One-Minute Book Reviews

May 18, 2007

Did Herman Melville Get ‘Poetry From Blubber’ in ‘Moby-Dick’?: Quote of the Day #26

“Early in the composition of Moby-Dick Melville wrote to a friend that it was hard to get poetry from blubber.”

From The Reader’s Companion to World Literature: Second Edition (New American Library, 1973), revised and updated by Lillian Herlands Hornstein, editor, and Leon Edel and Horst Frenz. An expanded second edition was published by Signet in 2002.

Comment by Janice Harayda:

This is my favorite quote about Moby-Dick. Who knew that Melville had a sense of humor? The Reader’s Companion to Literature is an excellent guide that has hundreds of A-to-Z listings on books, authors, and literary terms and movements. Its brief, well-written entries offer much livelier writing and sharper commentary than you find in most literary encyclopedias or dictionaries.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. Thanks for the tip to The Reader’s Companion to Literature. I had not heard of it. I think I want to add it to my books on writing. Yes, who knew Melville could make me chuckle. 8)

    Comment by QuoinMonkey — May 20, 2007 @ 12:28 am | Reply

  2. And thank you for the comment. “The Reader’s Companion to Literature” has been around for long enough that I often see the early editions going for about 50 cents at used book sales.
    I think it stays in print partly because so many newer literary encyclopedias focus on such things as an author’s politics or lifestyle. The editors of this one have the intellectual self-confidence to engage in spirited grappling with the texts themselves (and, in the case of Leon Edel, one of the editors of my edition, that confidence is well-founded). So this a good book for fans the old “close reading” school of criticism … I’m hoping to put up some of the editors’ comments about Jane Austen soon.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — May 20, 2007 @ 12:11 pm | Reply

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