The Moby Dick Big Read: Tilda Swinton & Others Read a Chapter a Day from the Great American Novel

“Moby-Dick is the great Amer­i­can nov­el. But it is also the great unread Amer­i­can nov­el. Sprawl­ing, mag­nif­i­cent, deliri­ous­ly digres­sive, it stands over and above all oth­er works of fic­tion, since it is bare­ly a work of fic­tion itself. Rather, it is an explo­sive expo­si­tion of one man’s inves­ti­ga­tion into the world of the whale, and the way humans have relat­ed to it. Yet it is so much more than that.”

That’s how Ply­mouth Uni­ver­si­ty intro­duces Her­man Melville’s clas­sic tale from 1851. And it’s what sets the stage for their web project launched ear­li­er this week. It’s called The Moby Dick Big Read, and it fea­tures celebri­ties and less­er known fig­ures read­ing all 135 chap­ters from Moby Dick — chap­ters that you can start down­load­ing (as free audio files) on a rolling, dai­ly basis. Find them on iTunesSound­cloud, RSS Feed, or the Big Read web site itself.

The project start­ed with the first chap­ters being read by Til­da Swin­ton (Chap­ter 1), Cap­tain R.N. Hone (Chap­ter 2), Nigel Williams (Chap­ter 3), Caleb Crain (Chap­ter 4), Musa Okwon­ga (Chap­ter 5), and Mary Nor­ris (Chap­ter 6). John Waters, Stephen Fry, Simon Cal­low and even Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron will read future chap­ters, which often find them­selves accom­pa­nied by con­tem­po­rary art­work inspired by the nov­el.

If you want to read the nov­el as you go along, find the text in our col­lec­tion of Free eBooks. We also have ver­sions read by one nar­ra­tor in our Free Audio Books col­lec­tion. Til­da Swin­ton’s nar­ra­tion of Chap­ter 1 appears right below:

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Comments (4)
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  • RWordplay says:

    What an inspired choice to have Til­da Swin­ton open the book.

    A won­der­ful project.

  • Patricia Wiltshire says:

    I have lis­tened to two chap­ters so far and I can’t imag­ine a bet­ter read­er than Til­da Swin­ton for this open­ing chap­ter. Her voice had just the right qual­i­ty to intro­duce us to Ish­mael when he is about to set out to sea and remote places as a ‘sim­ple sailor’ on that ‘ungras­pable phan­tom of life’ — the sea! I would like to know more about all the read­ers beyond just their names. The sec­ond chap­ter con­tin­ues to be read by a quite dif­fer­ent voice that nev­er­the­less con­tin­ues the sto­ry seam­less­ly and seems entire­ly suit­able to express the search for ‘cheap lodg­ings’ and such expres­sions as ‘the tepid tears of orphans’. For­get TV. I can’t wait for the next chap­ters.

  • John Ranta says:

    Maybe I should give Moby Dick anoth­er go. When I read it in high school, I found it not so much mag­nif­i­cent as painful, drea­ry and bloat­ed. I read vora­cious­ly, but could not devel­op a taste for Melville’s con­vo­lut­ed prose and tor­tured pro­tag­o­nist. Give me Hem­ing­way, Stein­beck or Kesey, for great Amer­i­can nov­el­ists,

  • Lillian says:

    I am on chap­ter 43. Obsessed. My favorite read so far is chap­ter 37 read by Jon Cleave. Ahab’s solil­o­quy is pow­er­ful­ly ren­dered. Amaz­ing. Thanks

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