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Pierre or The Ambiguities
     

Pierre or The Ambiguities

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by Herman Melville
 

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Herman Melville (1819-1891), now at the center of the American literary canon, was wildly dismissed for this labyrinthine effort. With the Boston Post writing upon its release, "it might be supposed to emanate from a lunatic hospital rather than from the quiet retreats of Berkshire." Perhaps Melville's most difficult and wildly textured work, "Pierre: Or, The

Overview

Herman Melville (1819-1891), now at the center of the American literary canon, was wildly dismissed for this labyrinthine effort. With the Boston Post writing upon its release, "it might be supposed to emanate from a lunatic hospital rather than from the quiet retreats of Berkshire." Perhaps Melville's most difficult and wildly textured work, "Pierre: Or, The Ambiguities", (1852) to this day evades easy categorization or critical interpretation. Now seen as an ambitious foray into proto-modernist composition, the text was initially met with utter consternation and was a commercial failure. Published a year after his magnum opus "Moby Dick, or, The Whale", "Pierre" tracks the nineteen year old Pierre Glendinning through his life in New York City as a fledgling novelist. Mr. Melville himself can be seen in the melodramatic life of Pierre. Wrestling with the literary trends of transcendentalism that pervaded his day, the novel, on some level, also parodies the gothic tradition of grand morality. But it is this morality that is brought into focus, scrutinizing it only as Melville can. Spoken of as "word piled upon word, and syllable heaped upon syllable, until the tongue grows as bewildered as the mind, and both refuse to perform their offices from sheer inability to grasp the magnitude of the absurdities...", the torrential dismay that this novel was met with now sounds like the unknown beginnings of a revolution. Experimental and without reservations, "Pierre" will remain a glowing oddity of American literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781455411573
Publisher:
B&R Samizdat Express
Publication date:
04/01/2011
Sold by:
Smashwords
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

Herman Melville was born in August 1, 1819, in New York City, the son of a merchant. Only twelve when his father died bankrupt, young Herman tried work as a bank clerk, as a cabin-boy on a trip to Liverpool, and as an elementary schoolteacher, before shipping in January 1841 on the whaler Acushnet, bound for the Pacific. Deserting ship the following year in the Marquesas, he made his way to Tahiti and Honolulu, returning as ordinary seaman on the frigate United States to Boston, where he was discharged in October 1844. Books based on these adventures won him immediate success. By 1850 he was married, had acquired a farm near Pittsfield, Massachussetts (where he was the impetuous friend and neighbor of Nathaniel Hawthorne), and was hard at work on his masterpiece Moby-Dick.

Literary success soon faded; his complexity increasingly alienated readers. After a visit to the Holy Land in January 1857, he turned from writing prose fiction to poetry. In 1863, during the Civil War, he moved back to New York City, where from 1866-1885 he was a deputy inspector in the Custom House, and where, in 1891, he died. A draft of a final prose work, Billy Budd, Sailor, was left unfinished and uncollated, packed tidily away by his widow, where it remained until its rediscovery and publication in 1924.

William C. Spengemann is the Hale Professor in Arts and Sciences and Professor of English Emeritus at Dartmouth College. He edited the Penguin Classics edition of Nineteenth-Century American Poetry.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
August 1, 1819
Date of Death:
September 28, 1891
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Place of Death:
New York, New York
Education:
Attended the Albany Academy in Albany, New York, until age 15

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Pierre, or, The Ambiguities 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
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