Billy Budd, Sailor, and Other Stories Billy Budd, Sailor, and Other Stories Billy Budd, Sailor, and Other Stories
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Billy Budd, Sailor, and Other Stories Billy Budd, Sailor, and Other Stories Billy Budd, Sailor, and Other Stories

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  3,183 ratings  ·  169 reviews
If Melville had never written Moby Dick, his place in world literature would be assured by his short tales. "Billy Budd, Sailor," his last work, is the masterpiece in which hedelivers the final summation in his "quarrel with God." It is a brilliant study of the tragic clash between social authority and individual freedom, human justice and abstract good. Melville alsoexplo...more
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Published August 29th 2006 by Bantam Classics (first published 1924)
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Lobstergirl
Jun 29, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Thad Cochran
Shelves: own, fiction

Unbelievably, Melville had a hard time making a living from his writing.

[That was sarcasm.]

His style is overly archaic. I read a fair amount of classic literature, but this is just ridiculous. In the mid to late 19th century, were people still saying "Hark!"? And "Blah, blah, blah, thought I"? Really? You can't convince me.

1. From that tree-top, what birded chimes of silver throats had rung.

2. Dire sight it is to see some silken beast long dally with a golden lizard ere she devour.

3. Himself b...more
Richard
Otherwise known as "Billy Budd, Sailor", this, along with the other book, about the white whale, never brought fame to Herman Melville during his lifetime. In fact, "Billy Budd", a novella, started in 1886, was left unfinished at Melville's death in 1801, and was not published until 1924. Like "Moby-Dick", it contains elements from Melville's personal experiences aboard sailing ships in the Nineteenth Century, and plumbs the dark depths of human emotion.

Billy is a strong, capable, cheerful and c...more
Jim Coughenour
I first read Billy Budd in grad school and recall myself being irritated by its stupidity. This time through – well, I can't say I enjoyed it, but I was impressed by Melville's deliberately structured, elevated, almost archaic style. On one level the tale is simply told, with the stark clarity of a myth – or so it appears. In fact the telling is riven, ragged. There are echoes of Greek myths, the Old Testament, the Gospels; of tales of the sea; of legal explication; and of course the mysterious...more
Jan-Maat
"Bartleby...just step round to the Post Office, won't you?"...
"I would prefer not to."
"You will not?"
"I prefer not."
Adrian Alvarez
I would prefer not to say what I thought.
Don Incognito
This is a review only of Billy Budd, not this entire collection of stories.

I just read Billy Budd for the first time since college. Budd, the protagonist of this novella, is a symbol of innocence, and makes a better symbol than a character. His retains his innocence and simplicity (he is also illiterate and uneducated) throughout the story, and that naturally makes him lack any complexity. Assuming we're meant to take Budd's innocence completely seriously, as a Christian reader I find Budd a chi...more
Michael
Standing on equal footing with Moby Dick, Herman Melville’s Billy Bud, Sailor resurrects ancient questions about good and evil, innocence and violence, and explores the interplay between these most basic and fundamental of conflicts and the paradox of moral justice. Eponymous Billy Bud, the Handsome Sailor, is Melville’s Adam, and his shocking fall from grace challenges a captain and crew who only love him, but who are for better or worse bound to the sanctity of order. Establishing his belief i...more
matt

"Billy Budd", as far as I'm concerned, was an airball. A good attempt but it just came up short. The language fairly throttles the story, which is insightful and compelling.

"Bartleby" is a masterpiece. So applicable to today's culture- passivity, negative capability, the ravaging effects of routine, capitalism, The Law, resignation, nothingness. "I would prefer not to".....Brilliant!

"Benito Cereno" is an excellent moral parable about racism, which again I felt was slightly ruined by the volumin...more
Lani
Melville writes beautifully. His descriptions at times are near poetic yet concise. I thoroughly enjoyed every story included in this book; however, I didn't like the format of a bunch of random tales told in regards to the volcanic isles in the short, "The Encantadas", and this one was also a bit too eerie for me. But as it was intended to be on the creepy side, Melville delivered. "The Bell Tower" could have been a bit better developed, in my opinion, but if it had had more length, the maybe i...more
Caracalla
I really enjoyed Moby Dick about five years ago and don't know why I haven't read anything by him since (despite buying a rather fetching bound copy of Pierre). I took a little time out of reading other things to read his classic short stories, Bartleby, Billy Budd and Benito Cereno. They're all spectacularly strong. Comparing Melville's meticulous interest in character and personality to a sort of contemporary, George Eliot, I like how morality is much more tentative and mysterious in Melville...more
Julia
(for reference: my old used-bookstore copy is ~280 pages & contains "billy budd, sailor," "the piazza," "bartleby the scrivener," "benito cereno," "the encantadas," and "the bell-tower.")

so, to rid any suspense built up from my two frantic updates—i guess i didn't quite "finish" this, alas, as after reading three of the ten sketches that form the encantadas, i gave up and went to the bell-tower. but i think reading five and three-tenths out of six stories is, er, not terrible. goddamnit, me...more
Kristopher
These stories are dense, yes, but reward upon further readings. Particularly, the title story will give you quite a bit to think about if you allow it. When you read these, think of the nature of evil, the nature of ambiguity, the nature of interpretation. And plan a rereading.
Dave
Herman Melville may be one of only a handful of writers with enough talent to make 44 pages about a copyist who refuses to do his job a compelling story. Bartleby the Scrivener is Kafka before Kafka existed and it is very much worth the read.

Benito Cereno is a 5-star novella, with one sea captain analyzing every piece of information to determine what has transpired to make the Spanish captain and attendant in his presence act in such a strange manner. This piece has been wildly misinterpreted t...more
James
NOTE: The beautifully illustrated New American Library edition I own contains the Freeman version of Billy Budd, the full Piazza Tales, and the Town-Ho chapter of Moby-Dick. This rating/review is only for The Piazza Tales, as I just picked up a fine critical edition of the Hayford/Sealts Budd, on which my eventual review of that will be based.

Aside from "Bartleby the Scrivener" and "Benito Cereno", the two longer pieces that would rightfully go on to universal acclaim as examples of Melville at...more
Seth
I suggested Billy Budd for my fiction book club in part because it had once been assigned to the entire brigade of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy. This made me curious. I can now appreciate why it was selected. Not only does the novella tell an intriguing story with profound moral implications, but it does so in a naval setting. Specifically, the story takes place aboard a British man-o'-war in the mid-19th century. The tale is infused with naval lore and personal conflict. At a deeper level, M...more
Frankie
Having never read Melville beyond Moby Dick and Billy Budd, and with a mild distaste for "seafaring tales," I was pleasantly surprised to read several quite good, non-seafaring stories in this collection.

Bad news first. Billy Budd to me has, and always will, represent that stark allegory of fable or parable, without the blessed brevity of a fable or parable. I don't enjoy reading constant reminders that Billy's character represents pre-fall Adam. Without the agony of the details, this story boi...more
Chris
The two stories that I remembered most vividly from reading this book before were Billy Budd and Bartleby. I'm fairly sure I also read Billy Budd in high school, because I remember being informed that Billy's transfer from The Rights of Man to the Bellipotent was symbolic. Given that the symbolism of the names of each ship is explicitly mentioned in the text, this was perhaps not the stunning interpretive leap it might at first appear.

That's a long way of saying that this time around I found tha
...more
Everyday eBook
Sep 18, 2012 Everyday eBook rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Everyday by: Joey McGarvey
Perhaps in high school, or in college, you were assigned Herman Melville’s masterpiece Moby-Dick. Maybe it resonated with you — you loved its humor, its digressions, or its forays into the darker side of human nature — or maybe it didn’t. It’s a tough book. And frankly, though I love Moby-Dick, I’ve never thought it made sense as an introduction to Melville’s oeuvre.

If your first Melville encounter was disastrous, it’s probably best to save his later novels, like The Confidence-Man or Pierre, fo...more
Alec Sieber
The only real character in a Melville story is Melville himself. No other character's voice is heard, even when Melville writes dialogue. Even when Melville's authoritative narrators quote excerpts from newspaper clippings, romantic poetry, court records, etc (here Melville reveals himself as an 1850s postmodern), these disparate texts are molded into Melville's cadence and diction.

It is quite fortunate, then, that Melville, or at least Melville's narrator (one could argue the narrator never cha...more
Tim Paul
A good friend introduced me to an alternative reading of this novel, in which the narrator is obsessed with upholding the heroic myth of Billy Budd. Every incident is spun out by the narrator to show Billy in the most positive light possible, and Claggart as his evil opposite. If you look closely at the text for the 'facts' of the story though there's not a shred of evidence to support this romantic view of Billy.[return][return]In fact, reading between the lines, it's possible to read Claggart...more
Julie
Melville's type of writing seems better suited for long novels, not short stories, but I enjoyed this short story collection.
Billy Budd, Sailor - most like Moby Dick not just because it takes place at sea, but also because the chapters are short and he has a tendency to go off on tangents. Appreciated this book and the moral dilemma it raised in society's rules versus morals.
The Piazza - Just a meh short story
Bartleby - Melville's humor shines in this one - I love his description of the two ma...more
Benjamin
Like any collection of short stories, there are good and not-as-good pieces here. Melville's writing is fairly impeccable, excruciatingly precise—sometimes it borders on fanatical—but perfect style does not always lead to a great story.

I know that some of the short stories found in this book are considered classics of the form, but oddly enough, the ones called "classics" were not impressive to me. Both "Bartleby" and "Benito Cereno" left me with a shrug, "Bartleby" especially because it lacked...more
Willie
Nov 11, 2007 Willie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone up for a challenge, who won't be turned off out of hand by the archaic naval setting.
I'm embarrassed to say so, but I only understand about half of what's going on, the language and frames of reference are so archaic. But I'm slowly learning how to read anew, and it is surprisingly rewarding. Melville himself wants to speak up here in confirmation (just sub 'Melville' for 'Captain Vere' in the following): "Some apparent ground there was for this sort of confidential criticism; since not only did the captain's discourse never fall into the jocosely familiar, but in illustrating o...more
Jee Koh
This Signet Classics edition collects together "Billy Budd," "The Piazza Tales," and "The Town Ho's Story" from Moby Dick. "Billy Budd" is based on the Harvard edition. There is a helpful "Afterword" by Willard Thorpe that explains Melville's turn to writing short stories for the magazines, after the commercial and critical failures of Moby Dick and Pierre. The "Afterword" (1961) also points to the critical controversies over the meanings of the more ambiguous stories, such as "Billy Budd" and "...more
Jim Gold
Benito Cereno and Bartleby (also included in the edition I read) are very interesting stories, as well as Billy Budd. Was this Melville's B period? With Melville, there are a lot of classical literary and historical references I don't get, but there's so much there, you can afford to miss some stuff.
Melville is great at describing unusual, unexpected social behavior.
Stanley Nam
Herman Melville always surprises me. His insight into good and evil, law and justice, and the human conditions are all melted into this collection of his short stories. Especially, with a good introduction like the one by Frederick Busch (which was one of the main reasons why I chose to read this edition), it will be a good revisit to the die-hard classic. :)
Ronald Wise
My first Melville, I believe. The wordiness of his sentences — once you take the time to think them over — either communicate a complex set of details in wonderful exactitude, or leave you wondering why he used so many words to say that. The story "Billy Budd" made me think a lot about that type of man that one encounters infrequently who attracts the admiration of all — and where that attraction involves a physical allure to an unknown degree. I suspected some homosexual nuances to this story,...more
Anne Nikoline
Nov 13, 2012 Anne Nikoline rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: renaissance enthusiasts
Recommended to Anne Nikoline by: lecturer
I simply love it when university lecturers make the students buy (expensive) books only to read fifty pages or less of the entire book. Anyway, Billy Budd by Herman Melville was the only book in Billy Budd and Other Stories I was to read for my university course in american renaissance because our lecturer thought Moby Dick would be too big a deal for the course to handle. Perhaps he was right about that...

Billy Budd by Herman Melville is a story about justice through authorities, in this case t...more
Katie
I hated Moby Dick in high school and decided to give Melville another try now that I'm older and (presumably) a bit wiser. Well... at least now I know I wasn't wrong in high school. Melville's prose is like Paul's - unnecessarily complicated, full of asides and double negatives. I wasn't able to get past the difficult style to understand or appreciate the substance of what Melville was trying to say.
Amelia
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Is the character 'Billy Budd' a symbol for Melville himself? 2 23 Feb 02, 2014 05:16PM  
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1624
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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Moby-Dick; or, The Whale Bartleby, the Scrivener Billy Budd, Sailor Benito Cereno Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life

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“Passion, and passion in its profoundest, is not a thing demanding a palatial stage whereon to play its part. Down among the groundlings, among the beggars and rakers of the garbage, profound passion is enacted. And the circumstances that provoke it, however trivial or mean, are no measure of its power. In the present instance the stage is a scrubbed gun deck, and one of the external provocations a man-of-war's-man's spilled soup.” 3 likes
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