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A novel by Herman Melville

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'Call me Ishmael'

  • Mar 6, 2010
Wayne Josephson must have the patience of Job! He is gradually 'translating' the classics into modern day readable form to encourage audiences to enjoy the great books of the past. He is fully aware that reading books in printed format is a diminishing luxury, what with the ease of the computer providing rapid reading via pdf of summaries of novels to 'save time' for the overly ambitious audience of today. While Josephson would be the last person to demean the importance and pleasure of reading the original works of great literature, he has committed his time to reducing the bulk of the classics to a form that retains all of the beauty of the original - but with an editing eye to make the stories flow more fluently, avoiding the tendency of past writers to wallow in the verbose. So is the reason for his latest, beautifully transformed MOBY DICK, one of the greatest American classics ever written in 1851 by Herman Melville - but unfortunately one of those books few people today have actually read, as the original is not only 759 pages long, but is steeped in language that borders on redundant excess.

A case in point - the original MOBY DICK opens with the following first paragraph:
'Call me Ishmael. Some years ago- never mind how long precisely- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.'

IN Wayne Josephson's newly compact version (395 ages as opposed to 759 pages) he opens with the following 'condensation':
'Call me Ishmael. Some year ago, having no money in my purse and nothing to interest me on the shore, I thought I would sail around a little and see the watery apart of the world. It is my way of driving off the gloom. Whenever is is a damp, drizzly November in my soul, or when I find myself at every funeral I see, and especially when I feel like stepping into the street and knocking people's hats off, then I know it is high time to get to sea as soon as I can. Instead of putting a pistol to my head, I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If men would only admit it, they would have nearly the same feelings toward the ocean as I.'

The entire book now reads this way, smoothly, without the need to search for punctuation or references, and for this reader, absorbing the entire novel took less than two days of comfortable reading time. What is the ultimate response after reading Josephson's MOBY DICK? That herman Melville was a great writer and story teller and that now he is far more accessible than ever before. This is a welcome addition tot he library. Make the comparison for yourself: you'll be greatly rewarded. Grady Harp, March 10

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review by . June 16, 2010
I don't really care whether or not something counts as literature. Whatever the merits of reading a work, nothing seems to take the fun out of it like being told how seriously to take it. I'm not interested in a work's importance but its power, so I approached Moby Dick not as "The Great American Novel" (whatever that means) but as a story of a madman chasing a monster across the vast abyss of the open ocean. (Before Jaws, before Cthulhu, there was Dick!) And it's a brilliant …
review by . June 28, 2010
Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick or The Whale is like a treasure hiding in plain sight from modern readers who are too intimidated by its artistic and physical magnitude to venture in and discover its awe-inspiring imaginativeness.  I doubt there has ever been a fictional world more complete than Melville’s massive world of whaling.               The immensity of Moby-Dick is part of its charm and Melville’s brilliance.  …
Quick Tip by . October 07, 2010
Want to read the Bible, read the Bible. Want to read about whaling trips ... um ... why would you want to do that?
Quick Tip by . August 26, 2010
It's epic, it's grand; and it's thematic import of good and evil are etched indelibly, but it's overlong to be sure.
Quick Tip by . July 16, 2010
I am about a third of the way through after having avoided this novel for awhile. I never realized how amusing Melville could be until I delved into his character descriptions.
Quick Tip by . July 08, 2010
Hard to believe the writer of this American classic died unheralded.
Quick Tip by . July 05, 2010
I think Melville is pretty awesome, and Ahab is an intriguing figure, and there are lots of interesting things in this book. But there's too much about whaling for my tastes.
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
Good read
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
Epic story, but can be a bit slow at times.
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
who hasnt read this?!
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #96
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Moby-Dick, also known as The Whale, is a novel first published in 1851 by American author Herman Melville. Moby-Dick is often referred to as a Great American Novel and is considered one of the treasures of world literature. The story tells the adventures of the wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship  Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. Ishmael soon learns that Ahab seeks one specific whale, Moby Dick, a ferocious, enigmatic white sperm whale. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab's boat and bit off his leg. Ahab intends to take revenge.

In Moby-Dick, Melville employs stylized language, symbolism, and metaphor to explore numerous complex themes. Through the main character's journey, the concepts of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of gods are all examined as Ishmael speculates upon his personal beliefs and his place in the universe. The narrator's reflections, along with his descriptions of a sailor's life aboard a whaling ship, are woven into the narrative along with Shakespearean literary devices such as stage directions, extended soliloquies and asides.

Often classified as American Romanticism, Moby-Dick was first published by Richard Bentley in London on October 18, 1851 in an expurgated three-volume edition titled The Whale, and weeks later as a single volume, by New York City publisher Harper and Brothers as Moby-Dick; or, The Whale on November 14, 1851. Although the book initially received ...
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ISBN-10: 0553213113
ISBN-13: 978-0553213119
Author: Herman Melville
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Bantam Classics
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1984 (British first edition)

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