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Have You Ever Read Moby Dick? May 18, 2012

Posted by lycan librarian in book reviews, Books and reading.

The Lycan Librarian, through all those years of school and college, somehow never read this classic tale. It is a lucky thing that circumstances drew her to the selection, because she found it incredible, inspirational and really quite magical. One is immediately hooked when Ishmel find his lodging and is forced to share a bed with a huge tattooed cannibal who sells shrunken heads and shaves with a harpoon tip. One interesting literary device Melville employs is that Ahab is talked about and anticipated for about half the book before he ever appears. The story is exciting and the characters are very colorful (no pun intended toward Moby Dick, who, as you know, is pure white) and unforgettable. Considering this work was published in 1851, the language is not the struggle you might expect. It’s actually a smooth read, although this eggheaded reader did pause often to jot notes and list words to look up in the dictionary or encyclopedia.

The themes are another area in which Melville excels. He stresses the duality of man, how a savage can be kinder and more civilized than a gentlemen, and that nobody who walks this earth is either completely good or evil. There is also the double purpose he gives objects in the work, such as the famous coffin.  Even though you should have read this novel by now, I’m saying no more. Read it to find out whose coffin it is, how it is used throughout the book, and how it is used at the end to create a stunning ending. Classics are classics for a reason, and Moby Dick is certainly proof of that.

Sadly, Melville lived a life of frustration and did not know what a huge impact his work would make on the world. He wound up in a government job when he couldn’t earn his living writing. A year after his book, TYPEE, came out, 1200 copies had sold producing $661.94. Putnam deducted expenses of $439.18. Melville bought copies of his own book for $103.57 so was left with a profit of $7.81. MOBY DICK  did not sell as well as TYPEE. In all, it’s believed that Melville’s books earned about $10,000 during his lifetime, and it’s obvious the publisher devoured the lion’s share of the profits. Believe it or not, I can honestly say I’ve earned considerably more through my writing than Herman Melville.



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