Why Read Moby-Dick?
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
A “brilliant and provocative” (The New Yorker) celebration of Melville’s masterpiece—from the bestselling author of In the Heart of the Sea and the forthcoming Valiant Ambition (May 2016)
One of the greatest American novels finds its perfect contemporary champion in Why Read Moby-Dick?, Nathaniel Philbrick’s enlightening and entertaining tour through Melville’s classic. As he did in his National Book Award–winning bestseller In the Heart of the Sea, Philbrick brings a sailor’s eye and an adventurer’s passion to unfolding the story behind an epic American journey. He skillfully navigates Melville’s world and illuminates the book’s humor and unforgettable characters—finding the thread that binds Ishmael and Ahab to our own time and, indeed, to all times. An ideal match between author and subject, Why Read Moby-Dick? will start conversations, inspire arguments, and make a powerful case that this classic tale waits to be discovered anew.
whaleman. “From this one poor hunt, then, the best lance out of all Nantucket, surely he will not hang back?” When the first mate does not immediately respond, Ahab knows he has him. “Starbuck now is mine,” he exults. What Ahab does not hear as he savors “his joy at the enchanted, tacit acquiescence” is Starbuck’s murmured “God keep me!—keep us all!” as well as the flap of the sails as the wind suddenly vanishes and, most disturbing of all, “the low laugh from the hold” of Fedallah. Once the
makes . . . ,” Melville wrote in his review, “or whether there really lurks in him, perhaps unknown to himself, a touch of Puritanic gloom,—this, I cannot altogether tell.” “[T]here is something lacking—a good deal lacking,” Melville wrote in February 1851 to Duyckinck, “to the plump sphericity of the man. What is that?—He doesn’t patronise the butcher—he needs roast-beef, done rare.” What Hawthorne needed, more than anything else, was a cannibal friend like Queequeg. Late in life, long after
and his compatriots are more interested in losing themselves in the cosmos. As naive seekers of philosophical truth, their favorite perch is at the masthead on a quiet sunny day in the Pacific. “There you stand,” Ishmael says, “a hundred feet above the silent decks, striding along the deep, as if the masts were gigantic stilts, while beneath you and between your legs, as it were, swim the hugest monsters of the sea, even as ships once sailed between the boots of the famous Colossus at old
can make all the difference. For Melville, the timing could not have been better, and in the flyleaf of the last volume of his seven-volume set of Shakespeare’s plays are notes written during the composition of Moby-Dick about Ahab, Pip, and other characters. Instead of being intimidated by Shakespeare, Melville dared to wonder whether he might be able to surpass him. Given the constraints that existed in Elizabethan England, Shakespeare had to be careful about what he revealed. As a result,
kinds of places Walt Whitman would go just four years later with the publication of Leaves of Grass in 1855. “Oh! my dear fellow beings,” Ishmael effuses, “why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.” This is the homoerotic answer (which, given his troubled marriage, may have been