Moby Dick

Moby Dick

by Herman Melville

Narrated by Frank Muller

Unabridged — 21 hours, 11 minutes

Moby Dick

Moby Dick

by Herman Melville

Narrated by Frank Muller

Unabridged — 21 hours, 11 minutes

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Its famous opening line, "Call me Ishmael," dramatic in its stark simplicity, begins an epic that is widely regarded as the greatest novel ever written by an American. Labeled variously a realistic story of whaling, a romance of unusual adventure and eccentric characters, a symbolic allegory, and a drama of heroic conflict, Moby Dick is first and foremost a great story. It has both the humor and poignancy of a simple sea ballad, as well as the depth and universality of a grand odyssey. When Melville's father died in 1832, the young man's financial security went too. For a while he turned to school-mastering and clerking, but failed to make a sustainable income. In 1840 he signed up on the whaler, Acushnet, out of New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was just 21. A whaler's life turned out to be both arduous and dangerous, and in 1842, Melville deserted ship. Out of this experience and a wealth of printed sources, Melville crafted his masterpiece.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A masterpiece."  —Guardian

"A great book . . . a deep great artist."  —D.H. Lawrence

"The ultimate fish story."  —Bob Dylan

Library Journal

A wandering narrator in search of adventure finds friendship in the form of a heavily tattooed South Sea chieftain and more than he bargained for as a crewman aboard the whaling ship Pequod. The sinister captain Ahab is tormented by an all-consuming thirst for revenge against the whale that ate his leg. Herman Melville's 1851 great American novel is now a newly translated graphic novel, rendered in stark black and white by illustrator/author Chabouté (Alone). Winnowing Melville's text down to its essential passages, focusing on the trials faced by the crew of the Pequod as they chase the great white whale across the treacherous sea, Chabouté leaves much of the original work intact in the form of captions and spoken dialog. This gives readers a sense of the novel even as some of Melville's diversions and discourses on ocean life and natural history are not included. VERDICT Chabouté's skillful adaptation and exquisite artwork perfectly capture the air of doom and gloom that pervades the tale of these doomed sailors and their monomaniacal captain. For fans of Moby-Dick and newcomers alike.—TB

School Library Journal

With three words, "Call me Ishmael," Melville boldly opens his epic novel in the first person. This suits French graphic novelist Chabouté just fine: his Ishmael becomes both sympathizer and adversary to the obsessed Captain Ahab—his foil as well as his conscience. Second billing goes to tattooed harpoonist Queequeg, who agrees to join Ahab's vengeful quest to kill the white whale, despite knowing the risks to the crew. Chabouté balances their extreme behavior by portraying the day-to-day work of carpenters and blacksmiths aboard the ship Pequod. If he reinvents Ishmael a bit, depicting him as a young man craving adventure rather than as a poor farmer who signs away three years of his life—perhaps to die—to seek his fortune on the high seas, it's only to draw readers in. Each of the graphic novel's 30 chapters begins with its own title page, featuring an apt Melville passage. Only the sea captures Chabouté's imagination more than Moby-Dick itself in its overwhelming vastness and as a metaphor for the great unknown. Black-and-white frames rock and sway like the ocean deep, splashing their inky waves the way water might wet the lens of a camera. It's up close and personal—as Melville intended. VERDICT A beautiful rendition of the classic, available for the first time in English since it was first published in France in 2014. An inspiring addition to graphic novel collections.—Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY

FEB/MAR 06 - AudioFile

William Hootkins, like a skilled conductor, creates a charmed reading that explodes with a symphony of contrasts. Oh, it starts easily enough with a certain playfulness of tone--Ishmael's surprise at Queequeg and the frothy bluster of Captains Peleg and Bildad. But the reader soon plunges into deeper seas. The almost childish voice of Ishmael, as if on a skylark, alternates with the later excitement of the chase. The enthusiastic study of the parts of the whale contrasts with the darker innuendos on God; the colorful excitability of Stubb butts up against the diabolic indifference of Ahab's Fedallah. Over all, the mad ruminations of Ahab himself, initially undervoiced, like a recurrent theme, build to a mounting crescendo. Hootkins, exercising perfect control, orchestrates all these voices into the symphonic whole that is Melville's dark masterpiece. P.E.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award 2006 Audie Award Winner © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine

Product Details

BN ID: 2940170558759
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date: 05/30/2008
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 778,785

Read an Excerpt

Call me Ishmael. This resonant opening of Moby-Dick, the greatest novel in American literature, announces the narrator, Herman Melville, as he with a measure of slyness thought of himself. In the Scriptures Ishmael, a wild man sired by the overwhelming patriarch Abraham, was nevertheless the bastard son of a serving girl Hagar. The author himself was the offspring of two distinguished American families, the Melvilles of Boston and the Gansevoorts of Albany.

Melville's father cast something of a blight on the family escutcheon by his tendency to bankruptcy which passed down to his son. Dollars damn me, the son was to say over and over. When he sat down in the green landscape of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to compose Moby-Dick he was in debt, the father of one son, and another to be born a few days after the publication of the novel in England.

Melville had published five novels previous to Moby-Dick; the first two did well, and then with the capriciousness of the public the subsequent novels failed to please. He was a known literary figure with a fading reputation. How he came upon the courage to undertake the challenging creation of the epical battle between a sea creature, a white whale called Moby Dick, and an old captain from Nantucket by the name of Ahab is one of literature's triumphant mysteries. Add to that, as one reads, that he was only thirty-two years old.

Ten years before, in 1841, he had signed up as a common seaman on the whaling vessel Acushnet bound for the South Seas. Young Ishmael was drawn by the lure of the sea and by the wonder of the whale itself, the Leviathan, the monarch of the deep, "one grand hooded phantom, like asnow hill in the air." Until the discovery of petroleum oil in 1859 and Thomas Edison's invention of the incandescent lamp in 1879, whaling was a major commercial occupation in New England. Fortunes were made, grand houses were built, often with a "widow's walk" on the roof that testified to the great dangers of the enterprise. For the crew, service on a whaler was a drastic life of unremitting labor; foul, crowded quarters; bad food in scanty servings; contractual terms for years at miserable wages; brutalized companions picked up from all the ports of the world; tyrannical captains practicing a "sultanism" which Melville abhorred. A ship afloat is after all a prison. Melville was on three whalers in his four years at sea and from each, as we read in Typee and Omoo, the struggle is to escape, as he did when the boats anchored near exotic islands. He wrote about the misery of the whaling life, but not about whaling itself until he came to Moby-Dick. His imaginary whaler, the Pequod, death bound as it is, would be called, for an ordinary seaman, an agreeable berth. Ahab has no interest left beyond his internal struggle with one whale.

Still, there is whaling, the presumption of it. When a whale is sighted small boats are detached from the main vessel and the men engage in a deadly battle to try to match, with flying harpoons, the whale's immense strength and desperation. If the great thing is captured, the deck of the main ship becomes an abattoir of blood and guts. The thick blubber is to be stripped, the huge head to be drained of its oils for soothing ambergris, for candles; the bones of the carcass make their way into corsets and umbrellas and scrimshaw trinkets. Moby-Dick is a history of cetology, an encylopedic telling of the qualities of the fin-back, the right whale, the hyena whale, the sperm whale, the killer whale, classified by size in mock academic form as folio, octavo, and so on.

Information about a vanished world is one thing, but, above all else, this astonishing book is a human tragedy of almost supernatural suspensiveness, written in a rushing flow of imaginative language, poetical intensity, metaphor and adjective of consuming beauty. It begins on the cobbled streets of New Bedford, where Ishmael is to spend a few days before boarding the Pequod in Nantucket. The opening pages have a boyish charm as he is brought to share a bed with a fellow sailor, the harpooner Queequeg, an outrageously tattoed "primitive" who will be his companion throughout the narrative. Great ships under sail gave the old ports a rich heritage of myth, gossip, exaggeration, and rhetorical flights. Ishmael, on a Sunday, visits a whaleman's chapel to hear the incomparable sermon by Father Mapple on Jonah and the whale, a majestic interlude, one of many in this torrential outburst of fictional genius.

As Ishmael and Queequeg proceed to Nantucket, the shadows of the plot begin to fall upon the pages. The recruits are interviewed by two retired sailors who will struggle to express the complicated nature of Captain Ahab. We learn that he has lost a leg, chewed off by a whale, and thus the fated voyage of the Pequod begins. Ahab has lost his leg to a white whale Moby Dick and is consumed with a passion for retribution. He will hunt the singular whale as a private destiny in the manner of ancient kings in a legendary world. However, Ahab is real and in command. The chief mate, Starbuck, understands the folly of the quest, the danger of it, and, as a thoughtful man longing to return to his wife and children, he will speak again and again the language of reason. "Vengeance on a dumb beast that simply smote thee from the blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous."

The necessity of Starbuck's human distance from the implacable imperative of Ahab's quest illustrates the brilliant formation of this harrowing tale. But it is Ahab's story, his destiny, and, if on the one hand, he is a shabby, sea-worn sailor long mesmerized by mercurial oceans, he too has a wife at home and a child of his old age. We learn, as the story proceeds, that on a time ashore after his terrible wounding, he had fallen and by way of his whalebone leg been unmanned. He has suffered an incapacity not to be peacefully borne by one who in forty years had spent only three on land. Ahab knows the wild unsuitability of his nature, his remove from the common life.

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