Of course, you are absolutely right. You just don't do this kind of thing. But Melville does. And that is exactly why I like it! I do not quite agree with you on this point. I do not believe that Melville does this just to present factual details. If he did, I guess I would agree with your verdict on the book. However, I believe that Melville includes his long, rambling, essayistic passages partly to give character to his narrator, partly to provide the right backdrop to the story he is telling, but mostly just for the heck of it. I do agree that long passages contain mostly nonsense, but it is a refreshingly novel and well-written kind of nonsense. Granted, I don't think I would bother reading another book written like Moby Dick, but that is kind of the point here. You stated yourself that you have literally never encountered this type of nonsense before. Neither have I, and that's exactly what makes it so enjoyable. Again, I beg to differ. As another writer and former magazine editor (not comparing myself to Melville either), I have seen - and produced - my share of first drafts. Whimsical as it is, I do not think Moby Dick reads like one. Apart from the very end, which always seemed like an afterthought to me, I think the novel is quite well put together. Even though Melville makes a lot of detours, I think he arrives at the right place in the right time, after a rather interesting journey. That is quite rare in first drafts.