This is a wonderful thing: an internet presentation of Moby-Dick, or The Whale, with each chapter delivered by an individual reader, and artwork commissioned to illustrate the text. It’s called the Moby Dick Big Read, http://www.mobydickbigread.com, and you can download a chapter a day — that would be 135 chapters. You can also begin at the beginning and go at as leisurely pace as you wish.
“I have written a blasphemous book,” said Melville when his novel was first published in 1851, “and I feel as spotless as the lamb.”
The world paid his book little mind. Moby-Dick never sold out its initial printing of 3,000 copies, and his total earnings from the American edition amounted to just $556.37. By 1876, in fact, all of Melville’s works were out of print. It was not until the next century that the writer’s brilliance was appreciated.
What I’m finding, as I knit and listen, is that listening makes me want to go back and read the book on the page. Perhaps that is because too much of my brain is preoccupied with knitting 12 then purling 12, knitting 7 then purling 7. But also, Melville’s prose is just too great to only hear, you want to relish it in print.
Like Ishmael’s description of the officers’ mess, Chapter 34. In the cabin, he writes:
“was no companionship; socially, Ahab was inaccessible. Though nominally included in the census of Christendom, he was still an alien to it. He lived in the world, as the last of the Grisly Bears lived in settled Missouri. And as when Spring and Summer had departed, that wild Logan of the woods, burying himself in the hollow of a tree, lived out the winter there, sucking his own paws; so, in his inclement, howling old age, Ahab’s soul, shut up in the caved trunk of his body, there fed upon the sullen paws of its gloom!”