So my favorite piece of written anything is Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, or The Whale. I read it every Christmas as a birthday treat to myself. It's a work that demands your full attention for long stretches of time, no slacking off on deck, keep your eyes peeled at the horizon. There's a gold doubloon for you if you spot the beast. Harpoon at the ready.
About a week ago, I went to an impromptu dinner with some of my friends, and I learned just then that one of them, DK, was reading Moby-Dick for his English class. At Berkeley, engineers do have to take some humanities classes, and it always seems like we mope about them rather than enjoy those courses for what they are. To my delight, DK, an EECS through and through, loved reading it. We spent dinnertime talking excitedly about Moby-Dick, from spout to fluke, every symbol and sign and every theory we had, and we got DK's CS project partners, new friends of mine, eager to read this book for the very first time.
A clump of engineers talking about Moby-Dick over burritos and chips - now that's something I live for. I love that book. I love it. It's cliche and it's bombastic and operatic and so heavy-handed, but I love that book.
Anyhow, this post is really just to get me excited for my birthday read. From Pinterest, I culled my favorite pieces of art for or inspired by Herman Melville's leviathan.
12. Japanese cover - unsourced
The only one here where Moby-Dick is not a white whale. A stylistic choice here, and I do like the woodblock-effect. My favorite theme of the work appears here - note the stars in the water. The ocean as the Universe, Moby-Dick himself as the Universe, as God, the Creator, the Destroyer.
11. Moby Dick - Max Bardin
The baleful whale. The only Jaws-styled piece that I'll include here, though you'll see many diving poses in this post. Anyhow, this is very moody and very simple, which is fine by me.
10. Rockwell Kent, one of many
Rockwell Kent has done quite a bunch of Moby-Dick pieces, but I liked this one for the very Art Deco look. It's different. I sort of like it a lot.
9. Moby Dick, Erika Gallagher
Again with the woodblock. This one is more striking and frenetic, which fits the situation. Whatever sort of maritime feelings it stirs in me - and it really does inspire me to quit college and run off to 19th century Cape Cod...sort of - I can't ignore that it looks like Moby-Dick has baleen, and that the boat has a sail.
8. Moby Dick, Rachel Shankman
I like this style. It's modern and I particularly like the colors. Of the pieces shown so far, this has got to be the most oversize whale, but given that we are told that the whale can smite folk with its fluke, that's no issue.
7. Moby Dick, Umberto Scalabrini
This one. Now this one gets it. It's so simple, but it's so effective. It's striking. Look at it. Who is that in the whale's eye? Is it Ahab? Ishmael? Starbuck? Me? Probably me. How are we compared to the whale? To the Universe and God? What does that eye see? Questions. Mysteries upon mysteries.
6. Various, Barry Moser
Again, I love this style. Woodcut/block-like. Also, look at the dude riding the dolphin,
5. Moby Dick, Rachael Wong
Truly this is the white whale. I think the way everything is staged, the wake and the deep, the beast itself, everything looks good. However, I have no idea what that boat is - the harpooners' boat or the Pequod? Really, I'm wondering.
4. The Penguin Classics edition
One of the most common covers you'll see. It's a beauty. It's so clean and simple. It's beautiful.
3. The Folio Society - unsourced
The Devil's in the details. I've mentioned stars in the water, but here, with the stark white of the White Whale, the utter lack of title, we truly have a representation of the Universe on our hands. Vassal fish by the fluke, and a stream of water/bubbles/energy/whatever from the blowhole. There are harpoons on the spine, and all in all, it's a beautiful, beautiful cover.
It's a shame that I can't find who made this - and the other unsourced ones, of course. This one is great. The various characters scattered about Moby-Dick really make it for me. Note the small Queequeg in the corner, floating on his coffin. Retroactive spoiler alert.
1. Both unsourced - of course
Just look at these ones. By now, you'll know I love the Moby-Dick is the Universe/God/everythingandnothing but the first one really hammers it home. The White Whale takes up the sky, the entire space. There is nothing but whale. The bottom cover is one that I see quite a lot in stores, and it pretty accurately/comically portrays the last standoff between Moby-Dick and the men of the Pequod. It's a wonder. They're both wonders.