“A good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a good thing; the more’s the pity. So, if any one man, in his own proper person, afford stuff for a good joke to anybody, let him not be backward, but let him cheerfully allow himself to spend and be spent in that way. And the man that has anything bountifully laughable about him, be sure there is more in that man than you perhaps think for.”
Moby Dick by Herman Melville started off with a few laughs and I thought to myself, this book is going to be a great adventure in sailing and whaling with my humorous narrator Ishmael. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when Ishamel meets his bedmate, encounters Queequeg a pagan cannibal. In my mind he screams like a crazy person. Ishamel quickly realizes “…a man can be honest in any sort of skin”. The two become friends and they make their way to whaling ship, the Pequod, with the onorous Captain Ahab who remains unseen for some time.
At this point in the narrative I’ll say I’m very thankful for audiobooks because there is no way I would have had the motivation to keep going (well I did read this with a buddy and that was encouragement too because the majority of the group DNF’d).
I’m sure there’s some symbolism and themes in this book I could chat about but bear with me as I share my abbreviated bullet point review:
- Ishamel meets his bestie who’s a cannibal pagan but he loves him anyway
- Captain Ahab is a crazy deranged man bent on revenge
- Insert random tangent here
- A journey of indefinite length on the Pequod to find Moby Dick
- Insert more random tangents that include incredible amounts of whale information (I should probably be a whale scholar after this book but…)
- Senseless and brutal attacks on whales minding their own business (see bullet 2)
- Lots of tangents about the many types of whales and how many teeth they have
I’ll stop here because the last several chapters of the book were incredible. Lots of suspense and when Moby shows up I am holding my breath and I realize I’ve care more about him than Captain Ahab.
- Revenge is pointless – whales are bigger and stronger, leave them alone
- Don’t be an idiot like Ahab and chase after revenge (see bullet 1)
“For we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”
This review is cynical yes, the discussion I had with my friend who finished with me was a lot of fun so this pays homage to our classics journey to date. I got a bit sea sick on the Pequod; I also was devastated by the brutal hunting of the whales. I’d say read the first 50 chapters, skip ahead and read the last 10 chapters and the book is OUTSTANDING.
I suppose this is one of those books you read for the experience, the journey and surviving to the end of a tumultuous adventure. Life and death, morality and immorality, purity and impurity are themes one can explore. But dear reader, I finished the book, the journey is over and I’m very happy to be off the Pequod on dry land with another book (and tea) in hand.
“Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into still subtler form. Ahab’s full lunacy subsided not, but deepeningly contracted…”
Have you read Moby Dick? Tell me why you loved it or why you didn’t.