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Herman Melville: Pierre, Israel Potter, The Piazza Tales, The Confidence-Man, Tales, Billy Budd (Library of America) (Hardcover) by Herman Melville, Harrison Hayford (Editor)
Herman Melville's dark and brilliant late works contain some of his most powerful writing. After "Moby-Dick" he turned from the high seas to record his keen, bleak vision of life at home in America. "Pierre," "Israel Potter," and "The Confidence-Man," satirical dissections of moral breakdown and social hypocrisy, anticipate modernist fiction with their black humor and formal experimentation. With them here are "The Piazza Tales"--including "Bartelby the Scrivener," "The Encantadas," and "Benito Cereno"--and the haunting, posthumously published masterpiece, "Billy Budd, Sailor." Rounding out this third volume of Melville's complete prose in the Library of America are many pieces rarely collected, including magazine stories, comic sketches, and reviews of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Francis Parkman, and James Fenimore Cooper.
Contemporary Review of Piazza Tales
Click here for a review of The Piazza Tales, included in this volume, which shows Melville's recovery, in the eyes of contemporary American critics, from Moby Dick and Pierre especially, from the September 1856 issue of The United States Democratic Review.
5 out of 5 stars The Lonesome Latter Years, May 12, 2001
By K. K. Woofter "karwinwalpole" (Montreal, QC Canada) (REAL NAME)
Darkly humorous, cynical, horrific and melancholy, Melville's later works are the capstone to the author's deepening discontent with his America. The vision here can be frustrating: Melville conjures up the most painful, soul-searching mysteries, and then refuses to knot them up with tidy solutions. Instead, Melville deepens the moral ambiguity that seeped through the skin of the transitional Moby Dick in full-length works like Pierre and Billy Budd, Sailor. And the shorter works--among them The Piazza Tales, Benito Cereno, and Bartleby the Scrivener--are imbued with such a longing for any kind of graspable meaning, that their readers, like their characters, find themselves in a ponderous state of shock. The human condition, Melville seems to say, is one of isolation, cast adrift, searching alone for a truth that is, and always will be, inscrutable.
5 out of 5 stars It ain't all Moby Dick, March 15, 2002
By Kimberly Wells (Shreveport, LA USA) (REAL NAME)
If you think that you can't read classic American Literature because it's all so big and intimidating (i.e., Moby Dick) think again. Some of the short stories in this collection of Melville's "other" work are incredibly well-written insights into human nature. (As is Moby Dick, but I digress).
Billy Budd's encounter with "justice," Bartleby's statement that he would "prefer not", Benito Cerino's exploration of slavery-- these tales are not to be missed. You should read this book as a starter, then move on to the BIG OLD white whale.
5 out of 5 stars Worth the effort., April 8, 2009
Nothing I can write can either do justice to this collection or convince you to read it. Those goals are simply out of my persuasive power.
All I can say is that Melville is one of those rare writers who works in the aggregate. He does not hit the nostalgia button like Twain, or compose a jaw-dropping sentence every other paragraph like Dickens. However, after reading much of Melville, a quality of reflection and thought is induced that is equally as valuable, if not superior, to some of his more immediately gratifying contemporaries.
The LA Times stated that this collection "Should find a place on every civilized person's bookshelf." They were spot on.
Combining this collection with Moby-Dick will make you more well-read, it will give you a greater depth to your literary knowledge, but more importantly, it will make you a better human being. And that is worth more than any pretty turn of phrase.