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Thanks for the link, Lance! I think the last time I read it was in 2003, and I am feeling way overdue for another full read - although I dip into it often, reading my favorite chapters (ie: "The Whiteness of the Whale", and also the chapter when Pip goes mad. I love the chapter about the mating of the whales too, and the great squid.) What a book! Happy birthday!

Bill Altreuter

If there really is such a thing as The Great American Novel I would put it to you that it comes down to Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn or the Great Gatsby. Much as I love Fitzgerald (and Twain), It seems to me that Melville walks away with the crown.

All three touch on the multiple themes that an American novel must; all three miss a theme or two. Sex (and sexual politics) is essentially absent from the 19th Century entries; Gatsby mostly misses race. Commerce and social class are big themes in all three, and that is where they capture something essential about our peculiar nation.

When my eldest daughter was a baby I used to read Moby Dick, a chapter a night, to her every night, after whatever age appropriate thing we were reading at the time. This persisted until she was old enough to say "No Moby Dick!" Years later, when she was studying in southwestern China she had access to only two books in English: Moby Dick and a collection of Yogi Berra quotes. She read both repeatedly just to have the sound of English in her head, and acquired an understanding of baseball and a love for Melville.


I missed the required reading of Moby Dick in high school, so I was in my 30s before I read it. Being the nature nerd and history geek that I am, I liked all the details about whales and whaling that apparently many people find tedious. As for the rest of it... it's hard to not know the plot and the main characters ahead of time, so that proved less compelling.

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