Strong opinions, weakly held

The great American novel

Tyler Cowen argues that Moby Dick is the great American novel. I confess that I have never read it, although I did write a research paper on it when I was a junior in high school. The general argument against Moby Dick is that it’s tedious and difficult, and that’s what has always deterred me from reading it. Should I reconsider?


  1. I enjoy it. I first read it in college, and thought it was very lively and quite funny. I reread it every couple of years or so, and I’ve come to love it.

    I think you should reconsider. A chapter a day sounds like a good plan, to start.

  2. If you like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars, you’ll like Moby Dick.

  3. I read Moby Dick and I found it to be long and tedious. I am not a big fan of the book at all. I felt like it wasn’t really worth the effort.

    I’m currently reading East of Eden, which I like a lot more than I thought I would.

  4. I loved East of Eden. Great book.

  5. Prompted by a novel I can no longer recall I read my infant daughters a chapter of “Moby Dick” every night until they were old enough to say, “No ‘Moby Dick'”. The idea was that they would absorb a love for the language, and maybe it worked.

    In any event, although there are long stretches of tedium, you can breeze through that stuff. I would say that there are two candidates for The Greatest American Novel: Huck Finn, or the Whale. Both are so good that re-reading them is almost better, so read “Moby Dick” if only because you’ll want to be able to come back to it some day.

  6. I as an English major. I adore the classics, especially Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. It took me three tries to get through Moby Dick. I always got stuck at the long sexual metaphor/description of cleaning out the whale’s spout.

    Eventually I forced myself to finish. I found it to be long, tedious, and not worth the effort. I would say, start and if you get bored, stop. It seems, from the comments here, to be a book you love or hate.

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