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Moby-Dick Big Read
September 14, 2012 5:52 PM   Subscribe

Moby-Dick Big Read: 135 chapters over 135 days, as read by David Cameron, John Waters, Stephen Fry, David Attenborough, Simon Callow and many others. Today the first of sailing a bit around the world.
posted by stbalbach (37 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite

 
Damn kids....get off my whale!
posted by howfar at 6:10 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hrm. What an interesting idea. Books being read for listening audiences are such a specific sort of art form, and the people reading this book have varying degrees of experience doing such a thing... And Moby Dick is such a great great great book... I will definitely be grabbing this as it is made available either for current or future listening.

Great post! Thanks so much.
posted by hippybear at 6:14 PM on September 14, 2012


Ishmael's inner voice has a pacing and a lilt to it that might lend itself to narration -- by a really good narrator, I know not who that may be, but the first paragraph stands amongst the most beautiful and true couple of sentences ever put to paper in the English language. I like to hear it out loud in my head:

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago -- never mind how long precisely -- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off -- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

Sublime.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:15 PM on September 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


Ishmael's inner voice has a pacing and a lilt to it

voiced by Tilda Swinton. How unexpected! How wonderful!
posted by Anitanola at 6:35 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I recently listened to an unabridged recording of this by the late William Hootkins, and appreciated it as I never had before. To any of you who think that Moby Dick is 800 pages on the anatomy of a whale, I urge you to listen — it's a truly amazing book.
posted by ubiquity at 6:35 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


As an enormous fan of the novel, I'm very excited about this. I hope it will inspire more people to take the book on. With that said, I am deeply disappointed that Simon Callow will be reading "The Sermon," which deserves more gravitas. I hope they have some really good people for "The Chase - Third Day" and "The Quarterdeck."
posted by synecdoche at 6:35 PM on September 14, 2012


I am deeply disappointed that Simon Callow will be reading "The Sermon," which deserves more gravitas.

Whoever they cast, it's going to be pretty damn hard to top Orson Welles.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:58 PM on September 14, 2012


With just six replies I've been moved to read Moby Dick, which is pretty good when you think about it.
posted by mollweide at 6:59 PM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


This looks great! I love Ahab's Wife and have always felt extra ashamed that I have never read Moby-Dick. I am also about to dive (pun not intended) into Miéville's Railsea. Maybe I'll listen to this concurrently with reading Railsea and have a big ol' Moby-Dick party in my brain.
posted by librarina at 7:12 PM on September 14, 2012


Oh man. We're about to do Moby Dick, the opera, at work. I've never read it. Sounds like this might be the way to go.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:12 PM on September 14, 2012


PS There better be a David Tennant chapter.
posted by librarina at 7:13 PM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I want Tilda to read me bedtime stories every night.
posted by Mojojojo at 7:15 PM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ah...dyslexia... Big Dick what now?
posted by sparklemotion at 7:26 PM on September 14, 2012


Annotations may be helpful.

For those who enjoy primary source material, may I also recommend J. Ross Browne's "Etchings of a Whaling Cruise" and William Scoresby's "An Account of the Arctic Regions with a History and Description of the Northern Whale-fishery"?
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:31 PM on September 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


(And now I realize that Simon CALLOW is not Simon COWELL. Please consider my earlier comment retracted.)
posted by synecdoche at 7:31 PM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Tell me tell me tell me, please, tell me they're having Stephen Fry do "A Squeeze of the Hand."

Please, Jeebus.
posted by Diablevert at 7:31 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Diablevert, I suspect he's doing The Counterpane based on what the article says.
posted by synecdoche at 7:33 PM on September 14, 2012


Sorry. Do not like Tilda as Ishmael at all. Wonderful? No.
posted by rdone at 7:34 PM on September 14, 2012


If Melville were on the green:

"It does seem to me, that herein we see the rare virtue of a strong individual vitality, and the rare virtue of thick walls, and the rare virtue of interior spaciousness. Oh, man! admire and model thyself after the whale! Do thou, too, remain warm among ice. Do thou, too, live in this world without being of it. Be cool at the equator; keep thy blood fluid at the Pole. Like the great dome of St. Peter's, and like the great whale, retain, O man! in all seasons a temperature of thine own.”
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:36 PM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can he only do one? Because while some of the other chapters have their moments --- okay, lots and lots of moments --- I'd still say "Hand" is the money chapter. In a manner of speaking. About sperm. aceti.
posted by Diablevert at 7:44 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd never read Moby Dick, but launched into it in oblique preparation to see Laurie Anderson's Songs and Stories from Moby Dick at BAM years ago. I'd never been one to read the Great American Novels and particularly not tales of the sea, so I thought it'd fall after 50 pages. But I was fascinated and read it straight through (not a common occurrence with me), finishing it before the performance.

I'm not sure I would listen to it all the way through. I'm lukewarm on the Tilda Swinton reading so far. It's round where I want it to be lean. But I'll dip in later and see how later chapters sound.
posted by the sobsister at 8:33 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Awesome.

Let me plug this once more: my former employer Mystic Seaport does an incredible Moby Dick Marathon reading event on Melville's birthday every August: a live 24-hour read-through of Moby-Dick aboard the last wooden whaleship in existence, the Charles W. Morgan. It's quite an experience to half-doze through the night on deck, watching the stars through the masts above you, as you listen to the readers. Everyone signs up for a chapter.

Plus, at the end of the reading at noon on August 1st there's birthday cake for Herman. Cake!
posted by Miko at 8:46 PM on September 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


That said, yeah, Tilda Swinton as an opener: not selling it.
posted by Miko at 8:48 PM on September 14, 2012


I am currently listening to Moby Dick as read by Frank Muller which is absolutely amazing. The short chapters are perfect for the commute. His voice is beautiful (did someone order gravitas?). Of course the story and the prose are ... well, it's Moby Dick. Thanks for this; it also looks worth a listen.
posted by chavenet at 12:28 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I listened to an audio version of Moby Dick a couple of years ago... I'll occasionally listen to spoken word classic literature when I hit a podcast drought. Next up (eventually) is David Copperfield so I can recreate that scene in Boardwalk Empire.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:46 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Been there, done that. I started reading out loud to my wife years ago to occupy the drive time during our weekly visits to my in-laws. With voices. Moby Dick was a couple of years ago.

David Copperfield is still my favorite, though my Uriah Heep completely creeps my wife out to this day. My wife loved Watership Down.

Lolita was interesting (my wife prosecutes sex crimes).

The Lord of the Rings took over a year. For me it was a reunion, but a first exposure for her.

A Prayer for Owen Meany.

The Great Gatsby.

1984 and Brave New World, back to back.

Currently I'm reading Jude the Obscure.
posted by grimjeer at 7:01 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the great find.
posted by mondo dentro at 7:29 AM on September 15, 2012


I will be "driving off the spleen" while I'm taking the bus to work.
posted by incandissonance at 7:37 AM on September 15, 2012


Stephen Fry could read me the phonebook and still hold my attention.
posted by pyrex at 9:55 AM on September 15, 2012


I read Moby Dick in my 30s and loved it. Next time I read it I'm going to supplement the text by carrying around Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page.
posted by neuron at 12:03 PM on September 15, 2012


Tell me tell me tell me, please, tell me they're having Stephen Fry do "A Squeeze of the Hand."



I was going to say the same thing about John Waters, but, upon reflection, he'd be perfect for "the cassock" as well.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:47 PM on September 15, 2012


Just great, thanks for this stbalbach!
posted by storybored at 6:12 PM on September 15, 2012


Lyrical, gorgeous language in Moby Dick . . . read this out loud, note and listen to the sibilance in this second paragraph:

The Spirit-Spout

[. . .]
It was while gliding through these latter waters that one serene and moonlight night, when all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude; on such a silent night a silvery jet was seen far in advance of the white bubbles at the bow. Lit up by the moon, it looked celestial; seemed some plumed and glittering god uprising from the sea. Fedallah first descried this jet. For of these moonlight nights, it was his wont to mount to the main-mast head, and stand a look-out there, with the same precision as if it had been day. And yet, though herds of whales were seen by night, not one whaleman in a hundred would venture a lowering for them. You may think with what emotions, then, the seamen beheld this old Oriental perched aloft at such unusual hours; his turban and the moon, companions in one sky. But when, after spending his uniform interval there for several successive nights without uttering a single sound; when, after all this silence, his unearthly voice was heard announcing that silvery, moon-lit jet, every reclining mariner started to his feet as if some winged spirit had lighted in the rigging, and hailed the mortal crew. "There she blows!" Had the trump of judgment blown, they could not have quivered more; yet still they felt no terror; rather pleasure. For though it was a most unwonted hour, yet so impressive was the cry, and so deliriously exciting, that almost every soul on board instinctively desired a lowering.
Gorgeous. One of my absolute favorite books, ever.
posted by exlotuseater at 11:36 PM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


> PS There better be a David Tennant chapter

I nominate him for the cassock chapter. John Waters would be too over-the-top. Part of the joke is that it takes you a while (or at least it took me a while) to realize just what's happening there.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:08 AM on September 16, 2012


Let me plug this once more: my former employer Mystic Seaport does an incredible Moby Dick Marathon reading event on Melville's birthday every August: a live 24-hour read-through of Moby-Dick aboard the last wooden whaleship in existence, the Charles W. Morgan.

How many Moby Dick live readings are there? I was already familiar with the New Bedford Whaling Museum one that takes place in January.
posted by zamboni at 1:03 PM on September 19, 2012


As far as I know they're the only two. The New Bedford one is good, no issue with it, but it's indoors. The overnight reading outdoors on the deck of a whaleship trumps it, IMO.
posted by Miko at 8:12 PM on September 19, 2012


I want Tilda to read me bedtime stories every night.

Fixed.
posted by Fizz at 4:52 AM on September 29, 2012


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