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Moby Dick: towering work of genius or load of junk?

(17 Posts)
thewhistler Sun 30-Sep-12 22:48:36

I am struggling to finish it. I have tried three times before and given up each time.

This time I tried to read while ill; then took cds to the gym, which has persuaded me of its humour, at least, and am finally on a kindle which means I can switch from it without any one noticing.

But save to give literature majors something to do, it leaves me pretty cold.

What am I missing? Humfrey Clinker is so much shorter.

CaptainHoratioWragge Sun 30-Sep-12 22:55:44

I love it, but don't know why exactly.

It is its own universe.

I love the humour, I love the random 4 page assides, I love the language, both in terms of the writing and the way the characters speak, 'A dead whale or a stove boat' as Ahab's instruction for example.

I'm not sure I can explain what you are missing- maybe it just isn't one for you?

Trollope I have tried at least half a dozen time and makes me want to burn it with frustration, yet some members of my family think they are the greatest books ever!

If you want to finish it and really can't take it, do you know that the whole book is currently being serialised, unabridged, with different celeb type actors like simon callow reading a chapter each. (you can download it free on itunes)

CoteDAzur Mon 01-Oct-12 11:40:59

Why do you care if anyone notices that you switched books?

UptoapointLordCopper Mon 01-Oct-12 12:29:46

I managed to read it to the end. Liked bits of it but flipped through large chunks. I once read a digested digest: "Man found whale, man lost whale, whale found man. The end."

Northernlurker Mon 01-Oct-12 12:31:46

I think you can skip reading Moby Dick and still be an educated. well rounded human. If you don't like it, don't read it. Personally I have a Thomas Hardy block the size of a cathedral!

I found it completely unreadable, as have most of the English graduates I know. One person I know claims to love it: I think he may have read the abridged version Lord Cooper mentions! smile

fairtomiddling Mon 01-Oct-12 20:39:53

I slogged through it whilst on holiday and wished I hadn't bothered. It had a deeply unsatisfying ending for the amount of effort it took to read!

wintersnight Mon 01-Oct-12 20:43:52

If you're not enjoying it stop reading it. I think it's an amazing, funny and very moving book. Apart from that where else could you read about a man doing a funny dance wearing a whale's foreskin!

But there are lots of classic writers that I've never really got to grips with.

UptoapointLordCopper Mon 01-Oct-12 20:52:53

I read up a bit (well, on various wiki pages) on the whaling industry of that time after reading Moby Dick. That was interesting. And the story that inspired Moby Dick. A whale did wreck a ship. And it was certainly the end for most (if not all - can't remember) on board...

'The Wreck Of The Whaleship Essex' is the true account by one of the mariners, who survived in order to write the account!"

And Nathaniel Philbrick's (sp?) "In The Heart Of The Sea" is a second hand account of the true story.

Both excellent.

thewhistler Tue 02-Oct-12 22:23:16

This is all great, because on the one hand it reassures me that I am not alone, on the other some of you are pointing out the good bits. I did read English and find my critical appreciation mode going great guns, the balance of the sermons, for example. And I do like that period's literature. And read lengthy books. it has felt like one of the great unread works for me, hence trying to get to grips with it. A bit like never having heard a Beethoven symphony all the way through, I suppose, for a music major.

The humour has come more to me this time. I love the idea of the celeb. readings. There could be a whole thread on something like that:.what celeb goes with what work? Garbo reading a room of one's own, what would Victoria Beckham read?

But the suggestions of history are great and thank you. That's a good way in. I am determined to finish this time, even if I skim masses, but then read the history and maybe I will come back.

Ah, Hardy. I can't read Jude, and haven't read the rest for years. And trollope has the same effect as Emma, I want to slap the characters.

wintersnight Wed 03-Oct-12 14:40:37

I know what you mean about great unread works, thewhistler, I felt the same about Ulysses. But then on my third attempt I just thought sod it, I'm never going to understand the bloody thing.

thewhistler Wed 03-Oct-12 18:15:10

Ulysses the quick way: chapter one and the last one, with a refresh of the Odyssey. The last chapter is brilliant. And it's the one always quoted in theory for its affirmation bit imv because few male authors cope with menstruation and it blows the minds of male academics. You can skip most of the rest.

OatyBeatie Wed 03-Oct-12 18:22:31

I like the idea of a "what sleb belongs with what great work of literature" thread.

Conrad called Moby Dick "a rather strained symphony on the subject of whaling," which is one of my favourite crushing literary shoulder-shrugs.

I did start it once, but I couldn't get the measure of it. I was similarly disorientated by William Golding's maritime trilogy, Rites of Passage, which seemed to start by being loweringly allegorical but then descended, or at any rate moved, into a kind of crass low comedy.

Maamaa Thu 04-Oct-12 13:25:54

It's one of my favourites but I read it as part of an American history and lit degree which helped because it put it in context. Middlemarch for me is the one I just can't finish!

comelywench Thu 04-Oct-12 22:12:47

I'm so glad I found this thread. I've only ever been unable to finish a book once before, but Moby Dick may be my next. I'm just not getting on with it at all! I was finally getting into it and the he started talking about different types of whales. I shall plod on. I shall not be beaten!

thewhistler Fri 05-Oct-12 15:04:29




We shall overco-o-ome
We shall overco-o-ome
We shall overcome one day.

Would it be better if he had written about elephants, I wonder. Not much

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