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

3.49  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,964 Ratings  ·  207 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 1853)
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Edward
Oct 13, 2015 Edward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Introduction

--Bartleby
--The Piazza
--The Encantadas
--The Bell-Tower
--Benito Cereno
--The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids
--Billy Budd, Sailor
Ben Winch
Herman Melville – of course, it’s understood – was a genius, but I find his work difficult and, more importantly, not always enlightening. His prose, to say the least, is mannered and contorted; reading it can oftentimes seem like negotiating a thornbush. But at its root (and this is what makes the going slow, since I can’t simply push through without its grasping me) it’s strong, wedded to meaning as to earth, deep-reaching. As a prose-writer, then, Melville is dazzling, always sure of what he ...more
Lobstergirl
Jun 29, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it liked it  ·  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
Jeremy
Jul 18, 2015 Jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review, literary
This review pertains only to ‘Billy Budd, Sailor’.

Passion, and passion at its profoundest, is not a thing demanding a palatial stage whereon to play its part.


I find it interesting that two writers like Melville and Whitman co-existed, and how they must have co-existed; and, while the latter won the war of style and almost single-handedly cut from the log of world literature a new and ever-lasting American brand of aesthetic energy and poetics, the former that failed, and remained poised always i
...more
Adrian Astur Alvarez
I would prefer not to say what I thought.
Jan-Maat
"Bartleby...just step round to the Post Office, won't you?"...
"I would prefer not to."
"You will not?"
"I prefer not."
Richard
Sep 23, 2011 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Aaron Arnold
Oct 15, 2015 Aaron Arnold rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2015
I'm glad that Moby Dick isn't the only good thing Melville ever wrote - after having finally actually read it, it was great to be reminded how satisfying it is when something that's been endlessly lauded manages to live up to that reputation. Melville's short stories don't have the iconic status that Moby Dick does, but no one capable of turning out that masterpiece could fail to show some signs of that talent for exploring human nature in his lesser works, and there's plenty for anyone who like ...more
Don Incognito
Oct 02, 2011 Don Incognito rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 22, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bill Leigh
Dec 21, 2015 Bill Leigh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant stories, fables almost. After reading 'Bartleby, the Scrivener' the expression "I would prefer not to" will never sound quite the same again. There is a mysterious sense of power and doom in Melville's writing quite unlike anything I've read before, except perhaps the Bible and Shakespeare. Reading Billy Budd is a almost a religious experience. Billy's cry of "God bless Captain Vere!" still resonates a sympathetic echo.
Lani
Jun 28, 2010 Lani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 12, 2014 Caracalla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 25, 2014 Julia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
(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
Alexis
Mar 07, 2015 Alexis rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-read
I think my issue with this book was a couple of things. I haven't read the Bible. I hate to say that because it makes me feel like an awful Catholic. I had trouble understanding most of the references to it. This made the book to me awfully dull and it lost the deep meaning of it to me. I had to spend a lot of time looking up definitions just to understand the book and even then I had issues. My English teacher also did a really crummy job going over the book with us and pointing out each of the ...more
Kristi
Oct 26, 2014 Kristi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Melville and I have a complicated relationship. He was undoubted brilliant and a great writer. His work is much deeper, and more complex and nuanced than it often appears on the surface of a first reading. The enjoyment of reading Melville is for me personally in the subsequent analysis of it. The reading of it, however, (for me) feels like slow and deliberate torture. I often beg and plead for him to get the point. Sometimes it seems he goes on and on saying the same thing, or mundane details t ...more
Dothan Houston County Library System
Sep 06, 2015 Dothan Houston County Library System added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dothan Houston County Library System by: JMM
Shelves: past-staff-picks
On Benito Cereno:
Hatred is an evil. But its horror is hidden because it expresses itself through social oppression, through long periods of time, through vast populations and groups. Melville’s “Benito Cereno” is a ghost story set in the hazy calm before the Civil War, and the specter that haunts the Union is hate. This is a story about a ghost ship, but the ghost moves among the living. Though alive, there is something dead in the crew, who walk among the slaves they are transporting like men s
...more
Sanjay Varma
Nov 05, 2015 Sanjay Varma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stories
I read the 3 novellas in this collection: "Benito Cereno", "Billy Budd", and "Bartleby". I heartily recommend all three. Melville is extremely gifted at foreshadowing, symbolism, and moral ambiguity. His characters are allegorical and fatally flawed like greek heroes, but with detailed psychologies like you would expect from a Dostoevsky novel. However, Melville is mediocre at depicting action sequences, and quite terrible at endings.

"Benito Cereno" is a novella about a ghost ship, in which the
...more
Kristopher
Jun 24, 2009 Kristopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jay
Oct 07, 2014 Jay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"that peculiar glance which evidences that the man from whom it comes has been some way tampered with and to the prejudice of him upon whom the glance lights"
John Lucy
Some really quality stories in here. Billy Budd and Bartleby both have the classic Melville dark view of humanity, in which the bright stars are often condemned by the sinful world we live in, where humans reach too high and often use one another in the process. The Lightning-Rod Man is a fascinating piece of work and very enjoyable, too.

It would seem to me that Melville was a better short-story or novella writer than a novel writer, at least from our contemporary perspective. As good as Moby Di
...more
Owen Spencer
Apr 25, 2015 Owen Spencer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having recently been richly rewarded by the brilliance of Moby Dick, I confidently dived into the beckoning literary depths of this compilation of Melville's short stories. Some of these tales are better than others, but all are worthwhile; and the best of them rank among the finest works of classic literature. Most notable are "Billy Budd, Sailor" and "The Piazza", the latter a stunning example of the potential beauty, power, and depth of the written word as art. Melville is for advanced reader ...more
Frank
May 25, 2015 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These short stories were written over a hundred years ago. So the writing style is very different from contemporary fiction. It's slower, for one thing. The presentation is a bit different; e.g. "While the acuter sense of his bereavement becomes mollified by time, the void at heart abides. Fain, if possible, would he fill that void by cultivating social relations yet nearer than before with a people whose lot he purposes sharing to the end -- relations superadded to that mere work-a-day bond ari ...more
Dave
Oct 13, 2013 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 07, 2013 Seth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 02, 2013 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
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Good and Evil in Billy Budd 2 3 Nov 02, 2015 12:18PM  
Is the character 'Billy Budd' a symbol for Melville himself? 2 25 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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“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
“For what can more partake of the mysterious than an antipathy spontaneous and profound such as is evoked in certain exceptional mortals by the mere aspect of some other mortal, however harmless he may be, if not called forth by this very harmlessness itself?” 1 likes
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