RARA-AVIS: Billy Budd and Bartleby

From: Michael Robison ( miker_zspider@yahoo.com)
Date: 28 Aug 2006

I read these two stories by Melville on the long flight out to Seattle last week. Aside from Moby Dick, that's the only Melville I've read. Three out of three for doomed characters. I had heard that his short works were better than Moby Dick, but that wasn't my experience. Aside from the boring whaling essays which I eventually took to skimming (very rare for me. I normally read every word.), Moby Dick was a grand Romance of man against God and nature. Obviously, man doesn't fare to well.

Billy Budd didn't have much to offer. The noble savage defeated by devious civilization, with a page after page of editorial comment to go with every action. I found Bartleby to be horrible. I had no sympathy for the lawyer. He should have kicked Bartleby's ass to the curb a long time ago. And moving out because he couldn't handle it was gutless.

I think I'll read a couple of the South Seas tales and call it quits on Melville.

Oh! I read a short one called The End of the Road by John Barthes on the trip back. I'll comment on it later.


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