I’d never read it and picked it up a few weeks ago, just finished it today. (Kept texting my husband “70 pages to go and still no whale!” “40 pages and still no whale!” “NO WHALE AND 30 LEFT!” Whale shows up with 25 to go in my edition.)
And I really don’t know what to make of it, except that it’s quite a book. I mean… quite a book. I don’t even know if I liked it or not, but I also couldn’t have put it down.
I dunno, I suppose people probably call it “the first postmodern novel” or something, but can you really be a thing if you’re the only thing? Doesn’t that just make you a weirdo? People say “oh it’s about obsession” or “oh it’s about futility”, but I think those people haven’t read it recently, because if Melville wanted to write a book about Ahab’s obsession, the hunt for the whale, his opposition with Starbuck at the end, etc. then he could have done that. Probably would have sold buckets of them, at about a hundred pages.
But he didn’t write that book, he wrote a 600 page book about the nature of the whale, the meat of the whale, the classifications of the whale, the whiteness of the whale, the flensing of the whale, the dipping out of the spermaceti of the whale, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc. He hardly did it by accident. So what do we make of it?