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Pierre: Or the Ambiguities
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Pierre: Or the Ambiguities

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  882 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
'Ambiguities indeed! One long brain-muddling, soul-bewildering ambiguity (to borrow Mr. Melville's style), like Melchisedeck, without beginning or end-a labyrinth without a clue - an Irish bog without so much as a Jack o'the'lantern to guide the wanderer's footsteps - the dream of a distempered stomach, disordered by a hasty supper on half-cooked pork chops." So judged the ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published May 30th 1996 by Penguin Classics (first published 1852)
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Kirk
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
Fernando
Mar 11, 2015 Fernando rated it liked it
Herman Melville es uno de mis escritores favoritos. “Moby Dick” es mi libro preferido y más allá de haber leído mucho y a muchos, ningún libro llega a superar el efecto de admiración que ese libro logró en mí y que sigue teniendo. El libro de la ballena blanca fue escrito en 1851 y “Pierre, o las ambigüedades” en 1852.
Cuesta creer que haya un cambio tan radical entre la prosa del primero y el estilo narrativo del segundo aunque tal vez, todo este devaneo de Pierre a lo largo de cuatrocientas pág
...more
Carol
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
...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Jun 03, 2016 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis marked it as goldfinch-in-juice  ·  review of another edition
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
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
You will hear all kinds of rumors about Melville's intentions regarding this novel. How he had some kind of original intention and then later, midstream changed it because of some kind of experience with his publisher and/or reviewers ;; leaving the front part (eight chapters) and the latter part only tenuously hinged. And that of course he himself perhaps came unhinged ;; and how therefore his protag became unhinged ((view spoiler)). But believe you me, Melvill ...more
Ashley
Jan 16, 2008 Ashley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
David
Jun 24, 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
...more
BAM The Bibliomaniac
This book reminds me of Of Human Bondage, except not as well written.
This was my introduction to Melville. I didn't think I could deal with the whale (that's what she said) so I attempted this. And I felt for the characters. Except Isabelle. She was a conniver. But I didnt appreciate the writing style. It bogged things down for me. I would have enjoyed the story so much more had it need plain speech.
William1
Mar 24, 2011 William1 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
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: or, The Whale, was called "blasphemous" by certain now-forgotten critics.
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
J.M. Hushour
Jul 27, 2016 J.M. Hushour rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
An unapproachable, horrendous, Ed Wood-esque disaster of a novel.
Let me start off by saying that many of the five-star reviews of this book seem to labor under the delusion that Melville wrote this "so bad it's good" on purpose, that, prompted by the bad reviews for his masterpiece "Moby-Dick" he decided to put a thumb in the eye of literary criticism by writing a crass exaggeration of popular romances of the time. There is nothing in the historical record that validates this. The extensive note
...more
sara
Aug 26, 2013 sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
very dark, compelling and gritty. overlooked masterpiece. people need to talk about this more.
Kaya
Jun 02, 2009 Kaya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Jim Leckband
Apr 19, 2012 Jim Leckband rated it it was ok
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
Jesse
Nov 27, 2007 Jesse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
...more
Derek Davis
Jan 25, 2009 Derek Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Julia
Aug 29, 2008 Julia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
OHMYGODIHATETHISBOOK
John Pistelli
What was left of Melville's early audience was killed off by the dreadful Pierre, a year after Moby-Dick, and despite various modern salvage attempts, Pierre certainly is unreadable, in the old-fashioned sense of that now critically abused word. You just cannot get through it, unless you badly want and need to do so.
—Harold Bloom, Introduction to Bloom's Modern Critical Views: Herman Melville

I read Bloom's quip about Pierre when I was a teenager and have been making a shortened version of it abo
...more
Frederick
Feb 03, 2016 Frederick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
Lytle
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
Cheryl
May 30, 2009 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

Ich Bin
Sep 10, 2014 Ich Bin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Brian Clark
Nov 30, 2012 Brian Clark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Flora
Feb 22, 2008 Flora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
James Marceda
It's fine. Whatever. The ending made me laugh. Not in a good way. I don't think.
Andrew
Mar 15, 2009 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strange book. Melville must've been pretty fucking jaded by the time he got to writing it.
Sandi
Aug 15, 2014 Sandi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Frederick
Feb 03, 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
...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.” 1157 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.” 27 likes
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