Well, it's taken me some considerable time, but I've finally finished Moby Dick. Remarkable. I understand it wasn't greatly received on its publication and I can see why: in some ways it must be considered a complete mess, and the sheer experimentalism (is that a word?) and inventiveness of it must have been perplexing. The style shifts and changes throughout, as does its focus. Initally, it seems to be the (astoundingly homoerotic) story of Ishmael and Queequeg, but they fall out of the story almost completely (itself an interesting stylistic point, given that Ishmael is the narrator...)
As the story progresses, and especially as we approach the moment of destiny with the whale, the style becomes astonishing. At times it doesn't read as a novel at all, but rather a stage play, with stage directions and long soliloquys. Melville dispenses with narrative and description almost entirely, and the result is an intense focus on Ahab and his quest. It is powerful stuff.
It would never get published today, of course. That's quite a sobering thought, isn't it?