CR Episode 175: Moby Dick, Part I

Herman Melville, by Joseph Oriel Eaton
Herman Melville, by Joseph Oriel Eaton

Download Link: Released on 15 May 2023

The panel reads the prologues and first four chapters of Moby Dick, provides an overview of the publication history of the text, and discusses the character and reliability of the jocular, circuitous narrator, who commands the reader to ‘Call me Ishmael.’


  1. He’s working on himself 😂

    Absolutely delightful and brilliant episode! Thank you for opening up these first chapters even more.

    I adored these first few chapters. I was struck by a sentence early on: «whenever there is a damp, drizzly November in my soul». Up to now I think only Emily Dickinson has hit me quite like this, in such a way where I instantly feel at home in the description. I might not be needing a strong moral principle to keep me from stepping deliberately into the street, but I think we all go through phases of our own damp, drizzly Novembers. And it hit me how when I need to go «to the sea», I will likely then return to Moby Dick for companionship.

    Can’t thank you enough really for doing this exact novel that would otherwise stay on my shelf probably for years. I’m very excited to read on.

  2. Call me LemmingStu.

    …or Martin if you prefer. But LemmingStu is marginally more ambiguous and interesting, albeit much less biblical.

    Anyway, this was great. I really enjoyed this episode. Thank you for doing it.

    I have, for a number of years, been dimly aware that we have had a copy of ‘Moby Dick’ lurking in the house, secreted on one of my late father’s bookshelves. He read widely in his lifetime, and this was definitely one of his ‘not-quite-a-favourite-but-I-can-still-absolutely-appreciate-the-literary-worth-of’ books. I had on several occasions fought the urge to follow him on this literary excursion, and finally, having heard your most recent podcast, the time seemed right to read the book in its entirety.

    Having now reached the book club milestone of chapter four, I wish I had anything profound or insightful to add, but, disappointingly, I do not. Well, perhaps other than that, although the podcast hosts highlighted Melville’s delightfully unsubtle foreshadowing in chapter 3, as provided by Peter Coffin and his Spouter Inn, they omitted to mention that residents are required to literally pass through the jaws of death in order to reach the bar. An actual whale’s jaw. I guess we’ve all got one lying about. I suppose it could’ve been some kind of prescient commentary on prohibition.

    Also, for me, the most disappointing takeaway from the podcast was that I’d always assumed that the novel ‘Moby Dick’ must surely have received glowing critical response, and I was saddened to hear that Melville did not get to experience this in his own lifetime. There’s always something bittersweet about an author receiving acceptance and appreciation posthumously, however much they then go on to a degree of literary immortality.

    Looking forward to the next podcast.

    LemmingStu (martin)

  3. Delightful readings and talk, thank you! I’m just catching up now after starting with #5. LemmingStu I think will be glad to know that Moby-Dick got lots of positive reviews in 1851-2, even here in the U. S. A. One of my favorites, from the Syracuse, NY Daily Standard of November 24, 1851:

    “Melville is a true genius, and impresses himself upon all that he writes. We do not know that he indulges himself in verse, but he is a poet and a dramatist, as well as a novelist and historiographer; and somehow in everything that he gives to the public, he illustrates his wonderful versatility,– so that the reader hardly knows whether to admire him most as poet, dramatist, novelist or philosopher. This is the state of dubiousness with which we rise from the perusal of “Moby Dick.” But it is a dubiousness that consists with keen delight, for seldom have we read a more fascinating book, or one that exhibits a wider scope of power, ranging from the most abstruse speculations of the philosopher, to the wildest imaginations of the poet. The story is one of intense interest, but we hardly know whether to regard Captain Ahab, or that great Sea-Satan, Moby Dick, the hero; and it matters little which, for power and daring and unconquerable energy are alike illustrated in both–the King of Leviathans hunted in his olden seas, and the hardy whaleman urged on to the chase by a monomania that makes himself at once terrible and sublime.”

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