Moby-Dick in Pictures

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Moby-Dick in Pictures
600 pages; Tin House Books
Don't mistake this gorgeous and wholly original book for a blow-by-blow comic-book-style retelling of Moby-Dick. What artist Matt Kish has done is create one drawing for and inspired by each page of Melville's 552-page masterpiece (for the record, the Signet Classics version). The result is less a story and more a cabinet of visual and literary curiosities. Each image—rendered in ink, colored pencil or paint—is accompanied by a single exquisite line from the novel, such as "But high above the flying scud and dark-rolling clouds, there floated a little isle of sunlight from which beamed forth an angel's face" or "Thus, while in life the great whale's body may have been a real terror to his foes, in death his ghost becomes a powerless panic to a world."

Only the most devoted Moby-Dick fans will need to read the whole creation sequentially. The rest of us will dip in and out, enjoying the interplay of the insanely beautiful words and images (my favorite, on page 346, is an anatomical drawing of a whale in vivid reds, blues and black) and examining the connection between the two. The most solid and compelling narrative may actually be in the introduction, in which Kish describes not only his lifelong love for the original novel but also his lack of formal artistic education and the only place he had to work, "a closet that measures about three feet wide by six deep" inside of which he made 500 drawings. Even if you don't enjoy the book, let it sit on your coffee table as testament to what all of us human beings can do if we stick with it—and believe in the great white whale of what we are doing.

— Leigh Newman