January 12, 2011
What is it about Moby-Dick?
by Melville House
Over the weekend the New Bedford Whaling Museum held it’s annual “Moby Dick Marathon,” a 25-hour public reading of Herman Melville‘s classic. Hundreds attended.
In the digital age, the age of now, how can a 600-page book published 160 years ago elicit such excitement and devotion? It has inspired movies and operas, songs and albums, graphic novels and paintings.
Few works of literature have had so pervasive an effect on the worlds imagination. Ahab‘s white whale has been etched indelibly on our cultural language.
So what is it about Moby-Dick?
Compare its acclaim to that of Middlemarch, Moby-Dick’s most common challenger for best English language novel, in a base popularity contest the whale wins. Ulysses? On Goodreads the most read edition of Ulysses has been rated 13,559 times. Moby Dick 125,037!
Obviously we at Melville House hold the works of Herman in high esteem. But I’m curious what it is you, the reading public, find so captivating in Ishmael’s tale. Thousands of scholars have written about Moby and Melville but there’s an ineffable allure to the work that only raw readily excitement can express.
So why do we still hunt the white whale?
Is it a book men enjoy more than women?
What other novel(s) compares?
Is the cetology really that boring?