Ahoy, flukes!

One Sunday night about a month ago, I was in the Half-price Books skulking around for something to read. Not being particularly optimistic or venturesome by nature, I couldn’t decide what I wanted, so I just paced around the store waiting for inspiration to strike. It didn’t.

Thankfully, an employee came over the intercom to announce that the store would be closing in ten minutes, and, that if we wanted to transact business we should get our collective asses in gear. I didn’t want to end the night without a book, so I ran over to Literature and grabbed the first thing that had a high probability of being good (and cheap). This turned out to be a thin paperback of Moby-Dick, complete with a 1960’s-style woodcut illustration of Captain Ahab on the cover. It cost me all of twenty-eight cents.

Almost every night for the past several weeks, I have propped myself up in bed to read Moby-Dick. It has been a revelation in many ways, and I have been pleased to jettison my preconceptions of the thing in exchange for actual experience. For such a small book, it delivers more than whole piles of other books. It is as deep and rich as the ocean itself, soaked with Melville’s humor and vitality. Melville devotes entire chapters (although all his chapters are brief) to various asides on whaling, whale biology, history, and seafaring. The entire first part of the book is a bibliographical list of places where whales appear in literature; from Jonah’s Leviathan in the Bible to Michel de Montaigne and Hamlet.

I have learned a few things as well:

  • The Pequod’s first mate, Starbuck, is the inspiration for the coffee chain. This means Starbucks stole their name from Moby-Dick. Somehow, this is not surprising.
  • Moby-Dick is based in part on a real albino whale by the name of Mocha Dick.

I’m still reading through the book, but one thing I’m starting to realize is the widespread poverty of modern language and literature. With so much being written and talked about, there is so little being said that has any lasting value or charm. Living in the information age is like living in the age of crap. It makes you appreciate those rare individuals who express things well. I’ll have to remember that the next time I go on about something unimportant: Speak less, say more.


  1. Read Moby-Dick online for free at Project Gutenberg.
  2. Moby-Dick entry at Wikipedia


  1. Gabriel Flores

    My Reading class just finished reading Call It Courage. Took them two months. You could probably take it down in one sitting. I recommend next time ur at HPBooks.

  2. “Melville devotes entire chapters (although all his chapters are brief) to various asides on whaling, whale biology, history, and seafaring.”

    You definitely must have an abridged version. As someone who’s read the unabridged version, Melville is nothing close to brief. Usually, I have an aversion to abridged books; I feel like I’m “missing out”. In this case, the abridged version is much better for today’s reader. The discovery channel wasn’t broadcast in HD at the time, so these painfully long chapters on whale species would have been much more interesting. :)

  3. Gabe:

    I will have to check that book out.


    You know, I didn’t think it was abridged, but I’ll have to take a look next time I’m reading.

  4. Phillip:

    I’m reading the unabridged version. Huzzah!