Having a whale of a time
THE opening weekend of the Plymouth International Book Festival will see the launch of one of the most ambitious literary projects in recent years.
The Moby-Dick Big Read has been two years in the making and is designed to bring the literary classic to the attention of a new generation of fans.
It will be launched with a public event in Plymouth University's Graduation Marquee on Sunday, September 16, featuring an exclusive reading by the guest of honour, actor Simon Callow.
He is just one of a host of national and international celebrities to have contributed a reading, with others including Sir David Attenborough, Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry and Benedict Cumberbatch.
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Alongside work from some of the biggest names in the contemporary art world – including Anish Kapoor, Susan Hiller and Gavin Turk – one chapter from the book will be released daily on a dedicated website.
But as well as the celebrity endorsement, the cast of 270 people also includes community leaders and young people, and between them they have created an incredible digital version of Herman Melville's prophetic masterpiece, which was first published in 1851.
The project is being co-curated by Dr Philip Hoare, artist in residence at Plymouth University's Marine Institute, and Angela Cockayne, from Bath Spa University. It is hosted by Peninsula Arts at Plymouth University.
Dr Hoare said: "Moby-Dick is a novel that everyone has heard of but, I would suggest, very few people have read.
"This is a way of introducing it to a new audience and is something people can pick up as and when they choose – it is completely suited to the digital age.
"The book may have been written more than 150 years ago, but there has never been a better book written about whales, and some sections perfectly reflect the mammals' plight today.
"This project is a celebration of the whale's survival, as well as being a comment on our own fragile world and the threats we all face."
After its launch within the Festival, a recording of chapter one – Loomings, read by actress Tilda Swinton – will appear online the following day. It will be the first of 135 chapters released online.
Other highlights include Sir David Attenborough's poignant recording of "Does the Whale's Magnitude Diminish? – Will He Perish?", Stephen Fry in bed with the tattooed Queequeg, Benedict Cumberbatch musing on krill, Simon Callow's sermon and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Rick Stein on how to eat a whale.
â Tickets £6 with concessions: www.plymouthinternationalbookfestival.com