-in for everything that has gone wrong in Ahab’s life. He mounts this campaign against the stand-in but isn’t that sort of disingenuous? After all, it’s not the whale that’s responsible for his miserable life. Ahab claims to be an instrument of fate, but fate in this case seems nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Oh, fuck, my fingers hurt from the backspace.
Look, here’s the bottom line. I was afraid this book would be long and boring. And now I wonder how many people hesitate reading it because of its bad rap. Well I’m here to tell you, Potential Reader, this book might be long but it is by no means boring. (Therefore, it is long and exciting? TWSS?) I implore you to ignore the negative reviews! Melville has a talent for flowing, humorous prose, and there is so much of it here to enjoy.
So go find your White Whale.
(P.S. Gin rules.)
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