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Friday, February 1, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: "MOBY DICK" (FIRST IN AN OCCASIONAL SERIES)





MOBY DICK
By Herman Melville

(Ed. note: Just how much can the reader expect from a book about fish that starts out, “Hi!  I’m Ishmael.”?)

Ishmael, the narrator, has made several voyages as a sailor but none as a whaler.  He takes a Greyhound to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he stays in a whalers’ inn/gay bar. Since the inn/gay bar is rather full, he has to share a bed with a harpooner from the South Pacific named Queequeg.  At first repulsed by Queequeg’s strange habits and shocking appearance (he is covered with tattoos), Ishmael eventually comes to appreciate the man’s generosity, friendly nature and  scenic body and the two decide to hook up and seek work on a whaling vessel together.  They take a ferry to Nantucket, the traditional capital of the whaling industry. There they secure berths on the Pequod, a savage looking ship adorned with the bones and teeth of sperm whales.  The Pequod’s owners mention the ship’s mysterious captain, Ahab, who is still recovering from having lost his leg in an encounter with a sperm whale on his last voyage.  They warn them not to ask Ahab, “Where did you see it last?” since he has absolutely no sense of humor.

The Pequod leaves Nantucket on a cold Christmas Day with a crew made up of men from many different countries and races.  Soon the ship is in warmer waters, and Ahab makes his first appearance on deck, balancing gingerly on his false leg, which is made from a sperm whale’s jaw.  He announces his desire to pursue and kill Moby Dick, who took his leg.  (Ed. Note: The whale’s name is from the Latin “mobster” meaning “bad guy” and “dick”, which you can figure out.) Ahab nails a couple of bucks to the mast and declares that it will be the prize for the first man to sight the whale.  

The ship rounds Africa and enters the Indian Ocean.  They see several whales but surprisingly few Indians.  From time to time, the ship encounters other whaling vessels and Ahab always demands information about Moby Dick from their captains. One of the ships, the Jeroboam, carries Gabriel, a crazed prophet who predicts doom for anyone who threatens Moby Dick.  His predictions seem to carry some weight, as Tashtego, who also carried quite a bit of weight but was still pretty cute, had exploded while the white whale was attempting to have sex with him.  (Gabriel had warned him.)  

Not long after, Queequeg, who is a hypochondriac, has an allergy attack and has the ship’s carpenter make him a coffin in anticipation of his death.  Business was slow and Queequeg figures he might as well take advantage of the carpenter’s pre-need sale offer. He recovers, however, and the coffin eventually becomes the Pequod’s replacement life buoy.

Ahab receives a phone call from a psychic warning him to stay away from ropes, which he interprets to mean that he will not die at sea where there are no hangings.  Wrong.  While chasing Moby Dick in a small boat, the harpoon rope becomes wrapped around his leg/whale’s jawbone and he is dragged out of the boat and into the ocean, where he drowns.  It is said that his last words were “Glub, glub, damn it!”

There is a storm and a bolt of lightning hits the Pequod, setting it on fire.  Everyone abandons ship, becoming entrees on the neighborhood shark’s all you can eat buffet.  Everyone, that is, except Ishmael, Queequeg and Starbuck, the first mate, who had cleverly hidden three shark costumes in Queequeg’s coffin.  They put on the costumes and safely float on the coffin, since sharks are none too bright, and patiently await the arrival of the Coast Guard.  While waiting, Queequeg and Ishmael sing and lift Starbuck's spirits.  Starbuck tells stories and lifts their wallets.

Upon their return to shore, the men decide that they have had enough of whaling.  Starbuck opens a successful yet overpriced coffee company.  Ishmael and Queequeg marry (it is now legal in Massachusetts) and go on to form “Greenpeace”.  They still keep in touch with Starbuck via email.






I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can't put it down----fishducky

P.S. This post is dedicated to Dee, who probably does not want me to review her books.
 



17 comments:

  1. Well I actually do appreciate the dedication you put into your website and the depth of information you present.

    I found it hard to keep up with that anti-gravity book.

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    1. I deleted Mr. Bad Credit, but from you, I appreciate it!

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  2. Best summary of Moby Dick ever! It was one of my father's favourite books and he would wax lyrical about given half the chance. Trouble was he brought the darkness of the story to life and as a result the book has never appealed to me -- until now, of course. You remind me of Anna Russell explaining Wagner's Ring!!

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    1. Thank you--I try! I had never heard of Anna Russell explaining Wagner's Ring before so I just read it--& loved it! Here's a link for any other unsophisticated types:

      http://www.markelliswalker.net/music/albums/anna-russell-ring.html

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  3. Dear Fishducky, thanks so much for the dedication. I'd love to see how you skewer "A Reluctant Spy" when and if it gets published!

    As to your review of Moby Dick . . . you continue to amaze me with your play on words. I so liked this one: "scenic body" when you first wrote about Queequeg. And the cartoons, especially the one in the courtroom just "tickled my innards!!!" Peace

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    1. I wasn't sure it was up to your high writing standards--glad you liked it!!

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  4. Your review has all the makings of a movie. Go for it.

    Do you sleep at night? Does your mind ever shut down? You are brilliant.

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    1. I think they've already made the movie, although they deviated a little from the novel. They called it "Brokeback Whaler".

      Thank you--I agree. Now if I could just convince my husband of that fact!!

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  5. Um... this wasn't the book I remember from High School... and I live in Massachusetts... and they still REQUIRE reading books on the banned list.

    I may have to revisit this...

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    1. I MAY have made one or two TINY changes...

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  6. Oh, Yeah--NOW I find a short version of Moby Dick. AFTER I spend six months of my life wading through more blubber than is contained in a sperm whale only to come out on the other side with question marks over my head ??? that's IT? That's a classic? Pages and pages of adjectives and adverbs and looong descriptions about ship construction and navigation and somewhere in there is a tale that is sorta interesting about a psycho captain and all the poor souls he drags with him to his psychotic death. Next time I consider reading a classic the size of the Bible I'll check here first. btw--have you reviewed the Bible yet?

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    1. Sort of! "GOD'S HUMOR BOOK--THE OLD TESTAMENT" & "GOD'S HUMOR BOOK--THE NEW TESTAMENT" are scheduled for June, but they're not exactly book reviews. I have a few more of these written. They'll be published about once a month.

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  7. I always stayed away from this classic, now I know why!!!!

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  8. Sorry fishducky, I didn't mean to sound mean, you did a brilliant job of inserting some fun into the story.

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    1. I don't think you could be mean if you tried--but don't try!!

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  9. Captain A could have used your sense of humor

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    1. Coming from you, that's a REAL compliment!!

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Your comments make my day, which shows you how boring my life has become.