Moby-Duck

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of ThemMoby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them by Donovan Hohn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was delightful. But I like science, and I like quirky. The author is a journalist and a teacher, so he is good with words. Like Moby-Dick, this book is a little of everything – travelogue, scientific investigation, history, sociology, ecology, sea adventure, humor, and the story of an obsession, told in a peripatetic stream of consciousness. That, of course, makes it overall a bit unfocused, with no particular point or conclusion. It is all about the search and where it takes him. I liked his references to Moby-Dick, and I was struck by his insights in the epilogue regarding Melville and fatherhood as it develops in Moby-Dick, as Melville became a father halfway through writing his book. In trying to keep this light hearted, I think Hohn loses something of the seriousness of the growing problem of plastic and what it is doing to our environment. He does very little to address conservation and recycling. Yet his reportage of clean-up efforts makes it clear that this is a monster waiting to devour us.

Description: When the writer Donovan Hohn heard of the mysterious loss of thousands of bath toys at sea, he figured he would interview a few oceanographers, talk to a few beachcombers, and read up on Arctic science and geography. But questions can be like ocean currents: wade in too far, and they carry you away. Hohn’s accidental odyssey pulls him into the secretive arena of shipping conglomerates, the daring work of Arctic researchers, the lunatic risks of maverick sailors, and the shadowy world of Chinese toy factories. Moby-Duck is a journey into the heart of the sea and an adventure through science, myth, the global economy, and some of the worst weather imaginable.

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Why Read Moby-Dick?

Why Read Moby-Dick?Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A slim and very readable summation of what makes Moby-Dick great. It almost makes me want to reread it again now.

Description:
Moby-Dick is perhaps the greatest of the Great American Novels, yet its length and esoteric subject matter create an aura of difficulty that too often keeps readers at bay. Fortunately, one unabashed fan wants passionately to give Melville’s masterpiece the broad contemporary audience it deserves. In his National Book Award- winning bestseller, In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick captivatingly unpacked the story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex, the real-life incident that inspired Melville to write Moby- Dick. Now, he sets his sights on the fiction itself, offering a cabin master’s tour of a spellbinding novel rich with adventure and history.

Philbrick skillfully navigates Melville’s world and illuminates the book’s humor and unforgettable characters-finding the thread that binds Ishmael and Ahab to our own time and, indeed, to all times. A perfect match between author and subject, Why Read Moby-Dick? gives us a renewed appreciation of both Melville and the proud seaman’s town of Nantucket that Philbrick himself calls home. Like Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life, this remarkable little book will start conversations, inspire arguments, and, best of all, bring a new wave of readers to a classic tale waiting to be discovered anew.

Quotes:
“Contained in the pages of Moby-Dick is nothing less than the genetic code of America: all the promises, problems, conflicts, and ideals that contributed to the outbreak of a revolution in 1775 as well as a civil war in 1861 and continue to drive this country’s ever-contentious march into the future. This means that whenever a new crisis grips this country, Moby-Dick becomes newly important. It is why subsequent generations have seen Ahab as Hitler during World War II or as a profit-crazed deep-drilling oil company in 2010 or as a power-crazed Middle Eastern dictator in 2011.” – p. 6

“The novel has inspired plays, films, operas, comic books, a television miniseries, and even a pop-up book. Those who have never read a word of it know the story of Ahab and the White Whale.” – p. 8

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and SensibilitySense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I might have given this 4 stars, for Jane Austen’s characteristic witty dialogue and skewering of society, but it was just so predictable. You knew who was going to end up with whom, so there really wasn’t any suspense about the outcome. I found the ultimate pairing of Marianne, 17, with the 35-year-old Colonel Brandon to be unsatisfying. Why not give the widowed Mrs. Dashwood a love interest? She is only 40, not that much older than he is! Elinor is boring. And Willoughby deserved better, I thought! I really only read this as a prequel to reading Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters for my Moby-Dick project. Except for being set in Devonshire, I don’t see how sea monsters are going to be featured. Could be interesting!

The audiobook was narrated by Susannah Harker.

Description: The difference between the two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, lies not only in their appearance but also in their temperament. Elinor’s good sense contrasts with Marianne’s impulsive candor. Yet in the face of a highly competitive marriage market, the sisters’ experience of love causes both to readjust… Jane Austen’s satirical powers of observation and expression spare no one in this lively study of the constraints on women of a particular class in the eighteenth century.