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Reviews

"Unquestionably the most searching biography ever written on Herman Melville."

"Professor Parker... is a sound, sensible biographer and so thorough that he will probably be accused of monumentality— translation: unnecessary detail, such as which cousins attended whose wedding. The charge is not deserved. The detail matters... Professor Parker has had a vast amount of material to work with and has made good use of it. His life of Melville, which hurried readers may find over-inclusive, becomes a history of manners, amusements, business methods, politics, American whaling and international maneuverings in the South Seas, literary cliques, publishing practices, copyright law, and the erratic eccentricities of reviewers. When possible—and it frequently is—such information is presented with sly, deadpan humor. Melville emerges from this background as a man living and working in a real world full of real, amusing, brilliant, and sometimes rascally people. Well-chosen quotations establish that Melville himself was a charmer, a grand yarn-spinner, a wild driver, and a man who could describe a winter gale in the Berkshires as indicating 'too much sail on the house' and a need to 'go on the roof & rig in the chimney.' He was also, of course, a serious writer, steadily expanding his range and his thinking, and on the way to becoming the great writer who deserves all of Professor Parker's admirable work and all of a reader's attention."

"One of the most complete and staggeringly researched biographies of an American novelist ever published; it will certainly remain the undisputed standard Melville biography for many years to come... Parker's book does a fine job of bringing Melville's life up to date in the light of recent scholarship, as well as reinvigorating modern interest in a true American original."

"The linking of so much material into a continually engaging narrative is a magnificent achievement... Hershel Parker's magnum opus is a magisterial work of retrieval and unflagging scholarship, whose sheer diversity of detail adds human complexity to what earlier often seemed no more than an inert chronicle. It caps all previous endeavors. Whatever new discoveries are made (and there may be some surprises yet) will have to be built on his meticulous groundwork. He not only clarifies all known facts but demythologizes the fiction."

"Wonderful... Parker's study is an awesome achievement, indispensable for all serious Melvillians, with the vividness of a great Victorian novel and the precision of the finest historical scholarship."

"Magisterial is the only word that adequately describes Hershel Parker's huge 940-page biography of Herman Melville... This detailed first installment incorporates many recently discovered manuscripts that allow the author to expand some events in Melville's life and offer several new episodes. Mr. Parker's investigation of Melville's complicated personality, his explanation of Melville's development as an artist, and his account of Melville's time are so complete that it would be impossible even to suggest the themes that run through this closely printed book. Certain to become the standard, and probably a classic."

"Casts every earlier biography into shadows... Parker uses volumes of new information to give us a highly detailed, beautifully written, and moving portrait of a great writer."

"Monumental and meticulous, anchored in three decades of exhaustive research... Parker details how Melville lived and behaved as a complex human being, by turns flawed and brilliant, restless and focused... Parker's benchmark biography is also fascinating social history... The high point of Parker's first volume is his reconstruction of the Berkshire events of 1850-1851: Melville's meeting with Hawthorne, his impulsive buying of the 160-acre Brewster farm in Pittsfield, and the powerful letters and impressions shared by Melville and Sophia and Nathaniel Hawthorne... Parker discovered that the two authors had a private dinner at a Lenox hotel, where Melville proudly handed his mentor a personal copy of the new novel, famously dedicated to Hawthorne's American 'genius.' It was the happiest event in Melville's life—and one of the most meaningful moments in American literary history. Parker makes it ours."

"As this first of a projected two-volume biography makes abundantly clear, Melville's life is above all else an enthralling tale of literary genius in the act of self-creation. Hershel Parker is a scholar of notable fastidiousness, and his achievement here is to establish Herman Melville's life as one of the great literary family sagas of the nineteenth century—a narrative at least as colorful and incident-rich as anything published by Melville himself."

"The great merit of this biography is that its exhaustive research yields a wealth of fresh information about Melville's life. Parker gives us Melville at ground level."

"This biography will be definitive. Impeccable in its scholarship, Herman Melville reads like a good novel. Parker moves across the material with an ease born of absolute mastery of the facts and a storyteller's sense of dramatic detail."

"Mr. Parker is the author of the most thorough and authoritative account of Melville's life ("Herman Melville: A Biography," published in two volumes, in 1996 and 2002). The capstone of five decades of research, textual editing and literary analysis, the work is a masterpiece of the biographer's art."

"As much as it is a critique of Melville studies and more specifically biographical study of Melville, this is a book about biography as a genre. Whilst it is not a manual for the budding biographer, this collection of insights, which explores the difficulties of taking on such an enormous, theoretically fraught task, will serve as a useful case study to anyone wishing to engage themselves as a chronicler of literary lives."

"The highest possible praise one can bestow on Hershel Parker's biography is that it is, in scope and in loving detail, Melvillian: a great, irresistible whale of a book, a crowning moment and a culmination—not simply of one worthy scholar's dedication and career, but of a whole century's efforts to reconstruct the life of a man possessed of a uniquely American kind of genius."

"A stunningly magnificent biography that displays the finest kind of sympathetic imagination. With this first volume, Hershel Parker has become, quite simply, the most important Melville scholar of all time. Beyond any doubt, this will be the standard biography of Melville for many decades to come."

"A miracle of scholarship regarding Melville... a lifetime of research, but what a monument of otherwise irretrievable scholarship [Hershel has] left to posterity."

Herman Melville
A Biography
QTY:
$41.00
Publication Date: 19 Aug 2005
Status: Available
Usually ships 2-3 business days after receipt of order.
Trim Size: 6" x 9"
Page Count: 928 pages
Illustrations: 40 b&w illus.
ISBN: 9780801881855