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Moby Dicked

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

Quote of the Day: “Call me Ishmael.”

- Some Dude

Moby Dick sucks.

Yesterday, I finished listening to the “great” Moby Dick on tape. It was 15 hours of unrelenting suffering.

I like to listen to books, and occasionally read some, that are considered “The Greats.” Because I didn’t read much as a kid and I somehow must have sidestepped the requirements to read those books that everyone seems to have read in school, I’m kind of playing catch-up as an adult and I like to augment my modern reading with those that “must be read” if you are considered to be “well read.”

So it was with the innocence (ignorance) of a child that I checked out Moby Dick thinking I would be knocking out the greatest of all the greats.

The best way I can describe this torture, I nailed within the first few minutes of listening. If you ever watched Seinfeld, do you remember Elaine’s boss? His real name is John O’Hurley and showed up on that lame “Dancing With The Stars” show.

If you ever watched Seinfeld, do you remember how he talked? Kind of a sweeping, over-dramatic, very theatrical way making himself sound important and bigger than life? That’s EXACTLY how the ENTIRE FRIGGIN’ BOOK SOUNDED!!!

It wasn’t the narrator’s voice or anything, it was the writing. Herman Mellville basically would take a detail and then come up with 50 ways until Sunday to describe it in the most over-dramatic way using comparisons that made little sense and a whole heapin’ spoonful of analogy. It was like a thesaurus had thrown up all over the story.

And this happened over and over and over again from page one to page “I’m gonna go insane if this don’t end.”

The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I wanted to say “I read Moby Dick.” (I count “listening” as having read it.)

Let me spoil the crap out of this story just in case you ever have the hair-brained idea that you want to read it.

First, there’s this guy named Ishmael who identifies himself in the first sentence, thus providing the most famous line in the book. Then it all goes downhill from there.

OK, so he meets this cannibal guy and they hop on a whaling boat together. The Captain is Ahab and he’s bat-shit crazy. Once out on the water, Ahab tells everyone he doesn’t give a goat’s nuts about hunting whale for profit (my words, not his 10,000 to say the same thing). He just wants to find this huge white whale which not only bit off Ahab’s leg but is this badass, Samuel Jackson of a whale who no one can kill.

Ahab has gone crackers, bent on revenge which has consumed him. In the end, they finally find the bastard and get in their little boats to kill it. But Moby jacks them up three times in three days, the last time proving fatal when Ahab gets caught up in his own line and is dragged down with the diving whale. Somehow he knows this is going to happen and is ready to die trying to kill the whale.

That’s just about it as far as the story goes. The end was predicable and when it finally came (oh, thank you sweet Jesus for the end), the whole thing was so rambling that it gave no indication that it WAS going to end. It just ended.

Other than the endless details and comparisons to very tenuous analogies, the worst thing about the book was that it detailed (heavy on the root DETAIL) the entire history of whales. It even went through the genus and breakdown of every kind of whale. On and on and on it gave the scientific categorization of every single whale known to man.

It was like nails across a chalkboard except that chalkboard was crammed clear up your ass. Sideways.

What really pissed me off about this was that I do a lot of reading. I mean A LOT. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m always afraid that I’m not smart enough to understand a plot line. Or not bright enough to “get” a book if it’s too ethereal or symbolic.

Most of the time, I have this preconceived notion of most “classics” that they are full of flowery language and that I’m not learned enough to wrap my mind around such high-level literary offerings.

Most of the time this is unfounded and once I start reading, I discover that these books are very readable and have incredible storylines that are enjoyable. Then I tell myself, well, duh, there is a reason they have endured.

But this cursed book dug deep into that dark place I keep such fears and slammed headlong into the darkest one. I felt stupid listening to this book, like I was a little kid reading Shakespeare.

I would just chalk it up to preference if I was a casual reader but I’ve read enough to wonder just who would find this book appealing.

It now joins the ranks of eating fish and chewing Copenhagen: I know some people enjoy it but for the life of me, I cannot fathom the appeal.

Allow me to end this blog with the same statement of another recent blog:

I don’t want to know.

Free Advice for Today: “Live with your new pet several days before you name it. the right name will come to you.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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