This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced one author.
by Herman Melville
Moby Dick seems to be one of those classic novels many people can’t stand. They find it boring, even tedious. The story breaks off into long winded tales of the history of whaling, while forgetting about the actual plot and characters for pages at a time.
Which didn’t bother me in the least. I was actually interested in all that whaling history, all of it true. To me, all that extra information just added to the story. By today’s standards, all that exposition on whaling would better be worked into a tale (at least by most of today’s professional fiction authors), but Moby Dick was published in 1851. Today’s reading audiences have shorter attention spans and expect today’s writers to cater to that attention span. It’s understandable.
But besides all the information on whaling, my favorite aspect of Herman Melville’s novel was its study of the depths of hatred, vengeance and even madness. To this day, I’ve read few novels that come close to delving into anger and revenge as well as this tale of Captain Ahab’s loathing for the great white whale Moby Dick. Not even many of the horror novels I’ve read over the years comes close to this, though a few have, as have some other classics of literature and a handful of non-fiction books.
I first read Moby Dick while I was in high school back in the 1980s, but I didn’t read it for a class. I read it for myself. Moby Dick is one of numerous novels that’s been labeled “the great American novel,” so I thought I owed it to myself to find out what this book was all about. I was a reading nerd back then, much as I guess I am now.
I’m glad I read Moby Dick. And I don’t want to come off as snobbish about it, but I’m glad to be one of the small group of people who loves this novel. To me, it was never boring. And that’s the most any of us can ask from our reading material.
Up next: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea