Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

Herman Melville, short form

Herman Melville (1819-1891) wasn't always epic. This is true even though in Moby-Dick he wrote "No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it." What also kind of surprised me as I read a Melville short story collection is that he could be funny. 19th-century funny, which means I had to pay more attention to see it, but in (for instance) "The Lightning-Rod Man" the humor was more obvious when I read it out loud. As I read "Cock-a-Doodle-Doo! or The Crowing of the Noble Cock Beneventano," about a man trying to find what's apparently the world's loudest, proudest rooster, I let myself laugh like a 12-year-old at his narrator so often saying "Oh, noble cock!" (I also noticed that story's mention of "the glorious victory of New Orleans" and realized he meant the War of 1812 battle that was fought two weeks after the end of the War of 1812. I wonder if that was meant as a dark joke.)

He wrote about property quite a lot in these stories, like "I and My Chimney," which gets dramatic about a proposed house remodel. In "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids," the narrator is much more interested in the two places described in the story than in the young women who work in the second of those two places. The women in that story are basically background, to an uncomfortable extent; they certainly don't get to speak. I'm wondering if that was intentional commentary by Melville, or just me reading it in the 21st century. (I'm pretty sure the narrator of "Cock-a-Doodle-Doo!" is meant to be clueless, but again, 21st-century perspective.)

Anyway. I've gotten more read. Now to head to the library, return this and another book, then get more books.
Tags: books

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