The novel that Rory is reading. Written by Herman Melville and first published in 1851, it is regarded as one of the Great American Novels and is Melville’s best known work. The novel is about the obsessive quest by a sea captain for revenge against a great white wale named Moby Dick.
Rory tells Dean that she thinks it is “really good”, and that it is her “first Melville”, although she admits that it is a cliche to have Moby Dick as your first Melville. Herman Melville has ten other novels still available, and presumably Rory plans to read more of them.
Is the fact that Rory is reading this novel when she meets Dean an early warning of his own obsessive nature? Or perhaps, like Huck Finn and On the Road, it’s another novel about a specifically American journey, this time upon the sea. The sexual innuendo of a “big Dick” when meeting Dean probably isn’t to be disregarded, either.