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The Piazza Tales

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  355 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Included in this Herman Melville collection are six tales that range considerably -- from "The Encantadas" (an allegorical travelogue) to the haunting "Bartleby, the Scrivener." Opening the volume is "The Piazza," a pastoral sketch that frames the collection. "Benito Cereno" -- a subversive satire -- of grows out of a true story of mutiny among the enslaved . . .

1."The Pia
Paperback, 189 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by Aegypan (first published 1856)
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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel HawthorneA Tale of Two Cities by Charles DickensMoby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman MelvilleMadame Bovary by Gustave FlaubertDavid Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Best Books of the Decade: 1850s
55th out of 94 books — 93 voters
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainMoby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman MelvilleThe Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel HawthorneLittle Women by Louisa May AlcottIncidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
Nineteenth Century American List
47th out of 55 books — 22 voters

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Community Reviews

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Elizabeth (Alaska)
I have been studiously avoiding Melville's Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, which is on the 1001 list. The members of the group reading that list here on Goodreads have a sort of love/hate reaction to it; one of the things most often mentioned against it is the writing style. I decided I could preview that style by reading some of the author's shorter fiction.

The title story is the one I liked best. The language and style are poetic, and the story lends itself quite well in that direction. Bartleby, T
it's sort of like everything wonderful about Melville condensed. no, it's not as haunting as moby dick - how could it be - but in many ways it is sharper and wiser - definitely written by someone who is no longer motivated by the ambition for success, but is more pensive and honest about his situation, which frees him to write stories like 'bartleby' and 'Benito cereno,' which are beautifully composed but never didactic; in fact, they strike me, at least, as earnest inquiries rather than issues ...more
This book gets four stars overall, but only because of the great "Bartleby the Scrivener" and the very good "Benito Cereno", both of which I had already read. The rest of the stories are a mixed bag: the title story has an interesting premise but little payoff; "The Encantadas" is a weird mix of poetry, travelogue and fiction (I would have rather read an extended story just about Hunilla, the stranded widow of Norfolk Isle); "The Bell-Tower" is an intriguing mystery that Melville ruins by over-e ...more
bartleby..."i would prefer not to..." read this one, of the 6 tales w/i the piazza tales, in high school. could be i read them all, just don't recall, but bartleby made an impression. "i would prefer not to." HA HA HA HA! ginger nut, "he's a little luny.......all those dead letters...

began "the lightening-rod man" last night...and finished just now...yeah, "the lightening-rod man still dwells in the land."

onward and upward.

enchanted islands, whatever, starts out w/this spooky strange description
Depending on which biography you read, Melville was either so bitter over the failures of MOBY DICK and PIERRE that he started writing extended allegories on the lameness of the literary marketplace OR he was just plain old batshit bonkers. Either way, it's hard to read these stories without projecting the myth of the tormented Romantic artist onto them. That's too bad, because the biographical angle gets in the way of some truly fantastic writing. There is "Bartleby," of course, and "Benito Cer ...more
This works contains some of Melville’s best known shorter works, consisting of six short stories: “The Piazza,” “Bartleby,” “Benito Cereno,” “The Lightning-Rod Man,” “The Encantadas” and “The Bell-Tower,” and a brief biographical sketch that contributes to one’s reading of the texts. While the sea is the natural setting for many of Melville’s best known works, only two of these stories take place on the waters – “The Encantadas” and “Benito Cereno.” I often get the sense reading Melville that he ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
This is a collection of 6 shorter pieces, not a novel, published in 1856. As a whole I far prefer them to Moby Dick or Billy Budd. I don't care for "The Piazza" (although it does boast the rarity of a female character in Melville) or "The Encantadas or Enchanted Isles" (10 sketches about the Galapagos Islands that are far more "tell" than "show.") "The Lightening-Rod Man" about a pushy door-to-door salesman is mildly amusing and "The Bell-Tower" is a rather traditional story reminiscent of Poe o ...more
Ecantadas parodies Biblical cadence, travel articles, naturalistic reportage, Dante, and Spenser; in a mix that is comic and bizarre, Melville’s Inferno. Other highlights of this underrated collection are the dark Faustian bargain/Frankenstein/Tower of Babel styled, science and hubris, parable of the “Bell Tower”, grotesque comedy and allegory of the exploitation of fear for commerce in “Lightning Rod Man”, brutal farce of “Benito Cereno”, and that masterpiece of narrative genius and absurd comi ...more
Derek Davis
This collection of tales covers a remarkable range of storytelling styles and differing approaches to what a "short story"can be and do. Most remarkable is that, since the writer is Melville, it isn't remarkable at all. To my mind, he was and is, the greatest stylist in the English language.

The title story takes the narrator on a trek from his isolated Central American home to a still more isolated house seen in the distance were he meets – but the less said the better. It's a memorable, unlikel
Sep 22, 2014 Don rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: us
Authority and its influence in human relationships. Reread for Coursera class "Fiction of Relationships."
Scott Brennan
I went back to reread this collection, and it impressed me. It famously includes "Bartleby the Scrivener" and "Benito Cereno," but I really found myself captivated by "The Encantadas." There Melville tapped into the richly ambivalent symbolism that makes Moby-Dick so great, and he once again summoned the fine prose that seems rather uneven in his overall body of work. "The Encantadas" possesses what we now think of as postmodern qualities in that it blends and deconstructs genres while experimen ...more
Jim Bradford
Honestly and truly brilliant - and of course it is. It's Herman goddamned Melville.
Jim Leckband
Six pieces from Melville that aren't really related to each other - one meandering introduction from his "piazza", an existential pre-Kafka tale, a disturbing sea story, a traveling salesman spoof, a collection of vignettes from the Galapagos and a pre-Frankenstein monster story.

Everybody has read or heard of "Bartleby, The Scrivener", so I would prefer not to spend time on that. (What, do I hear some groaning in the audience? I would prefer not to notice.)

"Benito Cereno" was the real surprise.
Vera Maharani
...and with this ended my No-Fun Reading November.

Melville is truly a master in description. I think he loved that descriptive style so much, I feel like these short stories consisted of 85% description. He could describe sea and I would feel the seasickness. In fact, mostly I feel only seasickness. Considering currently I am far away from any large body of water, I would say that is something.

No doubt this is an artful collection of short story (I am particularly intrigued by 'Bartleby the Scri
Scott Middleton
This collection of Melville's short stories contains two of my all-time favorite stories/novellas, "Bartleby, the Scrivener" and "Benito Cereno," alongside four other, more forgettable sketches. "Bartleby" is an opaque, yet prescient tale of extreme office-space ennui that seems more Kafka than Moby Dick. "Benito" is a mysterious tale of revolt, slavery, and coercion on the high seas that raises intriguing moral questions.

The other fare in the collection is serviceable, but not anything that wil
Melville is always balancing on the knife point of delightful crazy and annoying crazy. Moby-Dick is the former, Pierre is the latter. This volume is similarly split, with Benito Cereno on the first side and the Encantadas on the other. In either case, however, there is no doubt that Melville's absurd genius is present.
Ryan Cutter
This is the first book I've read written by Malville. His style is beautiful, and so elegant that it flows easily. My favourite of these stories is the lightning rod man, I found it quite charming. Looking forward to reading more stories by this author.
I gave this book a 4 because of "Bartleby The Scrivner", which happens to be one of my favourite stories. If the story wasn't in the book I would have given it no stars. Many of the stories were disjointed and I found myself thinking about other things while reading.
All the stories were interesting except The Encantadas.
Ruthie Jones
Eerie and flush with color and texture. It is easy and dangerous to view the far away as magical and ideal. And isn't it odd and a bit humbling when you discover that the ones in that far away place think you are equally magical and ideal? Perception!

This story is ripe for interpretation!

"How to get to fairy-land, by what road, I did not know; nor could any one inform me; not even one Edmund Spenser, who had been there--so he wrote me--further than that to reach fairy-land, it must be voyaged to
I enjoyed Bartleby's story but the rest of the short stories in this book bored me to tears.
Starting with the Encantadas...It took me 2 days to get through the first sketch, only because of all the references. Had to look up quite a few things. But once you get through those and then re-read, wow. This text can be interpreted in so many ways. Very haunting. Possibly post-colonial, possible critique of Romanticism, possibly auto-bio... possibilities are endless. This a work to be re-read and contemplated.
An outstanding collection of short stories including "Bartleby the Scrivener" and "Benito Cereno". The former is a slyly funny investigation of motive and purpose in a complex society; the latter is a surprisingly taut, high-seas thriller that burns slow and ends with a bang.
Bartleby alone would make this collection worth while. I also really enjoyed The Encantadas. A far as Benito Cereno goes however, I would prefer not to.
"Bartleby" and "Benito Cereno" are '5-star' classics by the author of "Moby-Dick" and "Billy Budd." The rest of the stories are forgettable.
Jun 09, 2009 Emily marked it as to-read
i purchased this book in Spanish at the museum of Anthropology in San Salvador...

stories to read on the bus..
If only for Bartleby. The rest are varying degrees of radical too though.
I would prefer not to.
Ah, Bartleby! Ah, Humanity!
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Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. His first two books gained much attention, though they were not bestsellers, and his popularity declined precipitously only a few years later. By the time of his death he had been almost completely forgotten, but his longest novel, Moby-Dick — largely considered a failure during his lifetime, and most responsible for ...more
More about Herman Melville...
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale Bartleby, the Scrivener Billy Budd, Sailor Benito Cereno Moby Dick (Graphic Classics)

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“if some books are deemed most baneful and their sale forbid, how, then, with deadlier facts, not dreams of doting men? those whom books will hurt will not be proof against events. events, not books, should be forbid.” 3 likes
“When I removed into the country, it was to occupy an old-fashioned farm-house, which had no piazza - a deficiency the more regretted, because not only did I like piazzas, as somehow combining the coziness of in-doors with the freedom of out-doors, and it is so pleasant to inspect your thermometer there, but the country round about was such a picture, that in berry time no boy climbs hill or crosses vale without coming upon easels planted in every nook, and sunburnt painters painting there.” 2 likes
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