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Moby Dick Message Board

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jul 31, 2006, 9:11 am

What a story, huh?!

I thought that we could perhaps share our favorite bits about the book (and why they are our favorites) and its history and legacy.

For starters:

The annual reading of the entire book starts at noon today on July 31st and goes for 24 hours until noon on August 1st on the deck of the Charles W. Morgan (a restored whaling ship) at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, CT. The event culminates in a Great White Birthday Cake tomorrow to commemorate Melville's birthday!

Details are at:

It starts in about three hours from when I am typing this and I plan to be there for the whole thing.

Anyone want to join me?

Stay tuned for details tomorrow.


"In the end, only kindness matters."

jul 31, 2006, 10:41 am

Really? That's so cool! I never knew of that event. :) Perhaps I'll have my own reading party...hehe!

Have fun! Anxiously awaiting the details.

I love the descriptions that Melville gives to each character. He really goes in depth and it's so colorful. I feel like I can actually see and touch Queequeg - the description of his features and personality are so vivid.

I love everything about this book...I'm not sure I could pick favorites!!! :)

jul 31, 2006, 11:55 am

I've always wanted to go to the reading on the Morgan! Wish I could get there. Let us know if you bump into the shipboard ghost!

4phooky Första inlägget
aug 1, 2006, 11:19 am

Wish I'd known about that reading earlier. Maybe I'll show up next year.

There's currently a production of "The Sermon" (Chapter 9) running in Brooklyn:

aug 1, 2006, 11:20 am

Det här meddelandet har tagits bort av dess författare.

aug 3, 2006, 10:11 am

Hi everyone-

I survived the whole night, but spent the next twenty-four hours catching up on sleep and now I'm trying to catch up on all the things I was supposed to be doing on Monday through Wednesday. I'll try to write my own impressions of the event later, but here's an article about it from the Providence-Journal:


"In the end, only kindness matters."

aug 3, 2006, 10:12 am

aug 3, 2006, 10:36 am

Sounds like an awesome experience. I participated in a reading of Ulysses for the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday. I only read for a half an hour of closed to 37. Hopefully, I'll remember this event for next year and try and plan for it.

aug 8, 2006, 5:21 pm

Hi everyone -

I was wondering; at the Moby Dick reading last week (sorry ... been really busy this week and I haven't had a chance to update you on this unique event), I noticed that at several points, my edition of Moby Dick was different from everybody else's. Usually it was just a few words here and there. Sometimes it was the order of things, e.g., the marble plaques for the dead whalers in the church wall. Once in a while, there were quite a few more words (but never more than a sentence or so) being read that weren't in my edition.

So, help this non-academic sort figure out what the case is. I have a few ideas, one of which I don't like ...

Were there different editions that changed words around? It's not a case of translation, of course. Did Melville re-edit his own work? Are there different drafts floating around? Or (as I fear) did certain later "editors" try to make things better (thereby making them worse)?

My edition (heavily underlined and noted, so I hesitate to change at this late date in my Life) is an old (1950s) thing from the Great Books of the Western World (Encyclopaedia Brittanica and University of Chicago), which I've noticed on a few other works, they've taken a few words out here and there to protect the innocence of 1950s America (I guess).

Anybody have any knowledge of this?



"In the end, only kindness matters."

aug 8, 2006, 9:18 pm

Douglas, I'm not certain about the particular text in the GBWW volume (although I do own one of those from the same era-unfortunately in storage at the moment), but the very first edition of Moby Dick, published in London in 1851 was actually expurgated (for potentially offensive political and "moral" content). The American edition, published just a month later in the same year (November 1851) by Harper and Brothers in New York contains the text Melville originally submitted. I'm not a Melville scholar, so he may well have made further revisions to the text later, but I haven't seen mention of this anywhere.

I'm thinking about buying a copy of the Norton Critical Edition. This is such a dense novel and Melville filled it with so much specialized information re sailing and whaling, that an annotated edition almost seems like a necessity. Has anyone else read the Norton edition? Any opinions, yea or nay, on it?

aug 10, 2006, 10:17 pm

Yes, I read the Norton Critical Edition and recommend it. The footnotes are well done, not too many but enough to be helpful. Plus all the additional material really makes it worthwhile.

aug 11, 2006, 3:24 am

Thanks for the input, Stbalbach. Based on your description, the Norton edition sounds like exactly what I'm looking for and a must buy.

aug 11, 2006, 3:27 am

Det här meddelandet har tagits bort av dess författare.

Redigerat: aug 12, 2006, 11:24 am

One of my favorite parts is Pip in the Ocean (in the Chapter "The Castaway"):

"The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up, but drowned the infinite of his soul. Not drowned entirely, though. Rather carried down alive to wonderous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and for before his passive eyes; and the miserman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded heaps; and among the joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile eternities, Pip saw the multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral insects, that outof the firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs. He saw God's foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefor his shipmates called him mad. So man's insanity is heaven's sense, and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God."

And there, in a simple metaphor of a man alone in the wide sea, you have religion and philosphy, reason and faith, explained in perfect contractiction. I find the small and meek Pip and the mighty and blustery Ahab to be perfect foils.

aug 13, 2006, 5:50 pm

Your welcome marietherese. One other thing is the footnotes are at the bottom of each page instead of at the back so you can easily read them without having to flip pages. That's true for all Norton editions, unlike the Oxford World Classics, which I tend to not read as many notes as they are remote.

16hellbent Första inlägget
aug 30, 2006, 10:45 pm

Mine is a 1955 7th printing published by Rhinehart & Co. NYC/Toronto in paperback. I inherited from an American living in Toronto.

aug 31, 2006, 9:07 am

I have at least two friends who have the old hardcover edition (1st editions, 1st printings) with the Rockwell Kent illustrations.

When I hold those books in my sweaty hands, I experience great Envy and Covetousness.

Someday, someday ...


"In the end, only kindness matters."

Redigerat: jun 30, 2007, 12:04 pm

(duplicate posting in Connecticut Nutmegger's group)

Ok, so this time I'm going to try to give a bit more warning than "Oh, by the way ... there will be such and such an event in about 5 minutes at a location that's only two hours away!"

Yes, friends, Herman Melville's birthday is August 1st (funny, it's the same date each year) and the Mystic Seaport's 24-hour marathon reading of Moby Dick will start at noon on July 31st and go till around noon on August 1st. It takes place on the decks of the whaler, Charles W. Morgan (hmm ... are ships' names supposed to be italicized?).

Darn it all, though! My current plans are to be camping in the Adirondacks at that time, so I probably won't be there this year. It is a wonderful experience, though, if you can find the time and energy.

I'd certainly do it again if I were here (funny ... it's a bit like childbirth (I guess); last year, as I was rubbing my sore muscles and tired brain, I remember thinking "Well, I've now been there and done that ... be a long time before I try that again." Now, I only remember how great it was and I'm really going to miss being there this year.).

One final note: somehow I have become this year's Mystic Seaport Poster Child for this event:


"In the end, only kindness matters."

jun 30, 2007, 1:22 pm

I simply had to join this discussion. Moby Dick is a phenomenal book and my most favourite story of all time. If I lived close enough I would definitely be at the reading in a heartbeat.

aug 23, 2007, 1:02 pm

I'm also late to the discussion but so happy there's a group for my favorite book. I'm wondering if a marathon reading is something that Seattle would support.

And let me second the recommendations for the Norton Critical Edition. It answers questions and illuminates edition text changes, in-jokes, controversies, etc.

okt 16, 2007, 5:30 pm

Here is another Seattlite who is a fan. I am reading Moby Dick for the first time, and with about 50 pages to go, I'm dreading that it it will all be over soon. (BTW: I am reading the Norton Critical Edition.)

I had problems finding your group at first, and all the other mentions of this classic work in other groups were critical (even downright insulting). Glad to finally find some folks who appreciate its wonders.

One question. In Chapter 113, and again in Chapter 117, the narrator calls a character "Parsee." I wasn't sure who was meant, but I suspected Fedallah. I confirmed this with a visit to Wikipedia, where it said:

"He is of Indian Zoroastrian ("Parsi") descent. Due to descriptions of him having lived in China, he might have been among the great wave of Parsi traders that made their way to Hong Kong and the Far East during the mid-19th century."

I must have missed this description of him having lived in China. Can anyone point me to it?

One of my favorite parts is Chapter 89 "Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish." I love how this Chapter starts out with the simple statement of whaling etiquette and ends with the whole world ("What is the great globe itself but a Loose-Fish?") The chapter is itself a microcosm of the whole book, which from the minutiae of men at work killing whales grows a work of great moral and philosophical power.