Why Read Moby-Dick?

Why Read Moby-Dick?

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by Nathaniel Philbrick
     
 

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The New York Times bestselling author of seagoing epics now celebrates an American classic.

Moby-Dick is perhaps the greatest of the Great American Novels, yet its length and esoteric subject matter create an aura of difficulty that too often keeps readers at bay. Fortunately, one unabashed fan wants passionately to give Melville's

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Overview

The New York Times bestselling author of seagoing epics now celebrates an American classic.

Moby-Dick is perhaps the greatest of the Great American Novels, yet its length and esoteric subject matter create an aura of difficulty that too often keeps readers at bay. Fortunately, one unabashed fan wants passionately to give Melville's masterpiece the broad contemporary audience it deserves. In his National Book Award- winning bestseller, In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick captivatingly unpacked the story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex, the real-life incident that inspired Melville to write Moby- Dick. Now, he sets his sights on the fiction itself, offering a cabin master's tour of a spellbinding novel rich with adventure and history.

Philbrick 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. A perfect match between author and subject, Why Read Moby-Dick? gives us a renewed appreciation of both Melville and the proud seaman's town of Nantucket that Philbrick himself calls home. Like Alain de Botton's How Proust Can Change Your Life, this remarkable little book will start conversations, inspire arguments, and, best of all, bring a new wave of readers to a classic tale waiting to be discovered anew.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Answering the negative of Philbrick’s titular question is easy: Moby-Dick is intimidatingly large, scientifically rigorous, esoteric, and to some, may seem outdated. While the size of The Whale cannot be debated, Philbrick’s entreaty is as approachable as it is persuasive. In this cogent and passionate polemic for Melville’s masterpiece, Philbrick (In the Heart of the Sea) combines a critical eye and a reader’s adoration to make a case for Moby-Dick. The plights of the Pequod, Ishmael and Ahab may seem irrelevant (or worse, quaint) compared to today’s troubles, but Philbrick opines that within the pages of this American classic lie timeless archetypes whose relevance stretches across human history. Upon the loom of Melville’s narrative run numerous threads of insight and argument dealing with subjects as diverse as multiculturalism, homoeroticism, and transcendental experiences of the natural world. Less lit-crit and more readers’ guide, this tome will remind fans why they loved the book in the first place, and whet the appetites of trepid potential readers. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Philbrick (In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex), a National Book Award winner and resident of Nantucket, has been an ardent lifelong fan of Moby-Dick. In this brief volume, he aims to diminish the twin threats of a work that is both very long and written in a daunting style by writing in an unacademic style himself to support his contention that "Moby-Dick is nothing less than the genetic code of America." Philbrick conveys his own deep enthusiasm for the book and argues that "whenever a new crisis grips the country, Moby-Dick becomes newly important." In thematic chapters, Philbrick observes Moby-Dick through a variety of lenses—historical, philosophical, biographical, literary, and maritime—all demonstrating the book's ongoing fascinations and the ease with which today's readers can enter the novel's world. VERDICT While Philbrick may not persuade all readers who've been avoiding this tome to give it a try, he should succeed in swaying quite a few. There's nothing especially subtle or insightful here for those who've studied the book, but to entice new readers to Melville's work, it surely deserves consideration.—Charles C. Nash, formerly with Cottey Coll., Nevada, MO
Kathryn Harrison
Philbrick…wears his erudition lightly. He broaches the novel in quirky thematic fashion, with gracefully written compact essays on topics like landlessness, chowder and sharks. His voice is that of a beloved professor lecturing with such infectious enthusiasm that one can almost, for a moment, believe in the possibility of a popular renaissance for Melville.
—The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
“Gracefully written [with an] infectious enthusiasm…”—New York Times Book Review
 

“Exuberant.”—Boston Globe
 

“Brilliant and provocative…”—The New Yorker
 

“[A] slim, passionate manifesto…”—Chicago Tribune
 

 “A slim, easy-to-read argument on why you should definitely put [Moby-Dick] on your bucket list.”—History Wire
 

WHY READ MOBY-DICK? reels in a compelling case… short, lucid, intelligent… Philbrick’s more like a literary color analyst, helping readers see the novel better while also creating a sense of excitement about it.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
 

“This slender volume is packed with reasons why you might want to read the whaling classic.”

Minneapolis Star-Tribune
 

 

 “This slender, pleasant, sincere book by the maritime historian and naval enthusiast is more than a respectable tribute unencumbered by academic prose. Approaching Moby-Dick from outside the academy is refreshing, and Philbrick’s enthusiasm is contagious….So put me down for a reading of Moby-Dick in 2012, and count Philbrick’s book a success.”—The New Republic
 

“Philbrick does the literary world great service by bringing Moby-Dick back into popular attention and also by his skill in keeping American history fresh and alive.”—Aspen Daily News
 

“Sure to swell the readership of Melville’s masterpiece.”—Booklist (Starred review)
 

 

In this cogent and passionate polemic for Melville’s masterpiece, Philbrick… combines a critical eye and a reader’s adoration to make a case for Moby-Dick… Less lit-crit and more readers’ guide, this tome will remind fans why they loved the book in the first place, and whet the appetites of trepid potential readers.”—Publishers Weekly
 

A slim celebration of the elements of a literary masterpiece…Philbrick is an enthusiastic salesman for a sometimes daunting novel.”—Kirkus
 

 

So you liked Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea, which re-created the wreck of the whaleship Essex, inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick? Then you’ll love Philbrick’s new book… From a wonderful and knowing writer.”—Library Journal, pre-pub alert

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670022991
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
10/20/2011
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Nathaniel Philbrick is the author of numerous acclaimed bestsellers about American history. He is the founding director of the Egan Maritime Institute on Nantucket Island and a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association. He is a champion sailboat racer and lives on Nantucket.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Nantucket, Massachusetts
Date of Birth:
June 11, 1956
Place of Birth:
Boston, Massachusetts
Education:
B.A., Brown University, 1978; M.A., Duke University
Website:
http://www.nathanielphilbrick.com

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