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Herman Melville

For a long time Herman Melville has been one of my favorite writers, perhaps the favorite. I read Moby Dick in junior year of high school in 1968 and was totally mesmerized. I have re-read it at least five or six times and it amazes me every time. I've also read all of his other novels, some of which were very difficult to read, but always worthwhile and interesting. When you read them in order: Typee, Omoo, Mardi, Redburn, White-jacket--you can see Moby Dick coming. After that book came one of the strangest by many accounts, Pierre. One critic said never had such a sublime work been followed by such a troubled work.

When people ask me what I like about Moby Dick it is always hard to answer. I think it has something to do with Melville's outlook on things. Sometimes he can be incredibly upbeat but at others he can definitely be a "downer." Maybe something in me identifies with that, for better or worse.  There's something in it about human connections, both the importance and the lack of them, that gets me, too.

Not always easy to read, but always time well-spent, in my opinion. I look forward to reading Moby Dick a few more times before I can't read anymore someday!

Books and other items by Herman Melville at the Tottenville Library can be found by clicking here

There are a number of good biographies of Melville. Two that I have read are Herman Melville by Newton Arvin and Herman Melville: A Biography, Vol. 1  and Vol. 2 by Hershel Parker. Unfortunately Volume 1 cannot be checked out, but Volume 2 can. It is an enormous work. I've only read Volume 1, but Volume 2 is on my "to be read someday" list! And there are a lot of other biographies about Melville at NYPL. Check here.

 (Image from NYPL Digital Gallery)


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The Confidence Man

Have you ever read "The Confidence Man"? I found this in our laundry room in our building and I know nothing about it. I assume it is not regarded as good one because of that but I am curious. Rob

Selected Bibliographies

Dear Rob, A classic is what you make of it, See: <A HREF="">Select Bibliography</A> from the Oxford World's Classics. See also: <A HREF="">Part of the bibliography listed in the Northwestern-Newberry Edition</A> of The Confidence Man: His Masquerade, Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, G. Thomas Tanselle eds. Yours, The Sub-Librarian

His family tree

Interesting fact, the musician Moby is a descendant of Herman Melville. Hence the name Moby. David

Another useful reference.

Jay Leyda's The Melville Log is a compilation of documents on the life of Melville. Leyda was a fascinating character. He came to New York in the early 1930s after graduating from high school in Dayton, Ohio, and was an assistant to the photographer Alfred Stieglitz. His work in photography led to an interest in film, and he went to the Soviet Union to study under Sergei Eisenstein. When he returned to New York, he established the film archive at MOMA. Later in life, he became fascinated by Melville, and compiled The Melville Log. He also wrote about Emily Dickinson and about the Russian composers Mussorgsky and Rachmaninoff. Despite having no college degree, he taught at both Yale and NYU.

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