Moby Dick

  • by Herman Melville
  • Narrated by Duncan Carse
  • 24 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville is a classic of American and world literature.Written in 1851, this is the incredible story of the crazed captain Ahab who, consumed by his desire for revenge, drives his crew to scour the oceans of the world for the fearsome white whale, Moby Dick. It soon becomes clear that Ahab will stop at nothing and is prepared to risk everything, his ship, his crew members, and his own life. Herman Melville (1819 - 1891) was an American novelist short story writer, essayist and poet.Please note: This is a vintage recording. The audio quality may not be up to modern day standards.

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I am writing this review in response to all the other reviews that were critical of Mr. Duncan Carse narration. If the listener takes the effort to listen, he or she will realize Ishmael is not an illiterate seaman as played by Richard Basehart in the movie version of Moby Dick. Ishmael is well educated, as indicated
within the first few pages. Ishmael speaks of the Old Persians, the Greeks. This is the language of an educated man, especially in 1851. The other readers(god bless them as Joe Biden would say)pass over these lines without a twitch. Mr. Carse speaks them as if he has experienced them. Everything can be criticized in some manner, which the modern intelligence seems to relish. It is truly difficult to feel sorry for some one who has broken his arm if you haven’t broken a bone. Mr. Carse make you feel he has experienced everything he talks about. I think the problem is not with the narrator, but with the readers. Oooops
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- JAY

The Appalling Beauty of this Whaling World

What a strange classic is Herman Melville's Moby-Dick (1851)! Scientific, philosophical, comical, beautiful, terrible, and exciting, the novel is written with what Ishmael (Melville's narrator and alter-ego) calls "a careful disorderliness," featuring motley modes, like adventure, natural history, drama, and allegory, and an exuberantly encyclopedic approach fit for his "mighty theme." The novel is Biblical, Shakespearean, Hawthornian, Cetacean, and American.

Ishmael begins his narrative by telling us that some years ago, feeling grim and drizzly, he decided to go to sea on a whaling ship to purge his spleen. He and his bosom buddy, the harpooner Queequeg, a cannibal prince with a profile like George Washington's and a body tattooed with illegible hieroglyphs that might hold the key to the truth of the universe, join the Pequod, captained by the soul-scorched and charismatic Ahab. Captain Ahab soon seduces the crew into swearing an unholy oath to help him hunt and kill the famed White Whale, Moby Dick, who by biting off his leg drove him into a monomaniacal quest for revenge.

Throughout that narrative Ishmael interweaves passages about the physical, behavioral, and symbolic aspects of sperm whales and about the history, tools, strategies, dangers, and noble nature of whaling. He relates such passages with vivid descriptions, humorous metaphors, and interesting allusions to myriad eras, cultures, religions, and artifacts. A reader sympathetic to whales may recoil from Ishmael's depiction of their callous butchery or assertion that they will never be in danger from over-hunting. Nevertheless, he also respects and empathizes with the sublime leviathans.

Ishmael, a "subterranean miner," attempts to "pierce the profundity" lurking beneath the surface of the world to attain the Truth about life and its dark realities--and so to appall rather than please his readers--and ambitiously attempts to compass his vast subject, the whale and all it signifies throughout human history. He speculates on fate and free will, belief and unbelief, civilization and savagery, community and alienation, and our brief lives in a dangerous world in which "all men live enveloped in whale-lines."

The reader Duncan Carse speaks with an austere and educated tone for Ishmael's base narration, from which he deviates to amplify the different personalities of the various characters. He handles Melville's many long and complex sentences with agility and clarity. His reading enhances the meaning and interest of the monologues and asides of characters like earnest Starbuck, jocund Stubb, grim Ahab, and divinely insane Pip.

Carse, however, more than a few times misspeaks a word and then quickly catches himself and reads it correctly (e.g., "a wissing--missing boat"). It's nearly unnoticeable, but such moments should have been edited out of the audiobook. Worse, the whale etymologies and literary extracts collected by Melville's "consumptive grammarian" and "grub-worm librarian" that preface the novel are absent.

In closing, I'd like to share some great lines from Moby-Dick:

"Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian."

"Though in many of its aspects this visible world seems formed in love, the invisible spheres were formed in fright."

"There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own."

"One serene and moonlight night, when all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude; on such a silent night a silvery jet was seen far in advance of the white bubbles at the bow. Lit up by the moon, it looked celestial; seemed some plumed and glittering god uprising from the sea."

"Let us all squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness."

"In that sloping afternoon sunlight, the shadows that the three boats sent down beneath the surface, must have been long enough and broad enough to shade half Xerxes' army. Who can tell how appalling to the wounded whale must have been such huge phantoms flitting over his head!"

"Cannibals? Who is not a cannibal?"

"The rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her monmaniac commander's soul."

"Look not too long in the face of the fire, O man!"

"I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look."

"Give me a condor's quill! Give me Vesuvius' crater for an inkstand!"
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- Jefferson

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-13-2009
  • Publisher: RNIB