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Michael GorraThe real comparison is with Arvin's great biography, published in 1950, which won the National Book Award and remains in print. Delbanco doesn't quite match Arvin's psychological penetration, but he offers a richer account of Melville's relation to his times, opening up period debates on slavery and drawing connections between the New York of the 1840's and the city we know today. He writes throughout with grace and wit, his lucid contextual readings synthesize a generation of scholarship, and the wonderfully chosen illustrations even include some pornographic scrimshaw. Melville: His World and Work is tight and accessible, and its deep learning floats as lightly as silk in the breeze. In all that it is unlike its subject, to whom it stands as the best contemporary introduction.
— The New York Times