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Surreal painting of Moby Dick's tail

Celebrities Pay Tribute to Moby Dick (And Read It for You)


This project attempts to bring the classic Moby Dick to, many more readers out there.

Melville’s masterpiece Moby Dick is one of the most famous novels in the world; a classic and, as such, also ironically one of the least read. This could be due to its intimidating length and its structure that goes from the scientific essay to the meticulous description, which may rapidly discourage a reader. Actually, innumerable readers who have ventured to begin this giant have deserted halfway through. Its change of rhythm from chapter to chapter works as a filter that leaves many out, but once you succeed in penetrating its lines, Moby Dick proves to be one of the most unforgettable and sublime novels of all time.

Now, an incredible combination of fans that include David Cameron, Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry and Simon Callow are about to change the way this book is read by recording the entire novel: 135 chapters in135 days.

Dreamt by author Philip Hoare and artist Angela Cockayne, the project will be posted online on a daily basis accompanied by a series of images inspired by the book (among others, the work of artist Anish Kapoo). Each upload will be a chapter a day, in the form of 19th century serialized submitions. Swinton will kick it off with the legendary opening “Call me Ishmael” and Fry will continue the narration with the homoerotic episode between Ishmael and Queequeg. “Each chapter will reveal something significant,” states Cameron, who got to read chapter 30, full of coded political messages. “The Whiteness of the Whale,” with its terrifying description of color (“It was the whiteness of the whale that above all things appalled me”), is still the most coveted chapter among fans, and the lucky reader is still unknown.

Impassioned by the novel, Hoare hopes the project will win over many intrigued but intimidated readers, so that they will give Moby Dick a chance.

“Everyone is afraid of a book so long, they’re afraid of its length, they’re afraid of its content. But when you read it you realize that it’s actually incredible,” he argues. He thinks the novel is perfect for the digital age because it is easily divided into tiny fragments and each chapter is self-contained.

Moby Dick reads like a great blog. It’s a meditative state, almost transcendental when you submerge yourself in it. It’s circular, similar to the experience of drugs. It pulls you into a dreamlike world where things are transformed, turned into other things […] It has this messianic message and at the same time a profound message of subversion. It’s incredibly rich. Melville was never edited, which also makes it suitable for the digital age. He would be blogging in this age. And the whale in and of itself is a very powerful symbol for the world that we have almost destroyed. That is what Melville examines: human crimes and misdeeds.

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