Off the Shelf: Moby Dick births more whale tales

It may be more than 150 years old, but Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick continues to fascinate.

The Whaleship Essex by Jill Fine tells the true story of Moby Dick, as part of the Survivor series.

It may be more than 150 years old, but Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick continues to fascinate.

The story of Captain Ahab, so crazed by his desire to find and destroy the great white whale Moby Dick that he is prepared to sacrifice everything, including his life, the lives of his crew members, and even his ship, has been the basis of many books and even an opera.

Who can forget Gregory Peck facing down his nemesis in the 1956 movie adaptation?

In honour of this great tale, and its opera debut in Canada (by the Calgary Opera), I have rounded up a selection of Moby Dick-related titles in the Okanagan Regional Library for both adults and children. The original novel itself is available through the ORL in both print and CD formats (unabridged on 18 discs!)

–– In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick (910.9164).  In this National Book Award-winning title, the author examines the 19th-century Pacific whaling industry through the arc of the sinking of the whaleship Essex by a boisterous sperm whale, an incident that inspired Melville’s classic Moby Dick.

–– Why Read Moby Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick (813.3). After examining the background history to the writing of Moby Dick, Philbrick now sets his sights on the novel itself. He skillfully navigates Melville’s world and illuminates the humour and unforgettable characters in his masterpiece, finding the thread that binds the narrator Ishmael and Captain Ahab to our own time and, indeed, to all times.

––  In Search of Moby Dick: Quest for the White Whale by Tim Severin (910.9164). Severin has specialized in retracing famous historical or fictional voyages and journeys (Tracking Marco Polo, In Search of Genghis Khan, and the Ulysses Voyage), and in this book, he travels to the South Pacific in search of the great white sperm whale immortalized in Melville’s Moby Dick.

In the Philippines, Severin accompanies hunters who jump on the backs of manta rays and whale sharks to set the hook, and in Indonesia, he follows the hunt for the sperm whale, using a hand-thrown harpoon. References to Melville and his book are made throughout this well-written and interesting travel adventure.

–– The Whaleship Essexthe True Story of Moby Dick by Jil Fine. This title is part of the Survivor series for children, featuring high interest stories written with easy-to-read vocabulary.  A variety of graphics, photos, and maps help bring the story of the Essex to life for younger readers.

–– Whales of Atlantis:  In Search of Moby Dick (DVD Junior). Part of the Jules Verne Adventures series for children, this 53-minute DVD follows a five-month expedition aboard the French tall ship Belem. Explorer-filmmaker Jean-Christophe Jeauffre and his crew retrace expeditions in search of the sperm whale, ultimately photographing some in a remarkable undersea encounter.

–– Maureen Curry is the chief librarian at the Vernon branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.

Vernon Morning Star

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