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Melville's Short Novels (Norton Critical Editions) Paperback – November 28, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0393976410 ISBN-10: 0393976416 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Norton Critical Editions
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (November 28, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393976416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393976410
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dan McCall is Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the author of the novels Jack the Bear (which was made into a movie starring Danny DeVito) and Triphammer. His monographs include The Silence of Bartleby and Citizens of Somewhere Else.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book includes both the text of Melville's short works (Bartleby, Benito Cereno, and Billy Budd)-approx 175 pages, and approx 225 pages of contexts (which are just what they sound like, historical background regarding each work, something I find invaluable when reading books written long before I was born) and literary criticism (generally interesting and almost always opened my eyes to new layers of meaning in Melville's writing.)
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.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Nick on July 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book contains 3 stories: "Bartleby The Scrivener", "Benito Cereno", and "Billy Budd". About a half of the book is "contexts", which are essays about the stories and other texts that shed light on the three stories.

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.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful By philostratos on May 11, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Melville text is fine. The notes are somewhat condescending. The major problem is with the selection of secondary and supportive literature. I bought this, expecting to read essays on Melville by Thomas Mann, Hannah Arendt, Robert Lowell, Camus, et al. What I found was one page selections from these authors (in the case of Mann, just a few sentences saying he wished he had written as well as Melville - how is that informative or valuable in any way?). Sorry to have to say it, but the editor, Cornell professor or not, is an idiot, apparently. Will try to return this and get the Library of America edition which at least gives you more Melville for your buck.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What I liked most about this excellent edition are the background and criticism on Melville's Bartleby The Scrivener. Editor Dan McCall chooses excellent essays that all support his view that the narrator, not Bartleby, is the hero of Melville's story. Some people would quibble that an editor should strive for objectivity and balance in their choice of material, but McCall is so persuasive in his choice of essays that Melville's odd little story about a very curious personality becomes a profound exploration about spirituality (or the lack thereof) in booming 19th century America.

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.
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