Herman Melville-The Confidence Man

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Its the most Pynchon-y thing I've read, just in terms of people disappearing/re-appearing, the way they...dissolve.

Probably interested in reading Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne more than Moby Dick.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 27 February 2015 16:07 (eight years ago) link

those guys are all very much worth reading, but you should read moby dick too

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Friday, 27 February 2015 22:30 (eight years ago) link

read this last year along with a collection of his short fiction in the oxford worlds classic editions (both great!) but may have to look out for the dalkey if that's the heavily annotated edition mentioned upthread. anyone ever checked out his poetry? i have a penguin selection but haven't tackled it as yet (or moby-dick for that matter).

no lime tangier, Saturday, 28 February 2015 07:04 (eight years ago) link

lol he published this on April fool's day!

no lime - the heavily annotated ed. is published by Dalkey.

Love to check out his poetry...Pierre... and Bartleby sound great! And I would probably read this over the writers he was in dialogue with in this book. I couldn't get into The Scarlet Letter when I tried it a couple of years ago although I'm sure I'd like it more now.

re: Moby Dick idk, length isn't a problem (I've read much longer books) its a bit like War and Peace where you can't see yourself caring about the subjects (whaling or the Napoleonic era) (yes I get that whaling stands for something else, but from the threads on ilx there seems to be a lot of technical bullshit). That kind adventure for boys lark (hunting, war). I suppose there must be some incredible descriptions of the sea (and many amazing digressions) and I would be up for that. His writing is unbelievably good but I also like that CM doesn't go anywhere in particular, just writing, Old testament quotes, digressions on misanthropy and well the whole issue of who you can put your trust to...this is incredibly contemporary: the loss of confidence in people, institutions. Lots of things in here I don't understand yet, a whole world in here.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 28 February 2015 12:51 (eight years ago) link

ha, i'd forgotten about the april fools bit

the heavily annotated ed. is published by Dalkey

thanks, hopefully i'll spot it secondhand some day!

the whole issue of who you can put your trust to...this is incredibly contemporary: the loss of confidence in people, institutions

of course another writer melville was responding to was poe and specifically (according to the oxford intro) his piece diddling considered as one of the exact sciences and you've got all the hoaxes running throughout his work, and people not being quite as they appear: to take the most pertinent example 'the man that was used up'.

no lime tangier, Saturday, 28 February 2015 13:15 (eight years ago) link

Yeah Moby-Dick incl.a diddlin' joke on a French captain who doesn't have a lick of English. Suddenly to the last 100 pages, not wanting it to end, getting better all the time, I've posted about it on What Are You Reading, so won't paste of that here, though can just barely restrain myself from doing that with scanned grafs, if not whole chapters. Reading Library of America edition, with corrected texts, also Webster's Deluxe coming in handy, esp. re archaic senses, though usuage ofoten overlaps w more modern

dow, Saturday, 28 February 2015 22:49 (eight years ago) link

the napoleonic era stands for something else too, also half the book is girls at various kinds of parties iirc so it's not xactly http://img1.imagesbn.com/p/9781588657800_p0_v2_s260x420.JPG

anyway moby-dick is the most unbelievable book, the disappearing narrator (ishmael is way slothrop), the obsessive cataloging of knowledge (poor devil of a sub-sub!), the impossible expanding pov, the gradual ascent into lurid opera, the soliloquies!, the whale as the symbolically uncontainable that finally breaks the book from the inside, drags its epic protagonist into hell and leaves you back in first-person limited: only another orphan. strong acid.

difficult listening hour, Sunday, 1 March 2015 07:21 (eight years ago) link

What's the other half of W & P about then :-)

I'll look at Moby Dick.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 1 March 2015 09:32 (eight years ago) link

I'll try to sign off on M-D with this: not so much one thing/component, in space or time, standing for another, as getting really into things-in-themselves, almost "No ideas but in things" at times, but then "only connect" often enough: how one thing and situation relates to another, with an increasing sense of hey presto, but also Ishmael really believes in each revelation, incl. re thee inner mystique of Ahab, and don't bother to ask how he knows (Ahab is I.'s own M-D, maybe?)

dow, Sunday, 1 March 2015 15:40 (eight years ago) link

From the latest issue:


One night, while out with her at a graduate student party, I got to talking with a group of PhD candidates reading in American Literature who to my utter shock and astonishment had never read Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. In blinded amazement and energetic fury I directed them to sit down and give American Literature a read!

Never studied lit (just read some) so I was a tad surprised that postgrads ignore it.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 7 March 2015 09:48 (eight years ago) link

canon ain't what it used to be

ryan, Saturday, 7 March 2015 14:15 (eight years ago) link

no gaps in the literature to fill

j., Saturday, 7 March 2015 15:23 (eight years ago) link

I doubt that it's all that ignored. The guy just needed a cool way to motivate his review.

jmm, Saturday, 7 March 2015 15:27 (eight years ago) link


Cartesian Dual in the Sun (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 7 March 2015 15:49 (eight years ago) link

Edmund White on Jean Giono. Features quite a bit of Melville (Giono translated MD to French).

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 14 March 2015 00:20 (eight years ago) link

That is amazing, thanks. And re White saying that Faulkner* was maybe improved by translation into French, reminds me of Melville maybe influenced by Poe (who was also said to be improved by Baudelaire's translations)
*Don't agree with White that Faulkner is never funny; maybe he's just not that into Faulkner.

dow, Saturday, 14 March 2015 01:10 (eight years ago) link

Didn't know want to comment o Faulkner as he is a blind spot for me. Looking at the NYRB site and there were no letters about this. From what White is saying you could go on and argue that his translator took out the risk from Faulkner's writing, ultimately making him safe for the Nobel..

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 14 March 2015 09:40 (eight years ago) link

[...] he commits himself to the forest primeval; there, so long as life shall be his, to act upon a calm, cloistered scheme of strategical, implacable, and lonesome vengeance. Ever on the noiseless trail; cool, collected, patient; less seen than felt; snuffing, smelling—a Leather-stocking Nemesis. In the settlements he will not be seen again; in eyes of old companions tears may start at some chance thing that speaks of him; but they never look for him, nor call; they know he will not come. Suns and seasons fleet; the tiger-lily blows and falls; babes are born and leap in their mothers' arms; but, the Indian-hater is good as gone to his long home, and "Terror" is his epitaph.'

hot doug stamper (||||||||), Friday, 20 March 2015 13:24 (eight years ago) link

one year passes...

OK I should check it out, yes?

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 21 November 2016 03:13 (seven years ago) link

What's the worst that could happen?

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Monday, 21 November 2016 05:29 (seven years ago) link

it's great

velko, Monday, 21 November 2016 05:33 (seven years ago) link

I should pick this up again.

lol @ Wikipedia on Pierre: "One review which ran in the New York Day Book bore the title "Herman Melville Crazy" while the American Whig Review wrote that Melville's "fancy is diseased".[17]"

JoeStork, Monday, 21 November 2016 06:32 (seven years ago) link

Need to reup my subscription to American Whig Review

JoeStork, Monday, 21 November 2016 06:32 (seven years ago) link

Alfred alfred alfred you need this book in your life

I hear from this arsehole again, he's going in the river (James Morrison), Monday, 21 November 2016 07:27 (seven years ago) link

Yes - Melville had his magical writerly chops till the end.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 21 November 2016 09:14 (seven years ago) link

Inspired by reading Battle-Pieces and rereading "Las Encantadas."

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 21 November 2016 11:27 (seven years ago) link

love this book

Bein' Sean Bean (LocalGarda), Monday, 21 November 2016 17:35 (seven years ago) link

Co-sign on the above-expressed opinion that the best way to read this book is chapter-by-chapter, once with all the footnotes interrupting, then a second time just reading the straight prose

fgti, Monday, 21 November 2016 18:00 (seven years ago) link

On Chapter Four!

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 21 November 2016 20:07 (seven years ago) link

I checked out the Norton critical edition from the library.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 21 November 2016 20:08 (seven years ago) link

one year passes...

started Redburn, which has a scene in a homosexual brothel!

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 18 April 2018 14:42 (five years ago) link

Any good? I see the Penguin edition has one of those generic 'Nobody buys this so we can't be fucked doing a cover' covers.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Thursday, 19 April 2018 01:32 (five years ago) link

Perhaps trying to give Dover Thrift Editions a run for their money.

We’ll Take Chanhassen (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 21 April 2018 00:13 (five years ago) link

It's the easiest novel he ever wrote -- few of those flourishes and ponderosities we expect. Apparently he regarded as hack work.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 21 April 2018 00:17 (five years ago) link

Hmm nothing gay there, nope

valorous wokelord (silby), Saturday, 21 April 2018 20:20 (five years ago) link

one year passes...

found this at longform.org the other day -- it's a pretty deep critical look at HM's entire career. skimmed some of it to avoid getting too much info about a couple books (pierre) i haven't read, but there's some tremendous writing here:


(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Friday, 16 August 2019 17:44 (four years ago) link

Saw that you when you linked there on the other thread and have been meaning to read, thanks.

TS: “8:05” vs. “905” (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 16 August 2019 17:47 (four years ago) link

geoffrey o'brien i remember from back in the 80s at VV (esp.the voice lit supp): one of the critics i always enjoyed w/o knowing anything abt his deal

mark s, Friday, 16 August 2019 17:55 (four years ago) link

Pretending to have finished reading “the confidence man” got me my place on an American Lit BA in the mid 90s

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 16 August 2019 23:55 (four years ago) link

It also got me rejected from a UEA interview in 1997. “Ugh, The Confidence Man, minor Melville” the interviewer actually said to me.

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 16 August 2019 23:56 (four years ago) link


TS: “8:05” vs. “905” (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 16 August 2019 23:58 (four years ago) link

It upset me at the time, but what a jerky/hilarious thing to a bookish 17 year old

Chuck_Tatum, Saturday, 17 August 2019 00:07 (four years ago) link

* thing to say to a bookish etc

Chuck_Tatum, Saturday, 17 August 2019 00:08 (four years ago) link

Right. Originally I was going to type “lol/ouch!”

TS: “8:05” vs. “905” (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 17 August 2019 00:09 (four years ago) link

I think the interviewer accurately assessed my fraudulence. I literally got on a train to each university interview with copies of crying of lot 49, white noise, confidence man and palimpsest stuffed in my backpack, thinking “fuck, i’ll cram what I can until the train stops”. I do remember bringing up Civilwarland (which, unlike the rest, I’d actually read) and the interviewer being, like, “George who?”

Chuck_Tatum, Saturday, 17 August 2019 00:28 (four years ago) link

Anyway. I’ve been reading Moby Dick with my partner and we both feel like Melville is 1000x better read aloud than read on the page. It’s just so smooth. I can’t remember if the confidence man is similar though.

Chuck_Tatum, Saturday, 17 August 2019 00:31 (four years ago) link

Last week's New Yorker published a solid Melville essay.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 17 August 2019 01:23 (four years ago) link

It prompted me to check Typee out of the library. I wasn't fond of Thte Confidence Man, but I must recommend Redburn if you love explicitly homoerotic/homosocial 19th century fiction. I may even tackle Pierre cuz Norton published a critical edition in 2017.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 17 August 2019 01:24 (four years ago) link

bbbbbbut Confidence Man is great!

And according to some websites, there were “sexcapades.” (James Morrison), Saturday, 17 August 2019 02:43 (four years ago) link

That New Yorker essay was good. I’m not that far of a drive away from Melville’s Arrowhead estate, it made me resolve that this is the year I trek out there.

Pierre is a truly wild read, completely off the deep end but very fun imo.

“Hakuna Matata,” a nihilist philosophy (One Eye Open), Saturday, 17 August 2019 02:53 (four years ago) link

one year passes...

So much of this shit this year, meanwhile I’m over here like

scampo italiano (gyac), Friday, 18 September 2020 11:30 (three years ago) link

three months pass...

My sis got me the LOA edition of Melville's poems. I know about a dozen of the Battle-Pieces but Clarel tempts me, especially after reading Andrew Delblanco's superb bio in February.

Patriotic Goiter (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 29 December 2020 16:48 (two years ago) link

two years pass...

Haven't read the thread because I'm only on Chapter 8, but this book is getting very good:

At the sofa's further end sits a plump and pleasant person, whose aspect seems to hint that, if she have any weak point, it must be anything rather than her excellent heart. From her twilight dress, neither dawn nor dark, apparently she is a widow just breaking the chrysalis of her mourning.

Been thinking about changing my display name to "the man with the weed" but ppl would just think it was a drug reference.

Unfairport Convention (PBKR), Thursday, 2 February 2023 12:11 (ten months ago) link

two months pass...

I finished this book and absolutely loved it. It took me a little while to get into the rhythm of it, but it got better and better. Early on I kept trying to figure out which one was the Confidence Man until later I realized they were all Confidence Men in a country full of them. It really reminded me of Dostoevsky's Demons - the collision of characters inhabiting various philosophical/ideological positions. It also seems to attempt to illuminate a uniquely American character in the same way that Demons attempts to illustrate the Russian character.

Also, the book is so freakin' funny and ironic. The chapters with Frank and Charlie both egging each other on to drink is so good. All the little parodies of contemporary American authors. There is such a distance between the author and the characters - addressing the reader directly, commenting on the characters, etc. The way characters appear and dissolve, the stories embedded in stories is almost post-modern in ways.

I've read Moby-Dick (25 years ago) and Bartleby. What should I read next, Pierre or Billy Budd?

This machine bores fascism (PBKR), Wednesday, 26 April 2023 12:16 (seven months ago) link


the dreaded dependent claus (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 26 April 2023 12:18 (seven months ago) link

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