There are times I wonder why I am making it my mission to read as many of the classics as I can.
I mean, on the one hand, it’s a good idea to read such well regarded books. I like to consider myself somewhat cultured, so this is one way to achieve that end.
On the other hand, some of these books have been dry or seriously lacking in action until very late.
Case in point — Moby Dick.
My version of the book had 515 pages of story. We don’t see the blasted White Whale until page 489.
Now, some positives. Moby Dick is a lot easier to get into than Robinson Crusoe. In Moby Dick, there is some action, or at least progress, in the early pages as Ishmael meets Queequeg and they develop a relationship.
And you’re eager to meet Ahab and get on the Pequod to chase the White Whale.
And the tales of actually hunting down whales (since it’s a whaling expedition, not solely a hunt for the White Whale) was quite fascinating, including the description of how the whales are chased, harpooned and then killed. Even reading of how they harvest the blubber and oil was interesting.
However, there were also endless pages devoted to the different types of whales. And a treatise on the whale’s tail. Boring. If I wanted that kind of information, I would have read a scientific book on whales.
But, for all that, my biggest beef with Moby Dick is the fact it took 489 pages of reading to finally meet the whale! Four hundred eighty-nine pages!
What was Herman Melville smoking?
I would have expected the White Whale to have been spotted fairly early in the book. Ahab then would have gone after him, but failed to kill him, suffering loss of life to some crew members in the process.
Then we’d go a while, still on the lookout, but also hunting whales as a continuation of the mission.
Moby Dick would then reappear, another chase would occur and again the whale would escape.
Another simple mission interlude.
Finally, Moby Dick is found, Ahab launches, latches on and is then defeated. Or wins. It wouldn’t really matter.
The fact is, by saving the final (and only) battle until the very end, many readers are either reading to finally see the epic battle foretold, glossing over the rest of the novel; or, they simply give up because they’re not getting the payoff they want from a novel.
Fortunately I’m one of those people who wants to read books both for the story and the experience. So I finished this.
But it’s not the classic page-turner I was hoping it would be.