Before me there is a book, at once languid in its eloquence, and deceptive in its poignancy; bold in its exploration of the human experience, and narrowly constrained by its dimension. Experiencing Herman Melville’s florid prose leaves this reviewer destitute of erudition; both beguiled and inadequate before the preponderance of keys laid out in front of him. The dearth of knowledge with which I am equipped beleaguers my attempt to assess this wondrous and weighty tome. Moby Dick is a clarion singing in the darkness, beckoning those who aspire to witness a work of singular greatness.
Reading Moby Dick is like drifting endlessly on a roiling ocean. Time is immaterial, and the particularities of the experience fade into an undulating morass of meditative tranquility counterpointed by impassioned reverence for the leviathan. I am in awe of this book. It has altered the very language I use to express myself; Melville’s words have sublimated my soul, and sought to morph how I think, how I talk, and how I write.
To experience the poetry here! To be subsumed by the crushing waves of this impassioned encomium to the sea. Nary a chapter passes that I don’t stop and savor the words that seem, like long-sought water to the mouth of a stranded seaman, to rejuvenate and return life to the weary. There is heaven, in these pages. This book is why I read.
I bought an old, musty copy of Moby Dick from my local rare book dealer when I was a teenager. I grew up on Poe and Dostoevsky, Lovecraft and Steinbeck; I loved classic literature, and had every intention of reading Moby Dick. But the language was so dense, and the descriptions of cetalogy were so dry. I later found Tolkien, which led to Robert Jordan and Tad Williams and George R.R. Martin. Like so many aspirations of the distracted, Moby Dick slowly receded from my view until it was but a distant memory of youth. The ink that traced half-remembered patterns across the bone-white pages of my old and forgotten copy were like a faded tattoo on the pallid skin of a lonely and abandoned grandparent. It called to me, unanswered and ambivalent; its despair was a foreign tongue to me, and one for which I had no translation.
Until I found In the Heart of the Sea. The story of the whaleship Essex awoke in me a desire to conquer the behemoth that has haunted me lo these last 15 years: that old, tattered copy of Moby Dick. Pleading; reaching out to me, as though to a life raft that could serve as its final succor. But in answering its beacon, I found my own salvation. The experience of reading this book – at times encyclopedic, at times Shakespearean, at times Biblical – was like no other in the whole of my existence. I am both bewildered by its munificence and aghast at how long it sat on my shelf, alone and distraught.
Read this book. Read it to counteract the drudgery under which we are daily subsumed. Read it because we all to often shirk what is good for the ease of what is readily attainable. Read it so that this paragon of literary virtue is never quelled by the ubiquity of pulp, or sacrificially offered to the vicissitudes of pop cultural insatiability. Read it so that the contrivance of my purple prose will not be wasted on the ether that fills these interconnected tubes we call the internet.
With no reticence do I declare this the most beautiful novel ever written by an American.