More capacious than ponderous, the most recent incarnation in a line of Melville biographies, Philbrick's "Moby Dick" (a barefaced titular homage to Melville's iconic novel on a white whale) has the wild and unpredictable energy of the great white whale itself, more than enough to heave its significance out of what Melville called "the universal cannibalism of the sea" and into the light. According to Philbrick, Melville, in his rightly lionized novel, "Moby Dick", challenged the form of the novel decades before James Joyce, and a century before Thomas Pynchon or David Foster Wallace. Calling for tools befitting the ambition of his task – "Give me a condor's quill! Give me Vesuvius's crater for an ink stand!" – Melville substituted dialogue and stage direction for a chapter's worth of prose. He halted the action to include a parody of the scientific classification of whales, a treatise on the whale as represented in art, a meditation on the complexity of rope, whatever snagged his attention. Reporting the exact day and time of his writing in a parenthetical aside, he "pulled back the fictive curtain and inserted a seemingly irrelevant glimpse of himself in the act of composition," the moment Philbrick identifies as his favorite in the novel. Melville may not have called this playfulness metafiction, but he defied strictures that shaped the work of his contemporaries.