Herman Melville-The Confidence Man

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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 (six years ago) link

What's the worst that could happen?

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

it's great

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

Need to reup my subscription to American Whig Review

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

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

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

love this book

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

On Chapter Four!

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


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

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