"Moby Dick" by Herman Melville

IF you are a regular to our meetings, and IF you are planning on reading February's book, Midnight's Children and coming to that meet up (which you should…), and IF you start reading Moby Dick the day after, then that gives you 5 weeks to read roughly 700 pages [masked], depending on which edition you get). Think of it this way; that's about 24 pages a day. We've read Don Quixote, Les Miserables and War and Peace, all 1400+ page books in two months, The Fountain Head (600+) in one month, and Ulysses (the hardest 700 pages of my life) in one month. You can do this.

OR you could think of it this way; Moby Dick has been on multiple "must read" lists, such as Wikipedia's, The World Library's and The Guardian's respective "100 Best Books of All Time", and then of course if you want some gender-specific recommendations, it also lands on lists such as, "14 Daunting Books Every Man Must Read" (http://www.shortlist.com/entertainment/14-daunting-books-every-man-must-read) and The Art of Manliness "100 Must Read Books: The Essential Man's Library" (http://www.artofmanliness.com/2008/05/14/100-must-read-books-the-essential-mans-library/3/). It's worth it!

So wether you're reading it for the challenge, just to say you've done it, because it's considered one of the world's greatest, or you're just trying to prove your manliness (which, in my opinion, reading a Jane Austin novel will do that much more…), you'll be rewarded with another notch in your intellectual bragging belt and a great discussion with interesting people to boot.

Here's the top review from Amazon.com.  It's a bit over the top, but I liked the lifting weights analogy, so there you go.  http://www.amazon.com/Moby-Dick-Whale-Signet-Classics/dp/0451526996

Finishing "Moby Dick" goes up there with my greatest (and few) academic achievements. It was a gruelling read, but---in the end---completely worthwhile.

I've been reading it for 6 months. I started over the summer, during an abroad program in Oxford, and I remember sitting outside reading when one of the professors came over, saw what I was reading, and said: "It's a very strange book, isn't it?"

Looking back, that might be the best way to describe it. The blurb from D.H. Lawrence on the back cover agrees: Moby Dick "commands a stillness in the soul, an awe...[it is] one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world."

Now there are those who will say that the book's middle is unbearable---with its maddeningly detailed accounts of whaling. Part of me agrees. That was the hardest to get through. But, still, even the most dull subject offers Melville an opportunity to show off his writing chops. He's a fantastic writer---his text most resembles that of Shakespeare.

And, like one Shakespeare's characters, Melville sees all the world as a stage.

"Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for magnifient parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces--though I cannot tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and motives which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced me to set about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill and discriminating judgment."

The end of "Moby Dick" informs the rest of the book, and in doing so makes rereading it inevitable. It is telling that Moby Dick doesn't appear until page 494. It is telling, because, the majority of the book is spent in anticipation---in fact, the whole book is anticipation. It's not unlike sex, actually---delaying gratification to a point of almost sublime anguish. What comes at the book's end, then, is mental, physical, and spiritual release (as well as fufillment).

The book leaves you with questions both large and small. I was actually most troubled with this question---What happened to Ishmael? No, we learn his fate at the book's end, but where was he throughout it? We all know how it starts---"Call me Ishmael"---and the book's first few chapters show him interacting with Queequeg and an innkeeper. But then we lose him onboard the Pequod---we never see him interact with anyone. No one ever addresses him. He seems to witness extremely private events---conferences in the Captain's quarters, conversations aboard multiple boats, and--what can only be his conjecture--the other characters' internal dialogue. Is he a phantom? What is he that he isn't? Somehow I think this question masks a much larger and more important one.

Try "Moby Dick." Actually, don't try it---read it. Work at it. Like lifting weights a bit heavier than you're used to, "Moby Dick" will strengthen your brain muscle. Don't believe those who hate it, they didn't read it. They didn't work at it. Be like Ishmael, who says: "I try all things; I achieve what I can." Or, more daringly, be like Ahab, whose ambition is his curse, but whose curse propels and writes the book itself. 

New to the Hungry Hundred Book Club?  Here's what you need to know:

1. Read the book (If you don't manage to finish it by the meetup date, don't worry.  As long as you're not going to be too disappointed by spoilers, you're still welcome to join.)

2. Come to the meeting, always on the last Sunday of every month

3. Be prepared to order food/drink at the venue (where ever that may be) to show our appreciation for letting us use their space

4. Discuss!  It's a casual conversation, so don't be afraid to ask questions and let us know what you think.

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  • Mark

    Loved the book, would list it in my personal top 20 novels I've read, though I can see why some would find it tough. Most novels are written through the mindset of a painter, psychologist, or cultural historian. Moby Dick has all three, but in addition, it's sometimes also uniquely written through the mindset of a technical craftsman and manual labourer, fascinated by not merely how scenes look & how individuals feel, but also in how things work, how one interacts with tools and physical devices, and how that reflects an entire way of life and a way of relating to and observing the world and can be a vehicle for great poetry and beauty and reflection.

    The ship as a metaphor for society & politics was thought-provoking, as was the painting of a vision of Nature & an image of America that are vastly different from how we relate to them today.

    And it's humourous.

    Enjoyed the discussion, to which 8 people came, and yup I'm sure we could have gone on longer, if only time had allowed. :)

    2 · April 1, 2014

  • Rachel

    Great discussion once again, though I still feel like there were plenty of things we weren't able to discuss because of time! I guess that's to be expected in a book like this.

    4 · March 31, 2014

  • Prash

    Hi Rachel, Sorry I won't be able to make it for the one tonight. Have a good meetup.

    March 30, 2014

  • Yasotha

    I'm afraid I can't attend tonight's discussion. Down with the flu :(

    March 30, 2014

  • Jow L.

    Hi Rachel, sorry I'll not be attending tonight's discussion. Last minutes unplanned family outing; unplanned, since planning only started late yesterday. Have a good meet this evening!

    March 30, 2014

  • Mark

    Good plot summary of Moby Dick:


    (Includes the ending.)

    2 · March 28, 2014

  • Jaya

    Can't make this one :( See you guys at the Murakami discussion!

    March 26, 2014

  • Sophia K.

    I'm just starting today!

    March 12, 2014

  • Jo

    Any idea where the venue will be?

    March 6, 2014

    • Mark

      And the venue is usually announced a few days before the meet, because some people change their RSVP status very late, so the number of people attending can change by a lot within the final week. So it's hard to have a proper idea of how many people to book for until late.

      March 8, 2014

    • Rachel

      That about sums it up, thanks Mark!

      March 8, 2014

  • Hannah

    Hi! My first meetup! A bit scared bit looking forward to meeting you all. This book has been on my "to read" list for ages, just the motivation I needed!

    March 5, 2014

    • Jaya

      Hehe, don't be-we don't bite :)

      1 · March 6, 2014

  • Jaya

    Rachel, this is MeetUp number 61! Kudos for all the effort you put into the Book Club! And thanks :)

    4 · February 27, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Just moved to Singapore. Looking to meet some new friends. Looking forward to meeting everyone!

    1 · February 26, 2014

  • Mark

    I suggest listening to this as the soundtrack while reading Moby Dick:


    It should go well with the whale hunting scenes.

    2 · February 19, 2014

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