Call me astounded.
Moby Dick is epic, and I don’t mean in just in the literary sense of the word. It is epically over the top, full of terrific lines that have been adopted into the geek lexicon thanks to Star Trek. It has grand characters, unexpected detours, and, eventually, a whale of an adventure tale.
That there will be an adventure story I’m taking on faith as so far -- and I’m not quite half way into it -- the action can be summed up in a couple of sentences. Ishmael meets Queequeg, they join the crew of the whaling ship Pequod and sail out of Nantucket. Ahab announces he wants to hunt a particular whale. I’ve just summed up over 300 pages!! No wonder people give up on reading this book.
But I’m not reading it in print form. I’m listening to a wonderful recording of it as read by, actually performed by, Anthony Heald. Talk about epic. (And I’m not just referring to the 24 hours of audio!) He can take the most clause-choked sentence and make it sound natural. Make it interesting and worth listening to. Melville’s writing is made lively and brilliant. The Shakespearean nature of Ahab’s speech comes to life, lines that the average reader would miss because his eyes had glazed over suddenly pop out in all their poetic drama. Even the chapters detailing whaling life or the natural history of the period are a good listen. It is simply brilliant.
I find myself taking notes, looking things up on the internet, pulling out the print copy to reread a particularly interesting passage. And I’m getting a kick out of all the literary and mythological references that I now get thanks to all the reading of classics my kids and I have done while homeschooling.
My 15yo son is also listening to Moby Dick and loving it. I often hear him in the next room chuckling over speech by Ahab, not because it is comical, but because it is unexpectedly familiar. We are constantly asking each other “have you read the part yet ....” and comparing reactions. He keeps saying, “This is soooo much better than the Iliad!!” Sorry Homer, you just don’t make the cut!