Herman Melville: A Biography

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Editorial Reviews

The dearth of documentary biographic information on Melville plagues all his biographers. His oldest son committed suicide at eighteen, yet so little is known of Melville's reaction that Meltzer does little more than chronicle the event. To gain insight into Melville's inner life, Meltzer looks for autobiographical footprints in the author's fiction. The book is organized chronologically. Readers learn of Melville's father's financial ruin, Melville's consequent inability to finish school, and his subsequent decision to go to sea. Melville's three-plus seafaring years, a period that provided inspiration for nearly all his writing, are highlighted. Meltzer writes of Melville's opposition to flogging on ships and to racial prejudice, although Meltzer interprets the poetry of Melville's later years to indicate that he "had fallen away from the passionate opposition to racism expressed in his earlier works.o Melville's lifelong struggles to support himself and his family and to find publishers for his work and acceptance for his ideas figure prominently in the book. His fiction received a measure of acclaim during his lifetime, but his masterwork, Moby Dick, had negative reviews, and thereafter the author gradually retired as a professional writer. Melville is a difficult personality to bring to life, and Meltzer quotes extensively from his fiction to illuminate his persona, but it does not work for this reviewer. Melville's lavish prose style may fail to engage young readers. The book is well presented and researched. It would be a useful purchase for libraries in schools with strong American literature programs. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Forthe YA with a special interest in the subject; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Lerner, 128p.; Index. Illus. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes. Further Reading. Chronology., Ages 12 to 18.
—Mary E. Heslin
Children's Literature - Barbara Troisi
Herman Melville may have been "born with a golden spoon," but very soon life handed him a series of tumultuous miseries that haunted him throughout life. This biography details the life and accomplishments of the 19th century scholarly author, helping readers understand the way he lived and how these experiences shaped his life. Brief quick-read chapters detail his attempts to bring harmony into the complicated world not of his choosing. Readers get glimpses of his fragmented education during the depression years; lonely stints aboard ships as a merchant seaman, whaler, and navy man; perils encountered as a budding writer tortured by a publisher's wrath; tragedies in the family unit; and toils in his final years at the U.S. Customs House. Integrated within the story are celebrations of Melville's command of words and genius in writing novels, short fiction, poetry, letters, and journals. One can find brief excerpts of the documents along with drawings, paintings, and prints throughout the title. It also includes a chronology of Melville's life, bibliography, recommended titles and Web sites, and an index. This portrait of the man whose greatest work Moby Dick is read by most students, offers opportunities for gaining insight into the persona of one of America's greatest writers. Part of the "American Literary Greats" series.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-The life and writings of the 19th-century American author are explored in this introductory biography. Meltzer discusses many of the writer's life experiences through lengthy excerpts from his works, especially Moby-Dick. He also describes the author's troubled life and his struggles to help his family and publish his works. The author clearly admires his subject, stating that Melville was "ahead of his time as a writer," and calling Moby-Dick a "wild and wonderful" book and referring to some of Melville's critics as "narrow-minded." Numerous quotes, a few sidebars, and black-and-white photos and reproductions are included. This book is best suited to students who have read or are familiar with Melville's works.-Kristen Oravec, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Strongsville, OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761327493
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/13/2004
  • Series: American Literary Greats Series
  • Pages: 128
  • Age range: 7 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

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