By ADAM RADOMSKI
First off, are any of you interested in whale hunting in the 19th century? I didn’t think so. I never was myself and after reading Moby Dick none of that has changed. But that’s not the point. The novel consists of 600 pages about hunting whales… No wonder it didn’t sell well when it was first published in 1851. A $1,50 (back then), for such a lengthy tome about hunting whales didn’t seem like a worthy buy. So what is it that makes you want to pick up this book? If I say that reading it was a one of a kind, breathtaking experience, will you take the risk of purchasing it? Well, you damn right should.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville is a heavy book to carry around, and it’s not the main storyline that puts down this weight. The book is split into two sections out of which the story is the minor one. What dominates this book are many nonfictional chapters containing actual facts about the tools which were used to hunt whales, the food which these mammals eat, herds in which they travel, the different species of the animal or the way they give birth. These are just a few examples of numerous, educational topics which you’ll stumble upon while reading this book. At first, I must say, this was quite nerve wrecking. The story itself sucked me in deep, making me want to discover how this pack of whale hunters aboard a vessel called The Pequod went about their daily struggles while being in pursuit of the heinous, mighty, legendary and almost mythical whale known as Moby Dick.
Now, these chapters overflowing with facts, aren’t ones that are quick to read. Their whole existence in the book, as well as their intense intricacy, makes you wonder why do you need to know all of this. Honestly, I was so into the plot that all I wanted to do, at first, was skip these quite academic chapters – I’m glad about it being just an idiotic idea and not an action.
Upon opening the book, and reading a couple of chapters, I felt as if finishing it was going to be a real quest, but that notion quickly evaporated. That’s Moby Dick’s charm. The storyline drags you in, you can’t put the book down and absolutely need to know what happens next. You extremely engage yourself into the life of the characters and then you’re suddenly separated from them by a chapter about, for example, how whale hunters were looked down at or what whale oil was used for; but those chapters that break the flow of the plot are actually the book’s magic spell.
The original version of this piece of art was published as the 600 page brick as we know it, but many publishers decided on cutting out facts and leaving the reader only with the storyline. Truly, if you decide on picking up the vastly shortened version of Moby Dick and converse with someone who experienced its whole, then opinions, thoughts and emotions between you two will be worlds apart; or even more divergent than that. What I am certain of, is that the person who read the entire piece will utterly stupefy the person who is only familiar with the plot.
This jaw-dropping novel in its original, lengthy format will put you right in the middle of a whale hunting ship. You’ll literally set sail and become submerged in these chapters, feeling the wood of the harpoon you’re gripping, the zephyr of the ocean, the unsettling tranquility, you’ll hear the splashes of a whale leaping out and diving back into the water. This entire world comes to life because the author wrapped an interesting and detailed plot with these facts about the mammal, what it eats, how it lives and where it resides. The knowledge you’ll gain from this is one thing, but the way this ‘extra’ information will haul you out into an ocean made of half heaven half hell is something extraordinary. This isn’t just a regular reading experience; it will make you feel like a part of the crew, rocking from side to side as you flip the pages, panicking, relaxing, enjoying the environment or being on the verge of death as you go head to head against the aquatic creature. Whenever I reached for this book, it didn’t feel like it was the book with which I began; it felt like I was crawling out of my very own ship cabin upon hearing a ringing bell and the shouts of my sea mates on deck.
I was supposed to make this a review and I am finding myself penning down lines resulting from a paroxysm of excitement. In that case I shall leave you at this my dear readers. Whether you get your kicks out of hunting whales or not, either way you won’t regret reaching out for Moby Dick. Prepare yourself for the journey; for feeling the rising pulse as you chase a whale capable of shredding your ship into pieces and leaving you drifting on wooden debris in the middle of nowhere; and no, this is not just another clichéd opinion, it’s an honest truth, told by a reviewer obsessed with books about sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. Somehow a book about whale hunting found a place in my heart.