Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kobra Kid Reviews: Moby Dick

Moby DickMoby Dick by Herman Melville

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was the hardest book for me to get through that I've ever read in my life thus far. Moby Dick is extremely dense--not stupid dense, of course, dense like heavy. It's full of double meanings and hidden symbolism because, for a book we're not meant to view as "a hideous and intolerable allegory", it is in fact largely allegorical. And by largely, I mean the WHOLE EFFING THING is one big honkin' allegory, okay? Let's be honest. So the whole time I was slogging my way through this verbose tome of verbosity, I was constantly asking myself: what does this stand for? Does that represent something else? Is Melville being straightforward here, or am I missing the bigger picture?

This in and of itself was not the problem. Typically, I'm a fan of books wherein the larger story lies in the subtext. My problem with Moby Dick was that, frankly? I just don't care. At all. Hence, a good half to two-thirds of this book was so painfully boring to me that I was severely tempted to introduce my battered volume to the nearest trashcan. No joke.

To be fair, it started out well enough. I could appreciate and identify with Ishmael's misanthropy, with his discontent and his impulsiveness, the desperate need to get out and do something--something new and different and fucking wild--or end up self-destructing. I just wish this had stayed a story about Ishmael. Or, ya know, about Ishmael and Queequeg being gay for each other in a quaint Nantucket inn, because that is absolutely relevant to my interests. Unfortunately, the story quickly devolved into a lecture on cetology (is that even a real thing still?) and a tedious accounting of the specifics of whaling, at which point my interest waned drastically.

I suppose it should be interesting, on some level, because of the historical value. I'm not sure how many other places we can learn what life was like on a 19th century whaling voyage. But then again, I never wanted to learn what life was like on a 19th century whaling voyage because, you know, I don't care. And while sections of the book do give us a glimpse of the state of marine biology in 18whatever, unless you are a marine biologist or interested in that sort of thing, for whatever reason, the information is basically useless due to its being so outdated as to be almost entirely erroneous and laughable at best. The only parts I found even remotely interesting were those that demonstrated a tendency to anthropomorphize the whale enough to assign it a malicious nature, but not enough to believe it capable of any kind of sentience. It's a classic example of what we've seen so many times throughout history: it's always easier to kill something if you can demonize it, but not if you think of it as intelligent, or have to acknowledge its similarities to yourself. Typical human sociopathy at work.

Aside from these points, the book was filled with a lot of other crap I could've done without. Like the blatant racism present throughout the narrative, for example. Call it historically accurate, call it whatever you like, but just because I wouldn't expect them all to join hands and fucking sing Kumbaya doesn't mean I have to like the flagrant bigotry. And then, of course, there was all the horrible gross shit, like the entire section on how to kill a whale and strip its blubber off like peeling an orange. That shit is nasty. Although it pales in comparison to the part about the sharks eating their own entrails and is only slightly nastier than the part alluding to Ahab's totes inappropriate relationship with Pip.

"I do suck most wonderous philosophies from thee!"

That's just. Ew. No. Do not want. God knows I'm a fan of boylove, but even I have limits.

And while we're on that subject (the boylove, not my limits), let me just say that this book has more sperm in it than all the gay porn I've ever watched. Yeah, that much. Perhaps if it was the same variety these strapping young seafaring lads were playing about in, I would've enjoyed this book far more.

So, to summarize, Moby Dick is: a) long; b) boring; c) gross; d) really boring. And unless you've been living under a rock for the past 160 years, you already know what happens and what it's all supposed to mean. So unless you have to read it for school, or you have some deep and abiding love for 19th century seafaring stories, you freak, I would steer as clear from this book as I would from a crazy one-legged sea captain with a thirst for vengeance.

Kobra Kid, signing off.

[You can't stop the signal.]

View all my reviews


  1. I know now I won't be reading this one , I think though I did read it in school , can't remember. But if I did or didn't I know I won't be now.

  2. LOL Good, it's not worth the time and effort.