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Pierre: or, The Ambiguities
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Pierre: or, The Ambiguities

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  715 ratings  ·  64 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 January 1st 1996 by Penguin Classics (first published 1852)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,485)
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Kirk
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
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
David
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
Ashley
Jan 16, 2008 Ashley rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Charles Berman
"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
Kaya
Sep 14, 2009 Kaya rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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
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
Jesse
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
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
Sandi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ich Bin
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.
Anya
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
Cheryl
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
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.
Emily
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.
Gyoza
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
James Marceda
It's fine. Whatever. The ending made me laugh. Not in a good way. I don't think.
Kallie
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
Julia
OHMYGODIHATETHISBOOK
Jerry Landry
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
Charles
I don't know if I really get what is going on in this work. Maybe I lack the vocabulary for Melville's writing, perhaps. Or maybe it is an American Bildungsroman? The narrative starts with Pierre, the young man of the novel, coming of age and his shift from living in the country to living in the city. Besides my lack of complete understanding or capability of categorizing Pierre, the ending is a huge surprise, though, and there is no way you will be able to predict it, unless someone spoils it f ...more
Tim
You follow a masterpiece with ... this?

Herman Melville goes all landlubber on our asses with "Pierre," following "Moby-Dick" with a novel that, unbelievably, its author thought would sell well. "Pierre" is Melville's take on the gothic romances and domestic plots that dominated the bookshelves in the mid-1800s, and in his unsteady and often odd handling of the subject matter, he's alternately over-the-edge satirical in his imitation and earnestly all-in with the genre.

This first totally land-loc
...more
Gary Patella
2 and a half stars:

Melville decided to write a parody on the literature of his day. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work.

Pierre, the protagonist, makes very ludicrous decisions and arrives at extremely ridiculous conclusions. This makes any type of empathy for Pierre nearly impossible. I know that Melville may have been poking fun at the ridiculous scenarios of other melodramas, but goes WAY too far.

The dialogue is atrocious. The best way I know how to describe the dialogue is to use a compariso
...more
Lauren
Here's a list of things I didn't like about this book:

1. This book.

I think that about covers it.

If this was a satire of pastoral romance, then I think it was a satire that Melville also sort of believes in.

Also, I didn't buy the plausibility of the characters running off to the artists commune in the city. Or, shooting somebody in the street because they called you a liar in a letter. Or, the triple suicide.

This was all so Hamlet-inspired.

Melville should really stick to whales.
Alex
Melville is a genius. Pierre is not good. You can tell he has gotten lost in his own novel: the coherency just falls apart. It isn't quite clear what it wants to be, and the parody often comes dangerously close to Melville himself. The novel's disorganization really undermines its readability.
Mark Stephenson
For my money this is every bit as good as Moby Dick, especially once the protagonists arrive in New York City. There's action, some very clever humour, HM's trademark oracular and rhapsodic outbursts, and a touching tragic ending. It is true that Melville's female characters aren't as thoroughly portrayed as , say, Samuel Richardson's or Henry James' but I still cared about Mary Glendinning, Lucy Tartan, and Isabel the mystical guitarist and femme fatale. And with so much candid sharing of HM's ...more
Francesco D'Isa
Dopo essere stato infamato (dai contemporanei) per Moby Dick, Melville si prende ancora più libertà e scrive come gli pare. Se ne prende così tanta che neanche dopo cent’anni il suo Pierre viene apprezzato a sufficienza. Forse tra altri cento si capirà.
Trama: Per non dare un dispiacere alla madre, Pierre abbandona la donna che ama e sposa la sorella per finta. Il piano fallisce e muoiono tutti.
Reperibilità: Fuori collana, trovate al massimo un’edizione Einaudi del 1943.
Voto: 9 su 10. il 10 no pe
...more
Ivan
A schizophrenic tale, split enough to almost feel like two separate stories. The first half contains Pierre's misadventures, feeling like an American Hamlet, overthinking every detail and blind to the consequences. The second half details Pierre's attempt to provide for his dependents as a writer, and is much more morose, dark, and depressing, especially since Melville was in similarly dire straits at the time of the book's publication. Unfairly maligned almost since publication, Pierre is a wor ...more
Katie
Why is Pierre so ridiculously extreme at everything? And why does everyone celebrate him for it? Incest and madness indeed.
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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.” 1113 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.” 21 likes
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