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Billy Budd, Sailor and Selected Tales (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – April 15, 2009
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About the Author
Robert Milder is Professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis.
Top Customer Reviews
Some of these tales were so evocative and well portrayed that I could almost imagine the narrator's English or South American accent, as the case may be, and even when not seizing the text in its entirety rather than its parts, the aptly painted story-telling ensured that I never felt it to be too much of chore reading the book fully over a three day period (with large breaks).
Some of the tales are more akin to vignettes and half-humorous, half-satirical short stories (The Lightning-Rod Man, Cock-A-Doodle-Do), some, more difficult, (such as the aforementioned Enchanted Isles and Benito Cereno), are more fantastical and wordy.
Billy Budd is the main attraction of this book, featured last and the longest by a margin, and it is very much a tale which, in Hannah Arendt's (and consequently my own) reading depicts in no few words Good (innocence), Evil (manipulation) and Justice (virtue)and the interaction between them, each side represented respectively by Budd The Handsome Sailor himself, Claggart the Master-At-Arms and Captain Vere.Read more ›
I know that some of the short stories found in this book are considered classics of the form, but oddly enough, the ones most often cited as "classics" did not impress me. Both "Bartleby" and "Benito Cereno" left me with a shrug, "Bartleby" especially because it lacked the gorgeous prose that Melville usually employed. They were not as forgettable as some of the stories in this collection ("The Fiddler" and "I and My Chimney"), but nothing I would savor reading again. "Bartleby" is just too straight-forward, and "Benito Cereno" is kind of a mess. The latter is one of those stories where the second half explains what was going on in the first. By then, I'd figured it out and it seemed redundant and ham-fisted. "Benito Cereno" also rides a line of ambiguity when it comes to some issues (namely race) which a modern reader might be more sensitive to—so much so that I really couldn't figure out how Melville wanted the reader to feel about the story's black slaves. (Further research only emphasized that ambiguity, showing different takes on the story's meaning since the time it was published. Maybe that ambiguity is to the story's credit, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.)
Two of the stories in the collection are fairly comical: "Cock-a-Doodle-Doo!" and "The Lightning-Rod Man." I can imagine people in the 1800s reading these stories in the magazine they were published and being amused.Read more ›