- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Stuart C. ShermanA great American addition with features more diverse than those in any previous editions of Melville's classic.
—Stuart C. Sherman, Fine Print
Chapter I: Loomings
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago -- never mind how long precisely -- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off -- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.
There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs -- commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme down-town is the Battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.
Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see? -- are wedded for ever.
But here is an artist. He desires to paint you the dreamiest, shadiest, quietest, most enchanting bit of romantic landscape in all the valley of the Saco. What is the chief element he employs? There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within; and here sleeps his meadow, and there sleep his cattle; and up from yonder cottage goes a sleepy smoke. Deep into distant woodlands winds a mazy way, reaching to overlapping spurs of mountains bathed in their hill-side blue. But though the picture lies thus tranced, and though this pine-tree shakes down its sighs like leaves upon this shepherd's head, yet all were vain, unless the shepherd's eye were fixed upon the magic stream before him. Go visit the Prairies in June, when for scores on scores of miles you wade knee-deep among Tiger-lilies -- what is the one charm wanting? -- Water -- there is not a drop of water there! Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it? Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach? Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and make him the own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus , who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.
Now, when I say that I am in the habit of going to sea whenever I begin to grow hazy about the eyes, and begin to be over conscious of my lungs, I do not mean to have it inferred that I ever go to sea as a passenger. For to go as a passenger you must needs have a purse, and a purse is but a rag unless you have something in it. Besides, passengers get sea-sick -- grow quarrelsome -- don't sleep of nights -- do not enjoy themselves much, as a general thing -- no, I never go as a passenger; nor, though I am something of a salt, do I ever to go to sea as a Commodore, or a Captain, or a Cook. I abandon the glory and distinction of such offices to those who like them. For my part, I abominate all honorable respectable toils, trials, and tribulations of every kind whatsoever. It is quite as much as I can do to take care of myself, without taking care of ships, barques, brigs, schooners, and what not. And as for going as cook, -- though I confess there is considerable glory in that, a cook being a sort of officer on ship-board -- yet, somehow, I never fancied broiling fowls -- though once broiled, judiciously buttered, and judgmatically salted and peppered, there is no one who will speak more respectfully, not to say reverentially, of a broiled fowl than I will. It is out of the idolatrous dotings of the old Egyptians upon broiled ibis and roasted river horse, that you see the mummies of those creatures in their huge bake-houses the pyramids.
N o, when I go to sea, I go as a simple sailor, right before the mast, plumb down into the forecastle, aloft there to the royal masthead. True, they rather order me about some, and make me jump from spar to spar, like a grasshopper in a May meadow. And at first, this sort of thing is unpleasant enough. It touches one's sense of honor, particularly if you come of an old established family in the land, the Van Rensselaers, or Randolphs, or Hardicanutes. And more than all, if just previous to putting your hand into the tarpot, you have been lording it as a country schoolmaster, making the tallest boys stand in awe of you. The transition is a keen one, I assure you, from a schoolmaster to a sailor, and requires a strong decoction of Seneca and the Stoics to enable you to grin and bear it. But even this wears off in time.
What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to, weighed, I mean, in the scale of the New Testament? Do you think the archangel Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly and respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance? Who aint a slave? Tell me that. Well, then, however the old sea-captains may order me about -- however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way -- either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other's shoulder-blades, and be content.
Again, I always go to sea as a sailor, because they make a point of paying me for my trouble, whereas they never pay passengers a single penny that I ever heard of. On the contrary, passengers themselves must pay. And there is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us. But being paid, -- what will compare with it? The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!
Finally, I always go to sea as a sailor, because of the wholesome exercise and pure air of the forecastle deck. For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the Commodore on the quarter-deck gets his atmosphere at second hand from the sailors on the forecastle. He thinks he breathes it first; but not so. In much the same way do the commonalty lead their leaders in many other things, at the same time that the leaders little suspect it. But wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt the sea as a merchant sailor, I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way -- he can better answer than any one else. And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I t ake it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:
Grand Contested Election for the
Presidency of the United States.
WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL.
BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN.
Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces -- though I cannot tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and motives which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced me to set about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill and discriminating judgment.
Chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great whale himself. Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity. Then the wild and distant seas where he rolled his island bulk; the undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale; these, with all the attending marvels of a thousand Patagonian sights and sounds, helped to sway me to my wish. With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and could still be social with it -- would they let me -- since it is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one lodges in.
By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was we lcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, midmost of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.
Copyright © 1999 by Simon & Schuster Inc.
Posted December 30, 2000
'Call me Tomás. Some days ago -never mind how long precisely- having little or no schoolwork to do, and nothing particular to interest me on TV, I thought I would read a little and see the literary part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation.' The novel I am currently reviewing starts in quite a similar fashion as this, and while this may be the only interesting part of my review, in the same manner the start of Moby-Dick is the only part of the book that enjoys the very desirable of characteristic of not putting you to sleep. Granted. Melville writes well. The elaborate construction of his sentences and the use of figurative language are excellent. No question about that. Admitted. Moby-Dick has to be the most detailed account ever, and the situations in it are narrated quite vividly. I do not argue it. But, oh, fair reader, for crying out loud! This has to be the most dreadfully boring book ever written. Honestly, do you care THAT MUCH about whales and whaling, so as to read hundreds of pages on every single aspect of them. For, it is quite necessary to make that clear, only a small portion of Moby-Dick is a real novel, that is, a fictional narration. The rest is a bunch of essays on everything that you always wanted to know about whaling. Well written, yes, but absolutely painful! What kind of a person has the patience to endure all that! I mean, the book does start in quite an interesting fashion, but after a while... 'the length of that particular bone of a whale ranges between' 'the best way of tying the knot on such and such part of a whaling boat' 'so-and-so's picture of a whale was inaccurate because'...And he went on and on and on, forever! OK, whales are big, whales are formidable. I don't care! Get on with the story, please. How I managed to get to the end of it, I don't know. Of course, Moby-Dick has to be one of the most anti-ecological books ever written and Melville commits the huge biological blunder of considering whales to be fish, but I will not make any complaints in that sense, considering the time at which the book was written. But, seriously, I don't remember ever reading a book as boring as this one, and am quite astonished at the fact that there are people who honestly say they like it. Well, the fact that the book is so techically well written is the only reason I am not giving it just one star.
8 out of 15 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 20, 2004
This is literally the most boring book I have read in my life. The writer goes on for entire chapters describing things like the colour green, and spewing similar drivel. Do not read this book unless you are some academic madman bent on sadism.
1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 14, 2002
As a fine purveyor of Victorian and neo-classical texts of American literature over the last four years of high school and some semesters of college, it is evidence from Melville's philosophical commentary and theological references for which makes his characters existential nothingness and Solopism much more facscinating. As a matter of fact, I did not read Moby Dick just because some educator told me it was a requesitional reading for all Seniors; alternatively, I did by subjective choice and infatuation with the principles of existentialism and psychology. Moby Dick is a commensurate text for those who are wanting to become heard core insomniacs or for those people who just cannot resist the temptation of introspective reading. I myself periodically, have stayed up reading it until the early hours of the morning(with no puns intended). However, for those of you who don't like have to spend multitudes of hours reading, I would recommend not reading it.
1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 17, 2014
Posted September 22, 2014
Posted July 30, 2014
Posted November 30, 2012
There are quite a few editions of Moby Dick being published, and I've seen most of them, but this edition is one of the best: the illustrations are simple yet beautifully arty; the typeset is kool; and it has a neat cover! Well, I dont know about most book collectors, but I judge books by their covers!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 11, 2009
Posted May 30, 2009
I Also Recommend:
Moby Dick is one of those rare novels that captures a particular historical moment while, at the same time, remaining timeless. Gripping drama, tense action, compelling characters and a setting so rarely glimpsed in history - the period in America between the Revolutionary and the Civil Wars. It was a time when America was discovering itself as the characters are discovering themselves. And it was the height of an industry of which, like slavery, we are all still a little ashamed. Whaling was a profitable, dangerous, and engaging occupation for a young man in those days. But when the Captain of your ship is obsessed with taking vengeance on his tormentor it would be an experience you could never forget. Assuming, of course, that you survived. Complicated, compelling, beautifully written, and always a classic, Moby-Dick is a must-read for any American lover of literature.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 12, 2005
Who am I to criticize Melville? But after reading, and chuckling, over some of my peer reader's reviews, I'm compelled to balance stars. I'm neither a critic nor literary scholar. I'm just someone who loves good literature, classic or not. Granted, Moby is long and detailed, but I contend it's all necessary and part of the story's framework. The themes are skillfully packaged in abstruse metaphors. And I agree that I had to use lexical aids to get through some of the dated vernacular. I even put down my cheap paperback for a Norton critical edition, but it was worth it. The language is beautiful and artistic. Read a benign chapter to a child and watch their expressions change as their imagination takes over their visage. Moby provides insight into today's archetypes found in pop-culture's 'Spongebob' or 'Pirates of the Caribbean'. Perhaps Moby isn't for everyone. Those who aren't interested in ages long past, historically accurate depictions of bloody exploitation, or ocular criticism of social hypocrisy, should probably stick to the bestseller lists. Entertain your brain. Every chapter is a piece of Melville's puzzle. When taken holistically, it all fits. Slow your monkey mind. Mindfully read. Open your eyes. Moby is still relevant today, especially to you good folks who think you live on that fabled 'City on the Hill'.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 4, 2003
The story Moby Dick was well written and I would suggest to anyone who likes long and very detailed books. If thats you then read it. You may very well enjoy it! As for myself it was too long of a book and too much detail. I was not impressed with the general idea of the story. It pretty much bored me. But don't take my word on it. If you're thinking about reading it then I encourage you to because you may like it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 14, 2003
WAY to long in descriptions. If Ol Herm was alive today he'd own a whale watching business out Provincetown. Otherwise a great book. Took a long time to get through.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 29, 2003
Moey Dick is a fasinating story about the famous White Whale who took the leg of a revengous captian Ahab. The captian is certain that he willl hunt down the whale and kill him as revenge. This stroy tells the tale of alife frok the eyes of school teacher who decides to go off on this adventure for fun but little does he know this fun vaction will turn into a dangerous fight over a whale.
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 24, 2003
Okay, I realize that this is a very old book, and that the language of the book was written to speak to people of that time period, but it is way too lengthy and repetitive to be enjoyable. I can't critique the book any further beyond the segment entitled " The Whiteness of the Whale, " so I will just end my review by saying that after ten pages and countless analogies, I quite understood that the blooming whale was white! I had to take two headache pills just to get through what I read, which after the first few chapters wasn't much. Melville goes overboard with description, and it detracts greatly from your interest in the story.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 1, 2002
I read this work for an upper-division survey course in American Literature. I consider myself VERY well (and widely) read in the 'classics' of the Western and Post-Colonialist world but if Melville was hunting down 'the great American novel,' I would have to say he failed, and so did the critics upon publication. In fact, Moby Dick didn't become the 'great American novel' that it is until the 1930s, sparked by scholarship. If you don't like Dickens' descriptiveness, you will HATE this book. I understood Moby Dick perfectly (in fact, wrote a really nice 'A' paper on it which was a Marxist reading of the text) but the immense detail puts Ayn Rand's thirty-page description of a train station to shame. Aside from the detail, the problem with the book is that in being such an ambitious work, it tries to do EVERYTHING--it is one part didactic, one part treatise on the whaling industry, one part American King Lear (comparing and contrasting Ahab and Lear or his daughters, Goneril and Regan, makes a FABULOUS essay topic) and one part metaphysics. So what works? Plot and characterization. What doesn't work? Pacing and structure. A LONG and TEDIOUS read but worth it in the end. Hawthorne was a much better novelist, IMHO.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 16, 2001
This is such a great book. Like most books you have to read a few chapters before it gets juicy. I started to read it and I was just hooked.It is filled with adventure, comedy and suspense. A really good read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 19, 2000
I liked and disliked this book. I liked it because it was full of action and you were always wondering what would happen next. The characters were also pretty interesting. What I disliked about the book was that it was too descriptive, and it was a bit too long.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 15, 2000
While the frequent tangents away from the main story and into the history of whaling were distracting (for me, anyway), I still found Moby Dick a fascinating book. I especially liked the Captain's right-hand-man, Starbuck; caught between obedience to his Captain and obedience to his conscience, Starbuck shows exceptional fortitude- and character- in a difficult situation.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 4, 2010
No text was provided for this review.
Posted August 24, 2009
No text was provided for this review.