A reading by the Prime Minister that aims to introduce the 161-year-old novel Moby Dick to a new generation goes live to the world today.

David Cameron has voiced chapter 30 of the classic American novel as part of The Moby Dick Big Read.

He is amongst a number of stars, including Stephen Fry, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Cumberbatch and Sir David Attenborough, who have jumped on board the ambitious project to broadcast all 135 chapters of Herman Melville's novel over 135 days.

cameron David Camron has read the chapter The Pipe


Since Swinton took on the novel's opening, Call Me Ishmael, on September 16, the website has been visited by almost half a million people, placing it in the iTunes podcast charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mr Cameron's chapter, titled The Pipe, goes live on the project's website today.

When his involvement in the project was confirmed Mr Cameron said: "This is a really exciting project aimed at introducing this literary masterpiece to new audiences.

"I am particularly pleased to be able to contribute a chapter alongside so many people from the local community and wish all involved the very best in their efforts to make classic literature accessible to all."

The Moby Dick Big Read has been two years in the making and originated from the mutual obsession with the book by award-winning author Philip Hoare and artist Angela Cockayne.

The daily readings, broadcast online, are accompanied by images inspired by the book from contemporary artists including Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley.

The project was launched at the Plymouth International Book Festival in September.

Dr Hoare hopes the project will convince intimidated readers to give Moby Dick a try.

He said: "If the Prime Minister's reading prompts people to turn to such wonderful works of literature, that's a great result for all concerned.

"I'm sure Herman Melville would be amazed at this extraordinary new interpretation of his thought-provoking and prophetic book.

"This is a way of introducing his book to a new audience and is something people can pick up as and when they choose - it is completely suited to the digital age."

Moby Dick is narrated by Ishmael, a sailor who voyages on the whale ship Pequod, under Captain Ahab. He soon discovers that Ahab has one purpose on his voyage, to seek revenge on the ferocious sperm whale, Moby Dick, who bit off his leg.

Through the journey of the main characters, the concepts of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of God are all examined as the main characters speculate upon their personal beliefs and their places in the universe.

The readings can be downloaded from mobydickbigread.com. The project is hosted by Peninsula Arts, Plymouth University.

Moby Dick's homoerotic undertones caused controversy in its day, but nothing compared to these titles...

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  • Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907)

    Joris-Karl Huysmans' <em>À rebours (Against Nature)</em>, is a landmark in early gay literature. Its gorging decadence and its protagonist's liaison with a beautiful youth appalled contemporary critics, but found fans among the new generation of artistic aesthetes - among them Oscar Wilde. In 1895 <em>À rebours</em> was used as an exhibit at Wilde's trial on 'sodomy' charges. PHOTO: Wikimedia

  • D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

    When he died, Laurence was regarded as a writer of pornography who had gained many enemies throughout his life and spent much of it in voluntary exile. Even after death he wasn't immune from scandal, with the 1960 <em>Lady Chatterley</em> trial becoming one of the most famous literary controversies of all time when the book's publishers Penguin were tried under the Obscene Publications Act.

  • Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie (born 1947)

    At the centre of what was perhaps the most famous literary scandal in modern history, Rushdie's <em>The Satanic Verses</em> provoked protests from Muslims in several countries, some violent. Death threats were made against him, including a fatwā issued by Iran's Ayatollah in 1989.

  • Aphra Behn (1640-1689)

    After working as a political spy and ending up in prison for not straightening her debts, this fair-faced rebel finally settled down enough to start a literary career. Along with two fellow women writers Aphra Behn scandalised the male critics by writing about women's sexual desires - they were called the "naughty triumvirate". Speaking of women of pleasure...

  • John Cleland (1709-1789)

    When Cleland's erotic novel, <em>Fanny Hill: or, the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure</em>, was first published in the mid-eighteenth century, he, his publisher and printer were promptly arrested. In court, Cleland disavowed the novel, and the book was officially withdrawn, not to be legally published again for over a century. PHOTO: Wikimedia

  • Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

    When his overtly sexual poetry collection <em>Leaves of Grass</em> was first published in 1855, Whitman was immediately fired from his job at the US Department of the Interior. The book was considered profane and immoral in its exaltation of pleasure, but the bad press didn't stop Whitman spending the rest of his life writing and rewriting this American epic.

  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)

    Most controversial writers learn not to let the critics get to them, but Russian author Solzhenitsyn didn't have much choice. He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974 for his criticism of the regime and harrowing descriptions of life in a gulag, one of many dissidents to be forced to leave their country, but the only one to have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

  • Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)

    Being stabbed in a dodgy Deptford backstreet wasn't (believe it or not) the peak of this devilish playwright's scandalous career whose play, <em>Doctor Faustus</em>, was said to drive people insane. After his death his translation of Ovid was banned and copies publicly burned as part of a crackdown on offensive material.

  • William Borroughs (1914-1997)

    Burroughs' semi-autobiographical book about heroin addiction, <em>Naked Lunch</em>, proved extremely controversial both for its content and its obscene language when it was first published in 1959. It was banned in Boston and Los Angeles and was one of the most recent American books over which an obscenity trial was held - though that's perhaps not saying much when we consider our next contender in the controversy charts...

  • Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

    When this duo published <em>And Tango Makes Three</em> in 2005 they couldn't have guessed the stir it would cause, or could they? The children's book about two penguin parents in a same sex relationship caused uproar amongst some adults in the United States, for its depiction of homosexuality in animals. It became America's most challenged book for three years running.