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review 2022-01-21 05:34
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Moby Dick - Herman Melville, Charles Child Walcutt (Editor)

Captain Ahab seeks revenge on Moby-Dick who bit off his one leg


This was not as bad as I expected it to be. I liked parts of it. I was bored with other parts. I also read the commentary that was included after the story was over. My edition is 670 pages.


Moby-Dick is three books in one. The first book is the story of the Pequod, its crew, Captain Ahab, and the search for the Whale. I liked this part the best. I liked Ismael and Queequeg are quite a pair.  Most of the humor come through them.


The second book is the information on whaling. That was mostly interesting.


The last part is the philosophy that Melville put in the book. Some of it was interesting (chapter 42--The Whiteness of the Whale) but most of it went over my head so was boring.


The commentary at the back of the book was mostly boring. I did like modern day criticism of D. H. Lawrence (from 1964). It goes with chapter 42 and is extremely timely for now.

I was glad I read it, but I doubt I will reread it.

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review 2016-05-20 08:00
A Killer Ship...
The North Water: A Novel - Ian McGuire

This was the most disturbing book I've read in a long time. After I read the first chapter I wasn't even sure I wanted to read anymore. It literally made me sick to my stomach. I figured though, if the author can provoke that much emotion from me in just a few pages, I better stick around to see what else he can do. Well if his goal was to paint a very realistic portrait of what some of humanities worst will resort to, I think he definitely succeeded. He has a way with words and development of dark characters that will make you glad that you never have to actually come across these people in real life. The story is not for the faint at heart. It's disturbing, it's vile, it's sick, it's gruesome and it will make you wonder what the hell the world has come to but all of those things are what make the story special and the author an exceptional writer. It's as real as you can get and it's not only hard to swallow but it will stick with you long after you finish that last page- just like a shot of 100 proof. If you think you can stomach that, I say drink up! 




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review 2016-05-02 04:47
Sinking of the Whaleship Essex...
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex - Nathaniel Philbrick

In the Heart of the Sea is a true story about the Essex, a Nantucket whaling ship and its tragic encounter with an angry, revenge-seeking sperm whale. Since the movie was recently being released, my friend Eva and I decided to do a buddy read together. I'll admit I was impressed with the amount of research, details and extraneous information the author included about whaling, Quakers, Nantucket, shipwrecks, you name it. However the first quarter of the story was bogged down with so many facts and recitations that the story itself floundered and it became a little dull and boring. After the actual sinking of the ship though, the story did a complete turn around and I was engrossed until the end. I think because the author focused more on regaling us with the story of the ship and the crew and their dreadful time surviving at sea instead of inundating us with historical facts. If you have an interest in whaling or the Essex whaleship, I would recommend reading this book. There is just a ton of fascinating information. You'll be surprised at not only how long and how far the crew had to travel in an open whaleboat but what they had to do survive while they were lost at sea. It's a pretty horrific story. It will definitely make you think twice about going on your next cruise or fishing expedition. I personally will be land bound for a while, if not forever.

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review 2013-03-15 02:25
Review | Jamrach's Menagerie, Carol Birch | 4 Stars
Jamrach's Menagerie: A Novel (Vintage) - Carol Birch

Warning: Minor spoilers ahead. Nothing major, but if you like to read a novel with ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what comes next… well, you’ve been warned. 


This is an unusually high rating for me to give out (if it sometimes seems like all my ratings are three or above, it’s generally because I [a] don’t bother finishing books I don’t like and [b] know myself pretty well and tend to be a good picker of books), so let me begin by saying that this book actually affected me. I don’t think I’m a callous person, but I generally read a book, enjoy the story, delight in the language, take sides with the characters I like, and then put it down when I’m done and move on to the next one. I finished Jamrach’s Menagerie several days ago (and I’ve read two other books in the meantime), but I’m still thinking about it.


That’s power right there.


I mentioned in my last review that Casino Royale had one of the most peculiar narrative arcs I’d ever seen. Ian Fleming just lost that title to Carol Birch. Jamrach’s Menagerie is in possession of a narrative arc so utterly bizarre that at first I had no idea what to make of it – but now I’m starting to see that the strangeness of the storyline contributed more than I originally realized to the freight train impact of the plot.


Jamrach’s Menagerie (based in part on the true story of the whaleship Essex) tells most of the life story of Jaffy Brown, a poor boy living in the Victorian hell-hole of Bermondsey until he inexplicably finds himself trapped in the mouth of an escaped tiger, belonging to one Mr. Charles Jamrach (who was a real person, and did once rescue a small boy from a tiger), the keeper of an exotic animal emporium on the colorful Ratcliffe Highway. Jamrach’s titular menagerie (though it has surprisingly little to do with the real meat of the story) takes the tale from the drab shite-brown backdrop of Bermondsey and thrusts its into a technicolor world of tropical birds, gators, wildcats and Tasmanian devils. There’s certainly an element of the fantastic present, though it’s never overtly discussed. A giraffe, in the eyes of a young boy from the mud beneath the London docks, is more than exotic enough to feel like magic.


This taste of the ‘stuff of legends’ grows a little sharper when Jaff and his new friend Tim Linver (another boy in Jamrach’s employment) are swept out to sea on the Lysander in search of a ‘dragon’ – which, if they can catch it, will be by far the most ambitious addition to Jamrach’s emporium. As they hop from one tropical island to the next the boys learn how to be sailors – and whalers – and hatch a plan to catch the ‘dragon’ once they reach the Azores.


I won’t ruin the story for you, but Tim, Jaff, and Dan (a surrogate father to both of them aboard the Lysander) do eventually encounter and catch a dragon. It’s thrillingly exciting, but never quite clear whether the dragon is meant to a truly fantastical creature, or simply a Komodo dragon or some other large lizard fancifully misinterpreted by the minds of the nineteenth century. Either way, with the monster aboard, life on the Lysander takes a turn for the worst, and eventually, disaster strikes.

I won’t give too much away. But here is where the meat of the story lies. And this is what I mean about a peculiar narrative arc – up until this point in the novel (just a little over halfway), the capture of the dragon has been the main focus of the story, gilded with fanciful, whimsical accounts of the islands and life at sea. At the start of Chapter 10, the remaining crew is adrift, dragonless, and facing the all too real prospect of being indefinitely stranded on the open ocean.


The following hundred pages are slowly, quietly devastating.


The peculiar stillness of the open ocean is a harsh contrast to the previous pages’ bright, colorful sense of adventure, and that stark, sudden contrast is in part what makes what happens out in the whaleboats so unsettling. After the swashbuckling fantasy of the first 170 pages, the misery of the last 120 is crushingly real. And here is where Carol Birch truly excels – in chronicling the slowly increasing desperation of twelve men lost at sea, succumbing one by one to hunger, thirst, disease and madness, and forced to do unspeakable things in order to survive. Birch somehow manages, in the simple delivery of details – sometimes gross, but never gratuitous – to help the reader understand how Jaff and Tim and Dan all arrive at the climax of the story, which is bound to leave both the characters and reader heartbroken and permanently scarred.


The falling action is quiet and detached, and makes a cautious foray back into Jamrach’s colorful domain, but with a new-found sense of respect for the natural world.

This is the kind of book that leaves you feeling traumatized. It’s a brutal story gently written – which makes it ten times more tragic than it would have been had Birch been foolish enough to sensationalize it.


It’s not perfect, of course, but the catalog of flaws is short. Sometimes the story drags a little bit, generally when the Lysander is moving from one island to the next. A few incidents early in the story (Jaff’s being trapped in Jamrach’s shop for the night, for example) seem very important but are never addressed again. Despite being called ‘Jamrach’s Menagerie,’ Jamrach isn’t actually present for 90% of the book.

These are all minor complaints in the greater scheme of things. I can’t remember finishing a book and wanting to hug it so tightly in a long time. Jamrach’s Menagerie deserves to be read, but not by the faint of heart. I’ve said about all I should say, so I’ll just leave you with the following taste:


“It was then I truly realised the whale is no more a fish than I am. So much blood. This was not like the fish on the quay, fresh caught, lying flipping and flopping, death on a simmer. This was a fierce, boiling death. She died thrashing blindly in a slick of gore, full of pain and fury, gnashing her jaws, beating her tail, spewing lumps of slime and half-digested fish that fell stinking about us. It was vile. So much strength dies slowly.”

–Carol Birch, Jamrach’s Menagerie


To buy Jamrach’s Menagerie on Amazon click here.


To find it on Goodreads, click here.

Source: inkedoutloud.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/review-jamrachs-menagerie-4-5-stars
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review 2012-01-03 00:00
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Whalin... The Pirates! In an Adventure with Whaling - Gideon Defoe dedication: To Sophie, who still has a quarter of a million pounds of which I have not seen a penny, even though this is the second entire book that I have dedicated to herOpening: 'That one looks almost exactly like a whale!'Again - lovely-jubbly maps and interesting factual footnotes such as #7 - The cement exuded by barnacles is an extremely tough protein polymer. It is twice as strong as the epoxy glue used on the space shuttle. Also, the barnacle penis is ten times as long as the rest of its body.On page six the cap'n is making a list of when it is acceptable for a pirate to cry:1 - when holding a seagull covered in oil2 - when singing a shanty that reminds him of orphans3 - when confronted by the unremitting loneliness of the human condition4 - chopsIf you like Pterry-like humour, and like the idea of a send-up of ol' Ahab this will suit you just fine. The lads here are arguing over who will read this next.4* - The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (2004)4* - Pirates! In an Adventure with Whaling (2005)
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