Moby-Dick is one of the most spoiler-proof books I’ve ever read. Maybe more spoiler-proof than Treasure Island. Thanks to cultural osmosis I already knew Ahab’s fate, and yet as I was finally, actually reading Moby-Dick, the whole time I was still whirring, waiting to see what would happen to that crazy dude.
I’d get so buzzed reading the book, I never minded all the Whaling Encyclopedia chapters. For one thing, they put me right on the Pequod. I got the sense of time stretching out, with nothing of consequence happening for days on end, which heightened my anticipation of the hunt. Meanwhile I never felt like my time was being wasted because I was learning a ton about mid-19th Century whaling. (An obsolete practice, yes, but one blubbery with timeless metaphor!) And even when I did get a bit bored by all the pitchpoling talk, ultimately I was just grateful to always be one sentence closer to the Main Event.
By the time I got to “The Symphony” (Chapter 132), I may have been trembling. I knew the whale’s arrival couldn’t be any more imminent, and the words all shimmered like God’s sacred promises, as read by Orson Welles.
And when the chase was over I felt destroyed, and I was humble for it.