So, you’re reading Moby-Dick for the first time but are intimidated because it’s a stodgy old tome with archaisms or simply because it’s fairly long and there are only so many hours in the day. I’m here to help. Actually, others are here to help; I’m here to point in their direction.
First up, I recommend doing a skim of the annotations at powermobydick.com with each chunk of reading. This is particularly useful if you’re not the type to flip back to what are often asinine end notes in various print editions of the text. Do your day’s reading, make a quick note of the chapter name or number that you found yourself missing a reference or some vocabulary for, and then glance quickly at this site. A quick skim down the page will let you see and read in depth any annotations you’re interested in (often with links out to more information) and skip effortlessly over anything you already knew. Don’t know what a monkey jacket is in chapter 3? Boom. Quick glance down the annotations column of the text at powermobydick.com and you’ve got your answer. It really is a near-frictionless way to get at some of the information you’re — honestly — probably just sort of glossing over as you read. The powermobydick twitter feed also has lots of fun nuggets.
Second up, how about a free audio version of the book? Librivox hosts what I can only assume must be hundreds or thousands of audio versions of texts in the public domain, read by volunteer readers. I’ve jogged to Thoreau, done crunches to Whitman, and may just supplement my actual reading of Moby-Dick with a hearing of it as well (will it be my efforts on the elliptical machine or the blood-thumping chase of a ferocious whale quickening my pulse?)
Next, maybe your purse is $1250 heavier than you really want it to be, and you want, by the way, to eat in real Melvillean style. The Moby-Dick dishware set may be just what you need.
Or maybe you’re not so enthralled by the book that you feel compelled to introduce it to your dinner table, but you are something of a completist and want to read some of the material on which Melville based the taxonomic parts of his book. Be sure to check out the Beale and Scoresby texts.
Want to get your bearings aboard the whaling ship (once we finally set foot on one in earnest, which may not happen until week two)? Try this diagram.
These and a few other things appear in the sidebar (or will for the duration of this group read) and can be found in (probable) perpetuity, with occasional additions, here.