Other than being about a whale, Moby Dick, and including a same-sex marriage, I did not really have much of an idea of what the book was about.
One of the things that was really interesting was the way in which Melville ties together so many differing styles and literary devices ranging from songs, poetry, and catalogs to Shakespearean stage directions, soliloquies, and asides. I can imagine some readers may skip some of the dalliances into all things whaling to instead focus on the chase for the white whale. However, these lengthy descriptions both add context and also add a real fever to the text. I would be intrigued to see Melville’s notebooks collecting together all this research.
Captain Ahab and his manic obsession had me thinking of both The Judge in Blood Meridian and Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. I watched a video where Harold Bloom argued that he liked Captain Ahab, because without him, we would never have had Moby Dick. This is an interesting way of looking at it.
The reference to different countries (Australia, Peru) and the way in which whaling traverses everything had me thinking about how the novel exists outside of society. Interestingly, it predicts its own interpretations throughout. I was left thinking about Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of desire without bodies.
Moby Dick is definitely a writerly text that I can imagine easily rereading.