Critical Companion to Herman Melville: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville are two writers fruitfully studied in tandem, not simply because they encountered each other in 1850s western Massachusetts, where each was outside of his native habitat-their friendship did not survive when each returned to his native turf-but because their personalities and works, even their very methods of composition and authorial positioning, are a fascinating study in contrasts. Facts On File has brought out an updated edition of its Herman Melville: A to Z, now titled as part of its "Critical Companion" series, as well as added the Hawthorne volume to the series offerings. Each volume is divided into three main parts: "Biography," "Works A-Z," and "Related People, Places, Publications, and Topics." These sections are followed by several very useful appendixes, varying slightly in format between the two volumes, which should perhaps have been rectified by the publishers to obtain the greatest clarity for the series, but this may be a quibble. These appendixes furnish chronologies encompassing the authors' lives and works, selected bibliographies of secondary sources, a modest section of reprinted contemporary reviews (neither Melville's decline from favor during his life nor the important rebirth of critical interest in him in the 1920s is covered here), as well as a section in each volume called "Melville and Hawthorne," which contains a different selection of primary sources in each volume, transcribed virtually without commentary. Given the tendency of some recent critics and biographers to infer a great deal about the relationship, the lack of commentary is not entirely a bad thing. The Melville volume's additions since the first version are largely in the section on his works, which, along with offering detailed plot summaries, now has subheadings called "Critical Commentary" and "Publication History and Reception" (again with "Reception" not covered for the posthumously published Billy Budd), these for some reason coming between the plot summaries and character lists for the works. The Hawthorne volume has "Reception and Critical Analysis" likewise inserted for the major works. These sections will offer students sound and very reasonable introductions to the evolution of critical thought on the authors. Neither book is going to win fans through its sparse black-and-white illustrations (with odd recourse to Hollywood scene shots for Melville novels), but this should not deter selectors. Bottom Line Both books are valuable resources, especially for students just beginning their exploration of these authors. Each responsibly brings together a great deal of factual and interpretive information and will inspire further study. Recommended for high school, undergraduate, and large public libraries. [The content of both books is also available through Facts On File's newly titled, redesigned, and expanded database, Bloom's Literary Reference Online, which starts at $475 for school libraries and $985 for public libraries.-Ed.]-Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816064618
  • Publisher: Facts on File, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/28/2007
  • Series: Critical Companion Series
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

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