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Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick

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Why Read Moby-Dick?: 02/16/13

cover art

Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick came to be from the writing of In the Heart of the Sea, a history of the shipwreck of the Essex (the inspiration for Moby Dick). Why Read Moby-Dick, then, like the movie Adaptation is to Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief, if she had made the film herself.

Philbrick's book is really more of a lengthy essay in chapter form and comes out at a slim 131 pages. It's his thoughts on the book, it's pivotal scenes and his theories on the meaning of the book. While those theories are interesting, they are light on analysis and citation. Perhaps Why Read Moby-Dick would work better as a readers' companion to In the Heart of the Sea than as a critical analysis of Melville's novel.

I chose to read Why Read Moby-Dick to see what arguments Philbrick uses to encourage reluctant readers to pick up the novel. I did this, though, as an avid lover of the novel. I don't need to be convinced to pick it up and sadly, having read through Philbrick's long plot summary stripped of the woodcuts and Melville's humor, I'm not sure I would want to pick it up based solely on his recommendation.

Why Read Moby-Dick will appeal mostly to Philbick fans and perhaps Melville fans who are more rabid in their devotion than I am and need to have a copy to complete their collection.

Read via NetGalley

Three stars

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