David Byrne: Symmes' Holes
This CD is an audio recording of Herman Melville's classic "Symmes' Holes" (mind the incorrect spelling on the cover!). It features David Byrne as the narrator of an adventure story. As in Melville's "Redburn" and "Billy Budd" the hero of the book is a young sailor. However the story takes a fantastic twist when the ship discovers that the earth is open at the poles.

Obviously Melville was inspired by the theories of John Cleves Symmes and Jeremiah Reynolds. Symmes declared that the earth is hollow in the middle of the 19th century and his companion Reynolds convinced the American congress to finance an expedition to the South Pole. 

The total running time of the CD is 58:48. Except for two chapters it contains the whole novel as published in 1876.

In May 1839, Reynolds published a short story in the New York Monthly Magazine called "Mocha Dick: or the white whale of the pacific" which is generally accepted as Melville's source of inspiration for "Moby Dick".

It is certain that Melville knew of Reynolds and his work and it is very probable that it was via Reynolds that he got to know the theories of JC Symmes.

"Symmes' Holes" was published in 1876 and was dismissed by the contemporary critics as "fantastic" and unrealistic. However it was the first novel to start a tradition of Hollow Earth stories such as EA Poe's "Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym" and Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth"

Melville's novel has been rediscovered only recently. Many Melville anthologies doesn't even list it. Thus it is even more surprising that Penguine chose it for their "Talking Book" series.