Moby-DickMoby-Dick by Herman Melville

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Long, rambling, and something of a sea monster of a book. Called by one early critic “a chowder of a book,” I would have to agree. At times it is brilliant, laugh out loud funny, thought-provoking, philosophical, and I can certainly appreciate all the historical detail. It’s just not a subject I have any great interest in, or affinity for. Is it the greatest American novel ever written? It is certainly iconic, and I am glad that I have made the effort to finish the whole thing.

Book Description: The story tells the adventures of wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. Ishmael soon learns that Ahab has one purpose on this voyage: to seek out a specific whale—Moby Dick, a ferocious, enigmatic white sperm whale. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab’s boat and bit off his leg, which now drives Ahab to take revenge.

In part, Moby-Dick is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopedia of whaling lore and legend, the book can be seen as part of its author’s lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humor, Moby-Dick is also a profound inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.

Opening lines: “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.”

The Nautical Chart

The Nautical ChartThe Nautical Chart by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first book I’ve finished in my Moby Dick reading challenge – to read at least 12 books in the next few months with some connection to Moby Dick, which I’m currently reading. The opening lines immediately recall those of Moby Dick: “We could call him Ishmael, but in truth his name is Coy. I met him in the next-to-last act of this story, when he was on the verge of becoming just one more shipwrecked sailor floating on his coffin as the whaler Rachel looked for lost sons.” There is not only the reference to the famous opening line “Call me Ishmael” but we also have a reference to Queequeg’s coffin which figures prominently in Melville’s tale. Like Moby Dick, The Nautical Chart is a tale of obsession. Tanger obsessed with finding the treasure of the sunken Dei Gloria, and Coy obsessed with Tanger, despite the underlying currents that she will probably lead him to his death. There are literary and pop-culture references galore: The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Odyssey, TinTin’s Adventures, The Da Vinci Code, Master and Commander, Lord Jim, The Old Man and the Sea, and Treasure Island, to name a few … and it was mildly amusing to pick those out. This was an enjoyable tale, not too bogged down with nautical terminology, but somewhat predictable. The adventure is more on an intellectual level than physical, with good characterizations that border on caricatures. But what’s not to like about an evil, Argentinian dwarf henchman with froglike eyes? I was also amused by Coy’s name. I don’t know if this was intentional, being translated from Spanish, but he is anything but coy, being pretty simple, direct and even aggressive in his approach to life and love. The ending isn’t much of a surprise, it’s the journey getting there that is the story.

Description: International best-selling author Arturo Perez-Reverte, a celebrated master of smart, gripping thrillers, draws favorable comparisons to such literary legends as Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, and Patrick O’Brian. Translated into 19 languages, his books have sold more than three million copies worldwide. At a maritime auction in Barcelona, Merchant Marine officer Manuel Coy sees an intense bidding war erupt over a seemingly innocuous 18th-century atlas. The auction winner is the beautiful Tanger Soto, who is obsessed with a Jesuit ship sunk by pirates in the 17th century. Joining forces, Tanger and Manuel hit the seas in search of Dei Gloria and its precious, yet unidentified, cargo. Their quest sends them not only into dangerous waters, but also into the perilous recesses of the human heart. Full of adventure and suspense, The Nautical Chart is a masterful romance of the sea. George Guidall’s thrilling reading makes for an unforgettable listening experience.