“Synopsis: Herman Melville's American classic, Moby Dick earns the first space on my Shelfari account. Published in 1851, Moby Dick was not well-received critically, causing Melville to write in a letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne, a neighbor in Western Massachusetts and a close friend, declaring "all my books are botches." Indeed, Melville's aspirations of a successful writing career ended not much later than 1851, once he settled into the financial security of a custom's officer position in New York. Melville's novels slipped into relative obscurity for many decades until his reputation was resuscitated in the 1920's. Moby Dick is the story of Ahab, the one-legged captain of the Pequod, and the white whale that gives the book its name. Together the brutish captain and the fish wreak enough violence on the crew members of the Pequod to send them all to death except for the young narrator Ishmael who floats away from the wreckage atop a coffin. I love this book because I read it in high school at a time when all my peers were rushing to the store to buy Cliff Notes. It opened my eyes to the idea that reading and discussing literature was something I enjoyed and was fairly good at, and that realization is what eventually led to my career as an English teacher. I have never taught Moby Dick, but there's always next year.
Themes/Curriculum Connections: American classics, monomania, 19th c. American literature, transcendentalism, homoerotic fiction.
Age/Grade Recommendations: High school and up