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The book is sailor Ishmael 's narrative of the obsessive quest of Ahabcaptain of the whaling ship Pequodfor revenge on Moby Dickthe giant white sperm whale that on the ship's previous voyage bit off Ahab's leg at the knee. A contribution to the literature of the American Renaissancethe work's genre classifications range from late Romantic to early Symbolist. Moby-Dick was published to mixed reviews, was a commercial failure, and was out of print at the time of the author's death in
By Heart is a series in which authors share and discuss their all-time favorite passages in literature. A great herd of readers profess devotion to Herman Melville's classic Moby-Dickbut novelists especially seem to love saying they love it. But perhaps they all love a different Moby-Dick.
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T hursday marks the th birthday of Herman Melville — the author of the greatest unread novel in the English language. It is the Mount Everest of literature: huge and apparently insurmountable, its snowy peak as elusive as the tail of the great white whale himself. Perhaps it was because I saw it on a tiny black-and-white TV, but the whole story seemed impenetrable to me.
Moby-Dickwritten inrecounts the adventures of the narrator Ishmael as he sails on the whaling ship, Pequod, under the command of the monomaniacal Captain Ahab. Melville dedicated the book to fellow Dark RomanticNathaniel Hawthorne : "In token of my admiration for his genius, this book is inscribed to Nathaniel Hawthorne. We also offer a short story version of the chapter, The Chase for your convenience.
As that bicentenary is celebrated, Melville is firmly enshrined in the pantheons of great writers and great American writers. But it was not always so. He died on 28 Septemberabout eight weeks after his 72nd birthday.
It is dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne. Ishmael, who turns to the sea for meaning, relays to the audience the final voyage of the Pequoda whaling vessel. Amid a story of tribulation, beauty, and madness, the reader is introduced to a number of characters, many of whom have names with religious resonance. The Pequod sets sail, and the crew is soon informed that this journey will be unlike their other whaling missions: this time, despite the reluctance of Starbuck, Ahab intends to hunt and kill the beastly Moby Dick no matter the cost.
I think I was put off the book when, as a child, I watched the John Huston film on our tiny black-and-white television, at home in suburban Southampton, England. Seeing it on the ghostly cathode-ray tube, which was housed in a veneered cabinet, was more like viewing some Victorian apparatus for contacting the departed spirits, forever imprisoned behind its glass. It took me thirty years to discover what the book was—or what it was not.