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Pierre: or, the Ambiguities (The Kraken Edition)
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Pierre: or, the Ambiguities (The Kraken Edition)

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  807 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
HarperCollins is proud to present this controversial masterpiece of American literature, now restored to its original form and illuminated with 30 full-color pictures by Maurice Sendak.
Hardcover, The Kraken Edition, 449 pages
Published November 28th 1995 by Harper Collins (first published 1852)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,799)
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Jan 18, 2009 Kirk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I like to think of this as the Metal Machine Music of American literature. It's a crazy, baffling, totally alienating renunciation of readers of the 19th-century popular marketplace that mixes filial bile, Gothic satire, philosophical essay, and tantalizing hints of impropriety (threesome!) with some of the most gorgeous prose ever to not make a lick of sense. In other words, if you thought Moby-Dick was a digressive mindbender, this "kraken" as HM called it (the kraken being a sea beast even sc ...more
Mar 27, 2013 Carol rated it really liked it
Rating this book was frustrating. It’s one of those works which, when you try to view it coherently in your mind, assault you equally with its ridiculous shortcomings and its magnificent strengths until you’re robbed of your ability to appraise its value in a straightforward way.

Pierre is a romance set in the pastoral country—a marked departure from his previous novels, such as Typee and Omoo, which were all set at sea. Indeed, when he wrote Sophie Hawthorne in the midst of the project, he promi
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Jun 03, 2016 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis marked it as goldfinch-in-juice
Do beware this edition, this "Kraken" edition ; the one with the Sendak illustrations, ed'd by Parker, the same Parker who participated in the NN edition, Pierre, or The Ambiguities: Volume Seven, Scholarly Edition, which is probably the one to get. The "Kraken"/Sendak edition should be thought of as the Expurgated Edition ; not the 'restored' edition ;; unless of course there's some kind of documentation. It might just be Parker's fantasy. I don't know I'll have to look into it. But if you want ...more
Jan 16, 2008 Ashley rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who love language, people who like it when novels self-implode
there's no getting around it, melville's mastery of language is up there with shakespeare, faulkner, and woolf. it's the kind of language that draws so much attention to itself that, at times, you stop reading for the plot and start reading for the texture of the sentences themselves.

pierre is not so much a story, or a novel, as it is a wildly incoherent narrative progression that, at each stage, seems to turn a corner. the plot certainly turns corners that prove to be irrevocable, as character
Jun 25, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
Five stars for weirdness, audacity, and being about 110 years ahead of its time. Or more. It's also kind of all over the place, parodying a now-dead style, moving from frothy happy frolicsome outings to madness and murder and suicide. It's a wild and delightful ride, though.

The funny thing is that there have been quite a few attempts at a film version of Moby-Dick, and they tend to be pretty poor. So much of that novel is *not* the plot but the musings and ruminations and riffs, all of which are
Charles Berman
Feb 11, 2010 Charles Berman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Pierre" is a shocking, stunning book that, I think, deliberately gives readers what they do not want, and which they may not know they are glad to have gotten. It's a progression from a Utopian life to literally, death and damnation, the main character having ruined multiple lives in the process, all the while thinking he is doing the altruistic deed, and reaching an enlightenment of thought which only leads him to despicable acts. All the while it is delivered in intricate, beautiful, flawless ...more
Nov 23, 2015 William1 marked it as to-read
Shelves: fiction, 19-ce, us
It should be noted that this is the shorter version originally intended by Melville, and does not include several later chapters which were written by the author out of despair after his previous book, Moby-Dick, was called "blasphemous" by certain now forgotten critics.
Aug 26, 2013 sara rated it it was amazing
very dark, compelling and gritty. overlooked masterpiece. people need to talk about this more.
Sep 14, 2009 Kaya rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of Moby Dick, Dandy fops
Recommended to Kaya by: Moby Dick, but Seth found at library
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Venus Smurf
I gave this book five stars only because it brings back fond memories. The actual book is probably the worst thing ever penned, and intentionally so.

From what I understand, Melville wrote this as a response to bad reviews for one of his other works. He'd come to believe that the public would only love a novel if it contained scandalous themes and that none of his superior works would ever be bestsellers for this reason. The quality of the writing itself didn't make a difference, and so he chose
Nov 27, 2007 Jesse rated it really liked it
Shelves: us, him
I know that I'll sound like I'm swiping at a giant for the thrill of it, but when I read Pierre I thought that a lot of Melville's prose was just terrible. Reading Moby Dick a bit later on and becoming acquainted with Melville's sensibility in a more palatable setting helped me to better understand the encounter. At the time, though, Pierre was that rare book that enslaved me as a reader despite its prose.

What kept the pages turning was the sense that something was "off" about the whole project.
Derek Davis
Jan 25, 2009 Derek Davis rated it really liked it
It's a shame Melville was never able to get this all together. I'd give the first half about 10 stars if they were available, the second half (largely reconstructed in this edition from notes, partial attempts and mangles) about 2.
In the first half, Melville employed not only virtually every style ever previously attempted, but introduced stylings that didn't reappear for close to a century: Gertrude Stein as one example. Brilliant. The second half is an unrelieved mess.
Feb 04, 2016 Frederick rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, melville
[My review is of the standard edition of PIERRE. The Kraken Edition, to which Goodreads defaults, is wonderful, but the difference between it and the standard edition is very significant, inasmuch as the Kraken Edition dispenses with chapters Melville included, behind his publisher's back, after the book was accepted. The Kraken Edition is an improvement, and has Maurice Sendak's beautiful illustrations. I strongly recommend it. But my review is of the book as marred by Melville himself.]
I read
Bobby Williams
I can't rate Pierre. If I did I'd have to rate it twice. Once for the first time I read it: ZERO stars. And once for the second time I read it, 4.5 stars, a rating which Goodreads, oddly, does not allow. Is Pierre a satire? That's what you've got to ask yourself. I did three or four months on Melville at one point in grad school. Going into the class, I told myself, you're gonna take Pierre head-on. I'd had a dose of Pierre in some American lit class, also during grad school, so we're not talkin ...more
Jim Leckband
Doubtless, it was something that I had read, perhaps in a tome that undeservedly had washed ashore into a rag shop or in a circular that passed through my undeserved hands, as I say, it may have been something that I read that still occurs to my head even unto this day, this day of ambiguities, this day of uncertainties, this day of a certain je ne sais quoi aura, this day that I careened to the end of a "novel", that I vaguely remembered a choice morsel of an anecdote, or really, a warning even ...more
Dec 03, 2008 Lytle added it
In the country then Nature planted our Pierre; because Nature intended a rare and original development in Pierre. Never mind if hereby she proved ambiguous to him in the end; nevertheless, in the beginning she did bravely. She blew her wind-clarion from the blue hills, and Pierre neighed out lyrical thoughts as at the trumpet-blast a war-horse paws himself into a lyric of foam. She whispered through her deep groves at eve, and gentle whispers of humanness, and sweep whispers of love, ran through ...more
Aug 15, 2014 Sandi rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 04, 2016 Frederick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, melville
I read Pierre when I was nineteen. I believe that is the age Pierre is at the start of the book.
Literary titan though Melville was for writing MOBY-DICK and BILLY BUDD, he was prone to scuttling his own ship. After PIERRE was accepted by the publisher, Melville went to the printer and, without asking the publisher's permission, had the printer insert several chapters. This is proof Melville was willing to act against his own interest. The inserted chapters have nothing to do with the rest of the
Dec 06, 2015 Eric rated it liked it
It’s been awhile since I read Pierre, and what I remember of it are two things. There was the story, which I found dark, somber, and heartbreaking, and there was Melville’s prose which is even more extravagant and apostrophic than it is in Moby Dick. It should be noted that the extravagance and the apostrophes occur when Melville digresses, when he has an axe to grind, an opinion to perorate. And anyone who’s read Melville knows that digressions are major stylistic features of Melville. (Only La ...more
Ich Bin
Oct 13, 2014 Ich Bin rated it it was amazing
After I finished the last chapter, I went back and reread the last paragraph. Then ensuingly, I went back and reread the last three paragraphs; which was succeeded by me rereading the last chapter. I smoked a whole bowl of weed, and then proceeded to rereread the whole last chapter again. Next, I showered as well as reflected. Upon exiting the bathroom I smoked an iota, and once more concluded my reading of Pierre, or the ambiguities with one finally rererereading of the last chapter.
Aug 30, 2014 Anya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The only word I can think of for this book is 'ridiculous', but I don't mean that in a bad way (how ambiguous!). It is at once completely brilliant and also strangely unreadable. Melville is one of my favorite writers, an author who you can feel almost a spiritual kinship with, and the book gives him a soapbox to do plenty of juicy reflection. All of this is interspersed, however, with the weakest plot I've read by him to date. For someone capable of writing plots like 'Benito Cereno' and charac ...more
May 31, 2009 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
Did I really give this book a five star rating?!? It's hard to believe, but by the time I reached the end of this very strange book, I decided that I really liked it. Even though I made fun of the overwrought language and strange plot, I've come to the conclusion that it is a very good piece of literature. Don't let words like "odoriforous" or insane characters like Isabel discourage you--this actually is an excellent book.

Brian Clark
Jan 15, 2013 Brian Clark rated it it was amazing
Completely insane, profound and amazing. To simply call it a parody is a disservice to one of the wildest, funniest and most ahead-of-its time books I've ever read. Even if you hate it, it will stick with you.
Feb 22, 2008 Flora rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
This book is mad, mad, mad. There's nothing else quite like it. I need to read it again, I think, to absorb the full impact -- it's really out there -- but it was an exhilarating, if bumpy, ride.
Mar 15, 2009 Andrew rated it really liked it
Strange book. Melville must've been pretty fucking jaded by the time he got to writing it.
James Marceda
Jan 31, 2013 James Marceda rated it liked it
It's fine. Whatever. The ending made me laugh. Not in a good way. I don't think.
Dec 07, 2014 Kallie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pierre is a passionate, idealistic, sensitive young man who can't square his ideals with the world as it exists, or as he finds his own character as that grows in complexity and 'ambiguity.' Some call Melville's style heavy. For me, the book was dense with psychological detail, expanding a short period of time into a much longer feeling. I remember experiencing time that way when I was young. So much that was new and overwhelming happened, in and outside my head, that time passed much more slowl ...more
Aug 29, 2008 Julia rated it did not like it
Mar 19, 2016 Gyoza rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jerry Landry
May 19, 2014 Jerry Landry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks, 2013-reads
I was recommended Pierre by the biggest Melville fan I know. I read the Piazza Tales a while back on his recommendation and enjoyed it. Then, when he saw that I had completed Moby-Dick, he recommended Pierre, which was chronologically the next book that Melville wrote after M-D, as a good follow up. Read it I did, and I have to say that I’ve never seen a more meandering story that actually works and is intellectually stimulating as this one. After I finished reading it, I took a walk on a cloudy ...more
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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
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“A smile is the chosen vehicle of all ambiguities.” 1139 likes
“For in tremendous extremities human souls are like drowning men; well enough they know they are in peril; well enough they know the causes of that peril;--nevertheless, the sea is the sea, and these drowning men do drown.” 20 likes
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