The Portable Melville (Viking portable library)

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9780140150582: The Portable Melville (Viking portable library)

A few of Melville's other works have come to my attention at several points in my life, and I am glad to see that these items are included in this selection. On a topic which remains a familiar concern for me, "that prolonged agony of continual war," (p. 637) I suggest reading the story "Billy Budd, Foretopman" as a model for what can be expected in the war on drugs. Anything might be considered more important if it can be rightly compared to a story with a first sentence which, as it says, "belongs to a period which, as every thinker now feels, involved a crisis for Christendom not exceeded in its undetermined momentousness at the time by any other era whereof there is record." (p. 637) I had to buy this book because it contains the story "Bartleby." The relentless element in the story is the phrase "I would prefer not to," surprisingly used by a scrivener when he was requested to do something which seemed perfectly reasonable to the rest of the world. The level of the philosophical questions raised by this strange behavior, "What do you mean? Are you moon-struck?" (p. 476) bring about a strange admission: "Had there been the least uneasiness, anger, impatience or impertinence in his manner; in other words, had there been anything ordinarily human about him, doubtless I should have violently dismissed him from the premises." (p. 477) This might not make a very exciting movie, but I suggest it as a guide to real life.

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