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Melville's Short Novels (Norton Critical Editions) 1st Edition
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Invaluable for any reader of 19th century american fiction, college undergrad or grad student.
If you're not a student (I'm not) the background on Melville and his work is incredibly interesting and you will definitely come away with a new understanding of the man, his mind, his writing, and his relevance to all American Fiction. Oh yeah: and it's easy to read, to boot.
For the scholar, this book is probably the best edition around as far as the "Killer B's" are concerned (Bartleby, Benito, Billy Budd). It contains excellent criticism, and has a neat bibliography which any lit student or scholar will find useful.
As to the stories, well, I have mixed feelings. I absolutely love "Bartleby" and I think it's one of my favourite stories ever. If you are interested by a story which poses the problem of the uncommunicable and inherently hermetic, and of the impossible divisions between humans, that's the fone for you. Considered the ancestor of "absurd literature" by some, by a Christic parable by others, "Bartleby" is of utmost interest in either case.
"Benito Cereno" is a story that I found myself disliking quite a bit. It was as usually wordy as you'd expect Melville to be - which of itself isn't the problem - but the story feels pointless and boring. That is, until you read on, then it gets interesting, but I felt I found that out too late. Also, I readily admit not having given it my best reading time. I got confused and and bored with the style and I had a hard time "seeing" much. So I didn't like this one too much, and whether this is because I poorly read or because of the story, I don't know, and I don't want to read it a second time.
"Billy Budd" is good. I didn't like it as much as "Bartleby", but I liked it a lot more than "Benito". Another tale with an odd character and with Christic aspects. Definitely worth reading.Read more ›
McCall shows that the central theme of Melville's story is charity and that Bartleby, though no Christ figure, is Christ-like in some of his behavior. McCall also shows Melville to be making jokes about cubicle and office humor long before such humor became popular in our modern America. But, most of all, McCall presents "Bartleby" as a story about the lack of spirituality and religion in a materialistic society. Any Christian will tell you that true charity begins with love of God and moves outward to connect with your fellow human beings. Without God or any concept of God, we all live lives of isolation. Your choices are the secular humanism of the narrator's three subordinates, the joyless asceticism of Bartleby, or the obtuse Christian humanism of the narrator. McCall insists that at least the narrator has a warmth and cheerfulness that are ultimately superior to Bartleby's isolation and misery. Bartleby is essentially a second rate monk, pitiful but not sympathetic.
McCall's excerpts and materials on Benito Cereno are solid but a bit more predictable.Read more ›
'Billy Budd' is a different kind of martyr hero whose innocence and nobility arouse the envy and lust of the cruel Claggart, and whom even the noble Captain Vere is unable to save. 'Benito Cereno' is like Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' a trip into the lower regions of the horror- filled nature of the human soul.
In each of these great tales Humanity is tested and driven to extremes of knowing uncomfortable truths about itself, in language of great literary power and beauty.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book arrived quickly, very very quickly, in excellent condition, and made a terrific gift to my son who had just finished Moby Dick.Published on January 3, 2013 by Gotta pay yer dues if ya wanna sing the blues**