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Mariners, renegades, and castaways;: The story of Herman Melville and the world we live in Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 1953


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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 203 pages
  • Publisher: C.L.R. James (1953)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0007E94L0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,093,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Literature is always open to interpretation, and Melville's Moby-Dick has long been a subject of study for its vast symbolism. Just when everyone thought it had been picked clean, along came James's 1953 study, which takes an economic approach to the novel. James suggests that the doomed ship Pequod, with its full whale-processing facilities, can serve as a symbol for the American factory system, with its workers being used perilously and brought to their untimely deaths by a mad captain of industry at the helm. Strictly for the academics.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Review

"[An] amalgam of brilliant critical analysis and desperate personal pleading . . . The publication of Mariners, Renegades and Castaways by the University Press of New England this summer – the first time the book has been printed in complete form in nearly 50 years – is simply the latest evidence of a major James revival now under way . . . [James's] posthumous popularity makes sense. Just as he argued that Melville's novel 'is alive today as never before since it was written,' James's work from more than 50 years ago neatly prefigured an impressive number of contemporary academic trends." —New York Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 26, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
CLR James was one of the earliest left wing thinkers to break from Orthodox Marxist dogmatism, even rejecting Leninism and the notion of the 'Vanguard of the Proletariat' all the way back in the late '40's, a move that left him alienated from the mainstream Left of the time and eventually led to his deportation in the 1950s. This book was written while he was in jail in New York awaiting his immigration hearing, a fact that makes this insightful look at Melville all the more impressive.

James points out that Melville was a visionary who caught glimpses of new social types long before they became prevalent in society: he even makes the startling statement that Melville is the ONLY author of Industrial capitalism. Reading first this book, then going back and reading Moby Dick, I must say that I cannot argue with his assessment. I found this small volume challenging, engaging and at times, personally upsetting, as I read something of myself and many others like me in James' reading of Ishmael. Definite cause for pause and reflection.

This book ends with a chapter describing in excruciating detail James' treatment while in jail, which I found at first quite self serving and gripey...but upon further reflection, his story is irritating because it is a banal and everyday litany of life under bureaucratic capitalism, not pretty or interesting, but it got under my skin, like the rest of this book.

If you like Melville or are interested in anti-authoritarian left thinking, you could do no better than to pick this up: I couldn't put it down.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
James, writing 100 years after _Moby Dick_ was published, shows a significant understanding of Herman Melville's time and its relation to the time in which he (James) wrote--1952. James gives an insightful critique of Melville's earlier novels and shows how they chronologically lead to Melville's eventual masterpiece, _Moby Dick_. _Moby Dick_ is an allegory for modernity gone awry, with a mad captain at the helm. For James, Ahab is comparable to the USA, which is charting its own mad course with destiny. In 1952 James was right on target, for he was detained on Ellis Island and eventually deported during the worst days of McCarthyism. It is a peculiar instance of a Trinidadian intellectual's desire to become a US citizen, and instead, being figuratively slapped in the face because of his associations with--through his writings against-- Russian communism and Trotskyites. That he wrote this book while being detained, and included an autobiographical chapter at the end makes this text quite a resource for literary critics as well as for those interested in learning about a historical case of US immigration policy in action.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is more than a little bit of early Postcolonial writing. The intoduction by Donald Pease is new, and the last chapter - an autobiographical sketch and personal appeal by James - was omitted from a previous edition. In terms of literary criticism, this is what Pease has to say about James and his writing: "He was one of the few critics who emerged from the Third World in the 1950's and traveled throughout Britain and the United States generating what are now called post-colonial readings." The real value of this book however is in its brilliant reinterpretation of MOBY DICK.
Rather than see Ahab and Ishmael as representing respectively "totalitarian" and "American" cultural themes as critics in the 1950's saw it, James offers a vison focused on the Pequod and its crew. A view in which the MARINERS, RENEGADES & CASTAWAYS of the ship were at the mercy of their Captain. In James' interpretaion the Pequod is a factory ship and the crew are the workers. Ahab is no longer a mere sailor but is now illustrative of a "Captain of industry."
I agree with the reviewer from New Haven regarding the peculiar situation James found himself in. The established interpretation of a Cold War allegory was in keeping with the times in the 1950's. If James or Melville himself were writing today, the interpretation on offer here - rather than something to be persecuted for - would be considered far more plausible than the narrow and blinkered view of the 1950's mainstream critics.
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