The Great American . . . well, it's more than a novel. It's a living, breathing, swirling world filled with tragedy and comedy. If you've never gotten past the famous first sentence, reading just a little further will reveal Melville's wicked sense of humor: "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 deadpan delivery permeates this thoroughly American book: both a philosophical discourse and a practical guide to every conceivable facet of whales and whaling. One needs only get to the end of that first chapter, to read Ishmael's reverie of newspaper headlines -- "Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States" / "Whaling Voyage By One Ishmael" / "Bloody Battle in Affghanistan" -- to realize that Moby-Dick is still an eternal book, one that should be read in our time now more than ever. — Northshire Staff
"Call me Ishmael," Moby-Dick begins, in one of the most recognizable opening lines in American, or indeed English-language, literature. The narrator, an observant young man setting out from Manhattan, has experience in the merchant marine but has recently decided his next voyage will be on a whaling ship. On a cold, gloomy night in December, he arrives at the Spouter-Inn in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and agrees to share a bed with a then-absent stranger. When his bunk mate, a heavily tattooed Polynesian harpooner named Queequeg, returns very late and discovers Ishmael beneath his covers, both men are alarmed, but the two quickly become close friends and decide to sail together from Nantucket, Massachusetts on a whaling voyage.