Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
I love to read. Always have. I’ve probably read hundreds of books. Starting with our family’s World Book encyclopedias and aging Tom Swift melodramas through a forest of sci-fi and non-fiction. Plus, whenever I drive, I love to listen to books. I’ve used Audible to listen to the latest offerings and LibriVox for older in-the-public-domain works.
Recently turning 58, I started to think it was high time I tackled some of the classics that I’ve shunned my entire life. Why have I shunned these tomes? I’m ashamed to say they looked too heavy, in literary depth as well as weight. But, chastising myself for being such a lazy lout, I’ve started to take on these “serious” titles. For instance, I’m a few pages into the infamous War and Peace after having read a scholarly volume about the Napoleonic wars from a Russian viewpoint.
But, getting back to the title of my post, I’ve just completed listening to Melville’s Moby Dick, or the Whale as read by a wonderful reciter by the name of Stewart Wills. If it had not been for the precise and melodious elocution of Mr. Wills, I don’t think I could have gotten through those 135 chapters and epilogue.
I’m no literary scholar and I won’t attempt to parse Melville very deeply other than to say that he must have been an interminable bore at parties. I mean, whole chapters dedicated to whales as captured in art through history? Another on every aspect of the word “white?” It goes on and on. Yet, I was riveted by every word. And it came to me, by the end, that this book has nothing and everything to do with 19th-century whaling.
How could it be both? I don’t know, but Melville must have been a genius. I now feel as though I have enough whaling knowledge to match any salty Nantucketer. But also, never, in any horror movie, have I been closer to simultaneously understanding and abhorring a man’s descent into insanity. My previous popular-but-vague perception of Ahab had been that he was an evil tyrannical ship’s captain bent on destroying himself and his crew. But I knew nothing. Melville’s depiction of a man’s mind being torn in two left me unexpectedly moved. I was motivated to pity him, to loathe him, to empathize with him.
How do I sum this ramble up? First, I whole heartedly recommend this LibriVox recording. Thank you Mr. Wills. Secondly, Melville, you magnificent [expletive], I read your book (or at least listened to it.) Third, maybe I’ll have given someone else the courage to take on a long-avoided work of literature.Published in