Episode #1252

American Icons: Moby-Dick

Originally aired: December 4, 2004

« previous episode | next episode »

Friday, December 30, 2011

Moby-Dick feature card_Big2

In this Peabody Award-winning show, Kurt Andersen sets sail in search of the great white whale.

Herman Melville's white whale survived his battle with Captain Ahab only to surface in the works of contemporary filmmakers, painters, playwrights and musicians. Kurt Andersen explores the influence of this American Icon with the help of Ray Bradbury, Tony Kushner, Laurie Anderson and Frank Stella. Actor Edward Herrmann is our voice of Ishmael and Mark Price narrates David Ives's short play Moby-Dude.

This episode is included in the Studio 360 American Icons #smartbinge podcast playlist at wnyc.org/smartbinge

    Music Playlist
  1. There She Blows
    Artist: P. Sainton
    Album: Sainton: Moby Dick
    Label: Marco Polo/ Naxos
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. One White Whale
    Artist: Laurie Anderson
    Album: Life on a String
    Label: Nonesuch
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. Yamekraw
    Artist: James P. Johnson
  4. Penetration
    Artist: The Ventures
    Album: Ventures Play the Greatest Surfing Hits of All Time
    Label: Varese Fontana
    Purchase: Amazon
  5. Ahab's Introduction
    Artist: P. Sainton
    Album: Sainton: Moby Dick
    Label: Marco Polo/ Naxos
    Purchase: Amazon
  6. Sunday Morning
    Artist: English Symphony Orchestra
    Album: Britten: Four Sea Interludes; Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra
    Label: Nimbus Records
    Purchase: Amazon
  7. When Johnny Comes Marching Home
    Artist: The Old Bethpage Brass Band
    Album: The Civil War - Original Soundtrack Recording (Ken Burns)
    Label: Nonesuch
    Purchase: Amazon
  8. Pieces and Parts
    Artist: Laurie Anderson
    Album: Life on a String
    Label: Nonesuch
    Purchase: Amazon
  9. Songs and Stories from Moby-Dick
    Artist: Laurie Anderson
    Album: Life on a String
    Label: Live performance from KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic"
    Live performance from KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic"
  10. Moby-Dick
    Artist: Led Zeppelin
    Album: Led Zeppelin II
    Label: Atlantic/Wea
    Purchase: Amazon
  11. Search Continues
    Artist: P. Sainton
    Album: Sainton: Moby Dick
    Label: Marco Polo/ Naxos
    Purchase: Amazon
  12. Waiting
    Artist: P. Sainton
    Album: Sainton: Moby Dick
    Label: Marco Polo/ Naxos
    Purchase: Amazon
  13. On The Lookout
    Artist: P. Sainton
    Album: Sainton: Moby Dick
    Label: Marco Polo/ Naxos
    Purchase: Amazon
  14. Moonlight
    Artist: English Symphony Orchestra
    Album: Britten: Four Sea Interludes; Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra
    Label: Nimbus Records
    Purchase: Amazon


Laurie Anderson, Ray Bradbury, Stanley Crouch, Tony Kushner, Elizabeth Schultz and Frank Stella

Produced by:

Julie Burstein, Kerrie Hillman and Leital Molad


Peter Clowney and Edward Lifson


Ave Carrillo and Jonathan Mitchell

Comments [48]


You removed the comparisons to Bush, Bin Laden, terrorism, Napoleon, and Hitler. Why?

Sep. 05 2012 03:09 PM
Danno from Somerville, Ma

I was so excited to find this podcast and tha others love Moby Dick as much as I do. For It is my favorite book. Anyone whom hasnt been to the cover to cover reading (26hrs) should its free at the New Bedford Whaling Musuem every January.

May. 27 2012 04:11 PM
Paul Hodel from New Haven, CT

Wonderful discussion and insights throughout this program. This gives new vibrancy to this eternal story.

Mar. 17 2012 10:57 PM
Peter Stone from NYC

I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Rinde Eckert’s opera/new music theatre piece from about 2000, “And God Created Great Whales,” and which is currently being performed again by him and Nora Cole at The Culture Project.

Feb. 15 2012 12:06 AM
Chris Gable from Grand Forks, ND

Yes, Douglas Walker, you're right. Patrick Stewart did a great turn as Ahab in a production from 1998, for the USA Network. It was a mini-series and I thought it was quite good.

Jan. 17 2012 10:34 PM
Douglas Walker

Another 'Moby'/'Trek' connection: Patrick Stewart of ST:The Next
Generation has done his turn as Ahab; for some cable network made
for home entertainment version, I think? (i've not seen it)

Jan. 08 2012 02:29 PM
Arthur Motta from New Bedford

You can read the book cover-to-cover this weekend with a few hundred Melville fans in New Bedford, where the author shipped out on the whale ship Acushnet in January 1841. Here's what going on...

New Bedford Whaling Museum’s 16th Annual Moby-Dick Marathon Weekend:

Friday, January 6
7:15 p.m.: Public lecture, “Moby-Dick in American Popular Culture,” with Dr. Timothy Marr, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Saturday, January 7
10:00 a.m.: Stump the Scholars quiz program.
11:30 a.m.: Moby-Dick “Extracts,” Melville Society, Bourne Bldg.
12:00 noon: Moby-Dick Marathon begins, Bourne Bldg.
1:30 p.m.: Chapters 7– 9 in the Seamen’s Bethel with tenor Jonathan Boyd.
2:30 p.m.: Marathon continues, Jacobs Family Gallery.
3:00-5:00 p.m.: Chat with a Melville scholar, Wattles Family Gallery.
3:00-5:00 p.m.: “Imaging Moby!” exhibit tour with Dr. Robert Wallace, Northern Kentucky University
7:00 p.m.: Chapter 40, “Midnight, Forecastle” performed by Culture*Park, Cook Theater.
8:00 p.m.: Marathon continues through the night, Jacobs Family Gallery.

Sunday, January 8
1:00 p.m.: Marathon concludes with the Epilogue.

Free Admission
Live-streaming www.whalingmuseum.org
Tweet #MDM16

Jan. 05 2012 04:41 PM

Great program and a great series of topics. Gotta slight quibble with using black ink for the Whale's tail though.

Jan. 05 2012 02:03 PM
Ed from Larchmont

I hadn't read Moby Dick so I read it over last year. Very sound and humorous and healthy reading. At the end I concluded that Melville had found in the whales a means to explore Christian religion in America at the time. The right whales and the other types would be the Protestants, the sperm whales the Catholics (with their emphasis on celibacy).

The most engaging and powerful and lovable character in the story is of course Moby Dick himself, whom we only see at the end. And I would identify 'The White Whale' with the person of the pope himself. Melville even talks about his 'infallible wake', infallibility being an idea that was accepted in the Church but defined in 1870/1 at the First Vatican Council, and is a lovely description of the pope's writings - his wake.

In the 1840s and 1850s there was the first large Catholic immigration into the US, a Protestant population. Melville had spend four years off the coast of Peru and that was where the future Pope Pius IX (pope in 1850 and the one who established the US hierarchy) spent the 1820s/30s as a Vatican ambassador.

Meliville's description of Christianity in America, and primarily an investigation into Catholicism, and a story of the conversion of Ishmael from an enemy to a follower, with the lovely portrayal of Moby Dick, and the whale's society scene mentioned in the program as a fine description of the Church in its many parts, can only be seen, not as a cold and indifferent, but as a warm and appreciative and approving description of Catholicism.

In the prelude the usher would be the pope as he appears to us - an older man, with the flags of the whole world, the grammars of the whole world, polite - but then the whole story is the spiritual description of the pope, the most powerful of people, and his enemies (like the No-nothings of the time).

Jan. 04 2012 08:12 AM
Chris Gable from Grand Forks, ND

I enjoyed the program greatly, but I can't believe you neglected to mention that there is a new opera (much newer than Ms. Anderson's) based on Moby-Dick, by Jake Heggie (music) and Gene Scheer (libretto). It was premiered by the Dallas Opera in 2010 to great acclaim, and next month will be presented by the San Diego Opera. You can listen to snippets of this beautiful and powerful work at each of their websites. Also: http://www.jakeheggie.com/

Jan. 03 2012 10:39 PM
Rob Burbella

I was introduced to Moby Dick via an abridged childrens version. I was 22 and wanted to introduce my 1 year old daughter to American literature. Until then, I had never read the story but this child's book got me interested in the original tale. I would announce the opening phrase "Call me Ishmael..." and my daughter would roll her eyes. She would fall asleep and I would sit there allowing my imagination to carry me onto the deck of the Pequod.

Jan. 03 2012 08:39 PM
Shirley from Rhode Island

Absolutely loved this program!

Jan. 03 2012 08:14 PM

@ Penny, there was a book authored by Robert Wallace about the Moby Dick paintings. Grand Rapids Art Museum showed the work and you may want to google image search the title of each chapter of Moby Dick and Frank Stella; "Frank Stella + the tail"

This was just an excellent, excellent show!

Jan. 03 2012 04:53 PM
Dessa Strecker from Rochester, MN

50+ years ago, Mr. Jack Dredla, my Honors American Lit teacher at Bellevue HS, Bellevue, NE, announced that he would award an "A" for the semester to a student who painted the "White Whale". I took up the challenge, which was, in my opinion a far more attractive option than actually reading the book. I heard, many years later, that the 3 foot square painting had been hung in his living room and was named correspondent in his divorce prodeedings. I have no idea if this is true. Now that I've listened to your program, I am eager to read the book, this time with a better understanding. Thanks for the memories! The "Chieftan" newspaper of early 1962 says in part: "After 37 hours of work by Dessa Strecker, MOBY DICK emerged from a sea of oil. (Paint, that is.) Using a knife to put the oils on a 3'x 2'9" board of Masonite, this junior girl made an original drawing, taking the idea for it from a passage in Herman Melville's MOBY DICK. The painting itself is a moving scene showing a whale bearing down upon a longboat of whalers in a stormy sea. The whale is monstrous - and white - with harpoons in his side, spouting blood...."

Jan. 03 2012 11:19 AM
Tom from Texas

What is the James P. Johnson piece played at the beginning of Stanley Crouch's lecture? Great piece all around.

Jan. 03 2012 09:43 AM
Elissa from Lowell, MA

Wonderful show. Ishmael's thoughts as he observed (in that maelstrom of boats and stricken whales!)the nursing calves and mothers moved me the most.

Jan. 03 2012 09:26 AM
Brian Mann

Great show.

I think it's interesting how artists and writers have used Moby Dick as a sort of marker.

By including it or referencing it in their work, they indicate a kind of ambition, a sort of marker that this piece aims to be something bigger, more ambitious.

A great example is the pilot for "Friday Night Lights," where the coach's daughter is reading Moby Dick and informs her father that the quest for the state championship is like the quest for the white whale.

--Brian Mann, NCPR

Jan. 02 2012 07:47 AM
John Harder

I have read Moby-Dick a number of times, as well as scholarly interpretations of it. The one that stuck in my head the most dealt with the contrast between Ishmael's "open," for lack of a better word, point of view, as opposed to Ahab's. Ahab could only see the White Whale as one thing, evil incarnate (for lack of a better word), whereas Ishmael saw him (or her) as many things. Hence Ishmael's (the narrators)diversionary chapters on cetology. The ultimate example of the correctness of Ishmael's point of view was that he alone survived, and how? by using Queequeg's coffin as a life bouy! One of the great lessons of Moby-Dick,then,is that any one Thing is a fount of meaning, including Life, including the Universe, and to search for One meaning is wrong.

Another more literary interpretation, and a very compelling one, is given by Lawrence Taylor in his book "Melville's Quarrel with God", wherein he suggests that Ahab is a Promethean figure, a Miltonian-Satanic figure, representing the Romantic hero trying to save mankind from the evil of-- Calvinism (Puritanism), no less, as represented by the White Whale.

Both stick. The book was meant, as I said, to be interpreted any way you feel it should be interpreted. And didn't Melville say it was just a fish story? (Or was that Hemingway re "The Old Man and the Sea"; I always forget). Even if he didn't, it could be read at this superficial level as well. Maybe Melville is saying that nothing is superficial.

There is also a new book out on Moby-Dick, which I plan on reading soon: Why Read Moby-Dick.

Jan. 01 2012 10:53 PM

I cannot locate the exmples of Frank Stella's Moby-Dick inspired work. Please direct me to where on the web they are. Thanks

Jan. 01 2012 08:45 PM
klem from quissett harbor ma

listened on earbuds to the rebroadcast of this segment on wcai during post sunset walk to the knob in woods hole this evening - new year's day 2012
very nice to be able to hear melville's words read into my head while i looked at the colored sky across buzzard's bay to see the lights blinking in new bedford
i'll be rereading my newest copy of the book which once belonged to bassist john packer and which i purchased from the sale of his library at the benefit in his remembrance at bovi's in east providence ri several years ago
looking forward to the late night shift at next week's whaling museum moby dick marathon.
ps if you enjoyed the britten, check out gorecki's third if you haven't already heard it
pps nice commentary from the listeners
ppps thanks to all who keep broadcast radio alive

Jan. 01 2012 06:43 PM

I really want to complete reading MOBY DICK. My great grandfather was a whaleman, my mother lived in Capt Pollard's house( of the Wreck of the Essex, and I love poking around the New Bedford and Nantucket Whaling Museums. I never get past Ishmael's sail from the yMainland to the Island. All the editions I have tried reading are riddled with pedantic footnotes "explaining" the allegory. I lose the flow of the narrative as my eyes wander down the page to the foot notes. I would like to find a must old, non illustrated edition of the book; I think, then, I could sit by a fire and "go for it."

Jan. 01 2012 05:39 PM

I recently finished this book in a class titled "Moby-Dick." I was taught by a man who loves and cherishes this book. He has not only read the book more times then can be counted but created a class completely focused of the great hunt of the leviathan. Over the course of five week I was taught to look into the vast Atlantic and find small threads of knowledge along the way. Listening to this program I felt as deeply connected to the book as I did while on the journey of reading it. One aspect of the program I found quite disconcerting however was the portion talking with the author of the screenplay. Though I respect his interpretation of the book I was appalled that he was comfortable with equating himself to Herman Melville. Just because he wrote the script to the movie gives him no right to say he was Melville while writing those 30 pages. Honestly if he though he could remove Fedallah from the plot then in my opinion he is not only not Melville but sorely disrespecting him. Fedallah was a MAJOR metaphor in the book and played a large role in understanding Ahab. Not only did this man take it upon himself to remove a character but he also changed the ending was the most beautifully crafted section and tied so much of the book together. Personally I think the movie is a travesty and should not be considered a part of the continuing of this great novel.

Jan. 01 2012 04:56 PM
Mark Dacey from Wanye NJ

As children attending grammar school, we students were oft encouraged by the sisters to visit the local library to familiarize ourselves with the Dewey Decimal System and the procedure for barrowing books. I always withdrew a picture book about the FBI. My friend always took out a picture book, a children’s edition, of Moby Dick. Not knowing it at the time, only now do I suppose we were both reading about the search for truth in the universe. One about an organization of men dedicated to the enforcement of a code of law headed by one man, the other a story of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Listening to your program on the importance of Melville’s achievement I was again reminded of why great works are in fact great. They are constant formulas for the revolving questions of our daily experience.
Having, as of this date, now officially drawn down our presence in Iraq, I was struck with the memory of having made notes about the war and our involvement there in the margins of that great novel.
The notion that George W somehow had inhabited the character {or lack thereof} of Ahab and was dragging us all down to the bottom of the moral sea occurred too often for me not to begin to think of any character without a current reference. The poor Pequod, our crashing economy and so on.

One would but only read the mere first 6 pages to know this tale is timeless. Speaking of the first breathed headwind on an ocean voyage-“He thinks he breaths it first; but not so. In as much as the same way do the commonality lead their leaders in many things, at the same time that the leaders little suspect it” The Arab spring? or Occupy anywhere?
So, I sipped my coffee at Starbucks {Ironic?} reading on to believe we are all Starbuck caught between the laws of the sea and the strength of one man. Then the quote of Robert Kennedy came to mind. ‘All it takes for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing”
Thank You Ishmael.

Submitted by
Mark Dacey

Jan. 01 2012 04:46 PM
Ellen from Newton, MA

Many years ago, a group of friends and I in our twenties created a Classics book club, and Moby Dick was one of our first picks. I hadn't looked forward to reading it, but it was a marvel and remains one of my favorites to this day. The "host" of each meeting was responsible for presenting the book and leading the discussion. To make this book come alive, this particular host brought in old recordings of sea shanties from the time, a piece of scrimshaw owned by his grandfather, a piece of sting measured out to Moby Dick's length, with a black dot at the point at which his eye would occur (we all went out to the driveway and pulled the string to its full length to marvel at his size) and Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers and Hi C punch. (Yes, silly, but we loved the pun.) Thanks so much for this show today. I loved it and it made me remember this wonderful book club meeting from at least 30 years ago.

Jan. 01 2012 03:34 PM
Mark Whitlock from Malden, Ma

I just caught the last 10 minutes or so of this program, and will listen to the rest shortly. Thank you so much for
this program! I read this a few years ago and look forward to reading it again. It is truly one of the greatest adventure stories of all time.

Jan. 01 2012 03:00 PM
Kay from New York City

For so long as every interpretation of MOBY-DICK focuses on Ahab, all readings of the novel are partial and incomplete, and wrong. The real questor is Ishmael.
While “call me Ishmael” is the first line of the narrative of MOBY-DICK, the first line of Melville’s novel is “ETYMOLOGY (supplied by a Late Consumptive Usher to a Grammar School)”. That consumptive usher is none other than the survivor of Ahab’s disaster, Ishmael, who lived not only to tell the tale, but to struggle to understand and to recreate its meaning. With the word ETYMOLOGY, Melville initiates us to a quest through language and backwards in time to trace the words that have tried to capture the essence of the great mystery of a single living creature, born of sea and land, the whale. If instead of reading MOBY DICK as a story about the mad captain, Ahab, you begin with Ishmael, you will see that MOBY-DICK is about the more impossible quest, the quest of art, the driving force through language, the attempt, over and over and over, to name the ineffability of the real, the living,, the actual thing itself. Once you see the larger quest, Ahab becomes merely a plot device, the seductive lure that compels readers to enter Melville’s own quest and to go on Ishmael’s journey.
Melville’s wound is the wound of reality itself, and he writes this book because he is , trying to say and trying to say and trying to say what can only remain forever elusive.

If you read MOBY DICK this way, then the sinking of the Pequod is not – as Laurie Anderson claims -- the end. Rather it is the beginning. As he emerges from the vortex, Ishmael is thrust into his own quest to tell the tale, to name, to try to capture the whole of experience not only of Ahab’s obsession, but of the stink, grease, blood, labor, suffering, beauty, power, complexity, history of our part in nature. Next to him the ancient mariner pales.
True, if you begin with etymology, you lose the force of drama, but by beginning at Melville’s beginning (instead of our own), we see that Melville insists on the necessity for art it self and for artists such as Frank Stella and Herman Melville or Tony Kushner who are willing to engage long, frustrating journeys to keep alive for the rest of us, in some symbolic form, what it means to be fully alive. MOBY-DICK is a one of those barbaric yawps. WAKE UP! be as chanticleer crowing at dawn! This may be only an American literary urgency but in the 19th century self awareness of a smugly self-created nation , the necessity for art was and remains, central to waking us from the comforting nightmares of prosperity and progress and returning us to the fragile horror of our engagement in the real. .
Next time you talk about MOBY DICK begin at the beginning.

Jan. 01 2012 12:38 PM
Janet Bloom from Cortlandt Manor, NY

A beautiful show! The last segment about diving into the wall of whales and the vision in the center of it is the most beautiful segment that I have ever heard. I encourage you to search out other versions of that vision and present us with them as often as possible ¬ – at least once a month? - so that they may surmount the vision of carnage to which we now give way.

Thank you,

Janet Bloom www.imagegrove.org

Jan. 01 2012 12:09 PM
Clifford Jacobs from East Elmhurst, N.Y.

One of my favorite novels of all time. Recently I visited Melville's grave in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, and I was surprised by the simplicity of his final resting place. Moby Dick was the first book that I downloaded to my Nook. Thanks for the great program on a great American novel.

Jan. 01 2012 11:52 AM
carolita from nyc

We read Moby Dick in high school, where our teacher gave me my first taste of what it meant to do research (inadvertently, albeit). He challenged us to prove that Melville had been influenced by Platonic philosophy. The obvious references to the cave of the shadows was grasped by everyone, but I decided I had to do better than that, and spent days in the library until I came up with and actual reference to Plato in Melville's correspondence to Nathanial Hawthorne. I thought my work was done! My teacher was impressed but made me finish the assignment anyway. ;) But I'll never forget the thrill of finding that reference. Moby Dick feels like a member of my family, ever since, and I read it again and again, whenever I feel it slipping away. You don't have to read every page, you can skip parts, as long as you know you'll be coming back to it. Then it's like moving from room to room in an old familiar house.

Jan. 01 2012 11:30 AM
Marc from Hoboken

How about Mastodon's album Leviathan? The music, lyrics, artwork, etc. It being heavy music and an acquired taste, it's the proverbial masterpiece.

Jan. 01 2012 11:09 AM

There's a true-life, 19th-century corollary not only to the book Moby-Dick, but to Herman Melville:

Charles Melville Scammon, possibly the greatest whaler in U.S. history, and, counterintuitively, the author of a lovingly written and illustrated landmark study on marine mammalogy.

We'll present the comparison of "the two Mr. Melvilles" at 6:00 p.m. January 10, 2012 at the Maritime Museum Library in San Francisco:


Dec. 31 2011 09:53 PM
John Kolb from Bronx, NY

Melville makes an interesting and advanced use of the word “cool”.

In Chapter 27, Knights and Squires, he describes Stubb:
When close to the whale, in the very death-lock of the fight, he handled his unpitying lance coolly and off-handedly,..
Thus we see “cool” as a synonym for “nonchalant”. Furthermore, in
Chapter 61, Stubb Kills a Whale, Stubb urges his harpooneer Tashtego:
Start her Tash, my boy — start her, all; but keep cool — cucumbers is the word — easy — only start her like grim death and grinning devils,...
Here in 1851 we have the expression “cool as a cucumber” referrenced as implying calmness. It is true that “the man cool of spirit” may be found in the Bible book of Proverbs, but note this entirely different and modern usage of “cool” found in the second-to-last paragraph of Chapter 5, entitled: Breakfast:But as for Queequeg — why Queequeg sat there among them — at the head of the table, too, it so chanced; as cool as an icicle. To be sure I cannot say much for his breeding. His greatest admirer could not have cordially justified his bringing his harpoon into breakfast with him, and using it there without ceremony; reaching over the table with it, to the imminent jeopardy to many heads, and grappling the beefsteaks towards him. But that was certainly very coolly done by him, and as every one knows that in most people’s estimation, to do anything coolly is to do it genteelly.
Of course, genteelly means cultured; socially acceptable, which denotes: “very good”; the essence of “cool” in modern usage. I believe this is the first time “cool” was ever used this way in literature.

Melville also records his narrator saying to Queequeg about the crazy Elijah in Chapter 21; Going Aboard:
“He’s cracked Queequeg,” said I...

Taking these two examples and the general observations of Melville’s whaling life; the speech of the sailors was remarkably contemporary to ours.


Dec. 31 2011 08:42 PM
JohnC from Connecticut

Great show. I enjoyed the bit on Star Trek allusions to Moby-Dick, but was a little disappointed that they didn't play the most famous one, from the film "Star Trek 2: the Wrath of Khan." Super-villain Khan, played by Ricardo Montalban, when locked in in his mortal battle with Capt. Kirk, speaks to Kirk the words Ahab shouted to the whale at the end. "To the last, I will grapple with thee... from Hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!"

Dec. 31 2011 06:39 PM
Kevin Howat from Mt. Kisco, NY

Michael Starobin: yes the piece you refer to is one of Benjamin Britten's Four Sea Interludes, extracted from Peter Grimes and set off as a separate orchestral piece. I had to strain myself to make the association, having just listened to Peter Grimes this week, the famous Jon Vickers' performance of the title role. Listen to it, if you haven't heard it before.

Dec. 31 2011 06:17 PM
Kevin Howat from Mt. Kisco, NY

Michael Starobin: yes the piece you refer to is one of Benjamin Britten's Four Sea Interludes, extracted from Peter Grimes and set off as a separate orchestral piece. I had to strain myself to make the association, having just listened to Peter Grimes this week, the famous Jon Vickers' performance of the title role. Listen to it, if you haven't heard it before.

Dec. 31 2011 05:35 PM
Matt from Hartford

I'm a big fan of the book but Melville for all his thoroughness got the classification of the whale wrong when he calls it a "spouting fish" instead of a mammal.

Also the idea that a whale could ram a ship and sink it seems questionable since there is such little historical fact to support it.

Dec. 31 2011 05:20 PM
Don Knies from Rockaway Park Queens

A grand book. I, too, read it first in eleventh grade English and most of it passed over my understanding, except for the colossal irony of the pursuer being destroyed by the pursued...that I loved. Up through Jaws the movie, the theme of the mad captain holds the imagination: leaders bound by a personal mania and literally taking all down with the ship in pursuit of it. How often has that happened in the real world, in history and in politics and in much else. Reading Nathaniel Philbrick's book called In the Heart of the Sea about the real-life sinking of a whaler by a sperm whale in 1821 is a good companion piece to the novel Moby Dick: an event which Melville apparently knew about as a boy.

Dec. 31 2011 05:17 PM
Zak Mettger from Riverside, RI

I first encountered Moby Dick in 10th grade English. As I recall it, Melville was one of only two writers my teacher focused on that year; the other was Edgar Allen Poe. All I remember of Moby Dick, aside from the basic story, is that I often felt stupid while reading it. Maybe I didn't get the symbolism or had trouble following the lengthy (lengthy) sentences or got lost in the details of whale biology, I don't remember.

What I do remember is feeling intimidated & that's been enough to deter me from a second reading. . . . .Until I listened to your marvelous show today, thanks to which I'm gonna give Moby Dick another try.


Dec. 31 2011 03:47 PM
Marilyn Kagan from Providence, RI

Moby, the Obsession
by Marilyn Kagan

Woebegone Ahab ~
Not one spear could capture
Moby-Dick, his whole world -
But who persued whom?

To die with that whale
Was the captain's last rapture,
As the deep waters swirled
Down his ebony tomb.

Dec. 31 2011 03:29 PM

Thank you for encouraging your audience to read this great book...
One pervasive attribute of Melville's prose in Moby-Dick is the wonderful roundness of his chosen words in their sentences. Reading aloud, the mouth appreciates this roundness and rolls it over and over--the very sounds themselves become a whale playing in the deep of voiced syllables! Delight in it!

Dec. 31 2011 03:18 PM

My mash up contribution, Orson Whales:

Dec. 31 2011 03:01 PM
Michael Lapides from New Bedford

Thanks for this program. A great primer to The New Bedford Whaling Museum’s 16th annual Moby-Dick Marathon celebrates the 160th anniversary of Herman Melville’s literary masterpiece with a 25-hour nonstop reading of the book during a weekend of activities and events, January 6 – 8, 2012, including a performance by the critically acclaimed American tenor, Jonathan Boyd. Admission to the marathon is free.

Can't make it, try our live-stream broadcast http://whalingmuseum.org/programs/moby-dick-marathon-2012

Tweet with #MDM16

Dec. 31 2011 02:45 PM

I don't know why the Gregory Peck movie is always maligned. The characterization is exceptional. Peck is over the top crazed and melancholy and the whaling scenes are real. The characters put me on the Pequod and Peck is mesmerizing.

Dec. 31 2011 11:33 AM
Linda Campany from Coumbus, MS

Perhaps the best feature I've ever heard on radio. Thank you!

Dec. 31 2011 07:57 AM
Michael Starobin from NY

Just listened to the repeat of this episode - one of your best.

What is that last piece of background music? I hear some of Britten's "Peter Grimes" earlier in the episode. But I don't think that last piece is that.

thanks -

Dec. 30 2011 11:59 AM
Mary from Lawrence, KS

Your commentary program was nearly as eclectic as the novel itself. Elizabeth Schultz' presence lent much-needed validity, and you were wise to close with her commentary. I'm mid-way through the novel again, and I will read into the night. Thank you for such comfirming programming.

Dec. 29 2011 09:59 PM
Ted from NYC

Hi there, Kurt & Co.
As y'all clearly count yourselves among the Moby Dick addicted, you'd likely get a huge kick out of the following:


Have loved and re-listened to your terrific MD program since its debut. Thanks!

Aug. 05 2011 11:38 PM
Wally from Wildwood

Great program guys. Great program.

Oct. 25 2010 07:03 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.