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Billy Budd and the Piazza Tales

ISBN-10: 1593082533

ISBN-13: 9781593082536

Edition: N/A

Authors: Herman Melville, Robert G. O'Meally, George Stade

List price: $7.95
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Description:

Largely neglected in his own lifetime, Herman Melville mastered not only the great American novel but also the short story and novella forms. In "Billy Budd and The" "Piazza Tales," Melville reveals an uncanny awareness of the inscrutable nature of reality. Published posthumously in 1924, "Billy Budd" is a masterpiece second only to Melville's "Moby-Dick," This complex short novel tells the story of " the handsome sailor" Billy who, provoked by a false charge, accidentally kills the satanic master-at-arms. Unable to defend himself due to a stammer, he is hanged, going willingly to his fate. Although typically ambiguous, "Billy Budd" is seen by many as a testament to Melville's ultimate reconciliation with the incongruities and injustices of life. "The Piazza Tales" (1856) comprises six short stories, including the perpetually popular " Benito Cereno" and " Bartleby, " a tale of a scrivener who repeatedly distills his mordant criticism of the workplace into the deceptively simple phrase " I would prefer not to."
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Book details

List price: $7.95
Publisher: Barnes & Noble, Incorporated
Publication date: 4/1/2006
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 384
Size: 5.25" wide x 8.00" long x 1.25" tall
Weight: 0.682
Language: English

Melville was born into a seemingly secure, prosperous world, a descendant of prominent Dutch and English families long established in New York State. That security vanished when first, the family business failed, and then, two years later, in young Melville's thirteenth year, his father died. Without enough money to gain the formal education that professions required, Melville was thrown on his own resources and in 1841 sailed off on a whaling ship bound for the South Seas. His experiences at sea during the next four years were to form in part the basis of his best fiction. Melville's first two books, Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847), were partly romance and partly autobiographical travel books set in the South Seas. Both were popular successes, particularly Typee, which included a stay among cannibals and a romance with a South Sea maiden. During the next several years, Melville published three more romances that drew upon his experiences at sea: Redburn (1849) and White-Jacket (1850), both fairly realistic accounts of the sailor's life and depicting the loss of innocence of central characters; and Mardi (1849), which, like the other two books, began as a romance of adventure but turned into an allegorical critique of contemporary American civilization. Moby Dick (1851) also began as an adventure story, based on Melville's experiences aboard the whaling ship. However, in the writing of it inspired in part by conversations with his friend and neighbor Hawthorne and partly by his own irrepressible imagination and reading of Shakespeare and other Renaissance dramatists Melville turned the book into something so strange that, when it appeared in print, many of his readers and critics were dumbfounded, even outraged. Their misgivings were in no way resolved by the publication in 1852 of his next novel, Pierre; or, the Ambiguities Pierre; or, the Ambiguities, a deeply personal, desperately pessimistic work that tells of the moral ruination of an innocent young man. By the mid-1850s, Melville's literary reputation was all but destroyed, and he was obliged to live the rest of his life taking whatever jobs he could find and borrowing money from relatives, who fortunately were always in a position to help him. He continued to write, however, and published some marvelous short fiction pieces Benito Cereno" (1855) and "Bartleby, the Scrivener" (1853) are the best. He also published several volumes of poetry, the most important of which was Battle Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866), poems of occasionally great power that were written in response to the moral challenge of the Civil War. His posthumously published work, Billy Budd (1924), on which he worked up until the time of his death, is Melville's last significant literary work, a brilliant short novel that movingly describes a young sailor's imprisonment and death. Melville's reputation, however, rests most solidly on his great epic romance, Moby Dick. It is a difficult as well as a brilliant book, and many critics have offered interpretations of its complicated ambiguous symbolism. Darrel Abel briefly summed up Moby Dick as "the story of an attempt to search the unsearchable ways of God," although the book has historical, political, and moral implications as well.