Billy Budd and The Piazza Tales
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Billy Budd and the Piazza Tales, by Herman Melville, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
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Largely neglected in his own lifetime, Herman Melville mastered not only the great American novel but also the short story and novella forms. In Billy Budd and The Piazza Tales, Melville reveals an uncanny awareness of the inscrutable nature of reality.
Published posthumously in 1924, Billy Budd is a masterpiece second only to Melville's Moby-Dick. This complex short novel tells the story of “the handsome sailor" Billy who, provoked by a false charge, accidentally kills the satanic master-at-arms. Unable to defend himself due to a stammer, he is hanged, going willingly to his fate. Although typically ambiguous, Billy Budd is seen by many as a testament to Melville's ultimate reconciliation with the incongruities and injustices of life.
The Piazza Tales (1856) comprises six short stories, including the perpetually popular "Benito Cereno" and "Bartleby," a tale of a scrivener who repeatedly distills his mordant criticism of the workplace into the deceptively simple phrase "I would prefer not to."
Robert G. O'Meally is Zora Neale Hurston Professor of Literature at Columbia University, where he has served on the faculty for seventeen years; since 1999 he has been the director of Columbia's Center for Jazz Studies. He is the author of The Craft of Ralph Ellison and Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday, and the principal writer of Seeing Jazz, the catalog for the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit on jazz painting and literature.
accomplished, approved it. * * * That the Negro José, eighteen years old, and in the personal service of Don Alexandro, was the one who communicated the information to the Negro Babo about the state of things in the cabin, before the revolt; that this is known, because, in the preceding midnight, he used to come from his berth, which was under his master’s, in the cabin, to the deck where the ringleader and his associates were, and had secret conversations with the Negro Babo, in which he was
natives in the Marquesas. The poet Walt Whitman reads the novel and writes in the Brooklyn Eagle that it is “a strange, graceful, most readable book.” 1847 Melville publishes Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas, another account of his travels and experiences with natives in the Pacific Islands. Both Typee and Omoo are hugely successful. He begins a friendship with Evert Duyckinck, an editor of the Literary World. Over the course of the next few years, Duyckinck will introduce
voluntary resumption of loyalty among influential sections of the crews. To some extent the Nore Mutiny may be regarded as analogous to the distempering irruption of contagious fever in a frame constitutionally sound, and which anon throws it off. At all events, of these thousands of mutineers were some of the tars who not so very long afterwards—whether wholly prompted thereto by patriotism, or pugnacious instinct, or by both—helped to win a coronet for Nelsonax at the Nile, and the naval
workmen used both spade and ax, fighting the troglodytesgb of those subterranean parts—sturdy roots of a sturdy wood, encamped upon what is now a long landslide of sleeping meadow, sloping away off from my poppybed. Of that knit wood but one survivor stands—an elm, lonely through steadfastness. Whoever built the house, he builded better than he knew, or else Orion in the zenith flashed down his Damocles’ swordgc to him some starry night and said, “Build there.” For how, otherwise, could it have
remembered the tragedy of the unfortunate Adams and the still more unfortunate Colt in the solitary office of the latter;in and how poor Colt, being dreadfully incensed by Adams, and imprudently permitting himself to get wildly excited, was at unawares hurried into his fatal act—an act which certainly no man could possibly deplore more than the actor himself Often it had occurred to me in my ponderings upon the subject that had that altercation taken place in the public street, or at a private