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A scathing, razor-sharp satire set on a New Orleans-bound riverboat, The Confidence-Man exposes the fraudulent optimism of so many American idols and idealists--Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and P. T. Barnum, in particular--and draws a dark vision of a country being swallowed by its illusions of progress.Why is Dalkey Archive doing yet another edition of The Confidence-Man? And why is it doing Melville at all? First, this edition, originally published by Bobbs-Merrill over forty years ago, contains ...
A scathing, razor-sharp satire set on a New Orleans-bound riverboat, The Confidence-Man exposes the fraudulent optimism of so many American idols and idealists--Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and P. T. Barnum, in particular--and draws a dark vision of a country being swallowed by its illusions of progress.Why is Dalkey Archive doing yet another edition of The Confidence-Man? And why is it doing Melville at all? First, this edition, originally published by Bobbs-Merrill over forty years ago, contains remarkable annotations by H. Bruce Franklin, intended for both the general reader and the scholar. It's an edition we have long admired. More importantly, we believe that The Confidence-Man is America's first postmodern novel--game-like, darkly comic, and completely inventive.
Dalkey Archive Press
1. A mute goes aboard a boat on the Mississippi.
2. Showing that many men have many minds.
3. In which a variety of characters appear.
4. Renewal of old acquaintance.
5. The man with the weed makes it an even question whether he be a great sage or a great simpleton.
6. At the outset of which certain passengers prove deaf to the call of charity.
7. A gentleman with gold sleeve-buttons.
8. A charitable lady.
9. Two business men transact a little business.
10. In the cabin.
11. Only a page or so.
12. The story of the unfortunate man, from which may be gathered whether or no he has been justly so entitled.
13. The man with the traveling-cap evinces much humanity, and in a way which would seem to show him to be one of the most logical of optimists.
14. Worth the consideration of those to whom it may prove worth considering.
15. An old miser, upon suitable representations, is prevailed upon to venture an investment.
16. A sick man, after some impatience, is induced to become a patient.
17. Towards the end of which the Herb-Doctor proves himself a forgiver of injuries.
18. Inquest into the true character of the Herb-Doctor.
19. A soldier of fortune.
20. Reappearance of one who may be remembered.
21. A hard case.
22. In the polite spirit of the Tusculan disputations.
23. In which the powerful effect of natural scenery is evidenced in the case of the Missourian, who, in view of the region roundabout Cairo, has a return of his chilly fit.
24. A philanthropist undertakes to convert a misanthrope, but does not get beyond confuting him.
25. The Cosmopolitan makes an acquaintance.
26. Containing the metaphysics of Indian-hating, according to the views of one evidently not so prepossessed as Rousseau in favor of savages.
27. Some account of a man of questionable morality, but who, nevertheless, would seem entitled to the esteem of that eminent English moralist who said he liked a good hater.
28. Moot points touching the late colonel John Moredock.
29. The boon companions.
30. Opening with a poetical eulogy of the Press, and continuing with talk inspired by the same.
31. A metamorphosis more surprising than any in Ovid.
32. Showing that the age of magic and magicians is not yet over.
33. Which may pass for whatever it may prove to be worth.
34. In which the Cosmopolitan tells the story of the gentleman-madman.
35. In which the Cosmopolitan strikingly evinces the artlessness of his nature.
36. In which the Cosmopolitan is accosted by a mystic, whereupon ensues pretty much such talk as might be expected.
37. The mystical master introduces the practical disciple.
38. The disciple unbends, and consents to act a social part.
39. The hypothetical friends.
40. In which the story of China Aster is at secondhand told by one who, while not disapproving the moral, disclaims the spirit of the style.
41. Ending with a rupture of the hypothesis.
42. Upon the heel of the last scene the Cosmopolitan enters the barber's shop, a benediction on his lips.
43. Very charming.
44. In which the last three words of the last chapter are made the text of the discourse, which will be sure of receiving more or less attention from those readers who do not skip it.
45. The Cosmopolitan increases in seriousness.
Posted February 19, 2003
This is one of the most metaphysically profound books I've ever read. In it, Melville consistently challenges his reader's belief in the truth of his own narrative. He does this by presenting a protagonist so variable as to defy definition. He may, or may not, be the devil as the blurb here indicate. I suspect the real Confidence Man is the author himself. The question that the narrative constantly raises is, can this narrative be trusted? Maybe, Maybe not.
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