Well, I’ve come to the end! Let me state the usual for a project recap: I did not do as much as I wanted, and I still have lots more I want to read! (Even more Melville: I did not read every single poem or short story, and hardly any of his letters.)
But…I did pretty much read all of Melville’s work, in chronological order, between last Thanksgiving and now. So I will congratulate myself in a pretty serious way. Also, it was awesome, and all my readers were awesome for somehow liking it. I already did a recap of the first half of the adventure, from Typee through White-Jacket, so now for the second half:
- Moby-Dick was next on the list, and was a re-read for me, of one of my favorite books. I first addressed its alleged boringness, then its discussions of friendship and affinity. I talked a bit about its structure and Ishmael’s ideas about narration, then gushed about Ishmael some more. I wrapped up with the whiteness of the whale and links to many other bloggers’ excellent Moby-Dick posts.
- I started reading Pierre, and then announced the Unstructured Clarel Readalong (which is still “going on”!).
- Back to Pierre, I had to admit things got a little crazy, and not exactly reader-friendly, but certainly not offensive and also totally, in its own way, good (or even great).
- Then I came to the fun and adventurous Israel Potter, discussed Melville’s depictions of clothing and mutability, Israel Potter’s encounters with important historical figures, and Melville’s anti-myth-making.
- Melville’s break from the novel came next, represented here largely by The Piazza Tales. I wrote about “Bartleby, the Scrivener” and The Encantadas, as well as the non-Piazza Tale, “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids.” (I would also strongly recommend “I and My Chimney,” just for the record.)
- When I reached The Confidence-Man, I immediately thought of Mardi. Melville gets even slippier than usual in his language in this one. Of all the novels interlocutors, Pitch was probably my favorite (though who doesn’t love the cosmopolitan?). And I tried, a little bit, to write about confidence itself.
- Before getting into Clarel I wrote just a bit about Battle Pieces and Aspects of the War.
- Then came the monster: Clarel itself. I discussed beauty in the poem, and also weird, ugly weirdness, which may also be beautiful. I wrote about Mortmain, in the running for my favorite character (along with all the others!) and the lovely connection between Clarel and a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
- Suddenly, all that remained was Billy Budd, a novella heavy on the psychology and seemingly very mature though unfinished, and which pays some wonderfully Melvillean attention to the face.
Now, who’s next, and how many years until I do this one all over again? Because you know I will have to.