It’s been said that the definition of a literary classic is a book that everybody wants to have read, but nobody wants to read. By that metric (and most others), Moby-Dick certainly qualifies as a classic; its 800 pages of dense prose and whaling minutia have proven too daunting for generations of less ambitious readers. Artist Angela Cockayne and writer Philip Hoare are out to change that, however.
In the spring of 2011, the pair held a symposium on Moby-Dick and on whales themselves, entitled Dominion (Hoare having earned his whale cred by publishing the book, Leviathan, or The Whale). A group of artists, writers, musicians, and academics with whom the novel resonated joined in. Now, a year and a half later, Cockayne, Hoare, and a teeming mass of supporters have launched “The Moby Dick Big Read,” an audio-visual odyssey into the novel.
Starting with actress Tilda Swinton’s reading on Friday, September 14th, each day another chapter will be posted online, free to the public, accompanied by original contemporary artwork inspired by the story. Other famous readers include Stephen Fry, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Waters, and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, while the art is supplied by the likes of Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley. Of course, this being a project of the people, teachers, schoolchildren, and other assorted layman will read chapters as well.
Although “The Moby Dick Big Read” is free, the organizers have suggested donations to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.