Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street
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Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  17,258 ratings  ·  849 reviews
Herman Melville was an 18th century American novelist, poet, essayist and short story writer. He is best known for his works Moby Dick and Typee. During his lifetime he was considered a failure, but after his death his worth as a writer was recognized. Bartleby is a novella, which first appeared in Putnam's Magazine. The narrator is an elderly lawyer who helps his clients...more
ebook, 100 pages
Published April 28th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 1853)
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I would tell you what I think of this story, but I prefer not to.
Riku Sayuj

Ah, Bartleby. Ah, Humanity.

At first, as I tried to contain my surprise that Melville, who awed me in Moby Dick, was now writing with such humour and lightness, I felt that Bartleby was a Heroic figure, someone to be admired and emulated - and a welcome break from the complicated characters of the doomed ship.

On second thought, with a slight sinking feeling, I felt he might be a Romantic figure, someone to be eulogized and applauded.

Then, still upbeat about the simplicity of the novella, I was su...more
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a public seminar on Herman Melville’s short story, Bartleby, the Scrivener, given by Paul Auster and Nobel Laureate, JM Coetzee, hosted by the NYS Writer’s Institute. Because I am a huge nerd, I sat in the very front of the venue space (the first two rows of the theater were reserved for Writer’s Institute people), so I was in the third row. But Auster and Coetzee sat directly in front of me before the seminar started!! Swoon! I’ve never felt “st...more
Ben Winch
Wow, that was beautiful! How have I never read this before? It's as good as Kafka - as now as Kafka. This man, this Bartleby, is as basic a character as could realistically exist, yet as human. I defy you not to love him, though he barely does more than stand and stare and politely refuse to act. But I defy you not to empathise with the narrator too. This is about as pertinent as fiction gets. Bartleby is Oblomov, the Hunger Artist, Hamsun's stand-in in Hunger and Beckett's in everything from El...more
mai ahmd

أفضل أن أبقى ساكنا

هذا نوع من الأدب الذي أحبه العبثية تحديدا مع جرعة لذيذة من الدعابة لا أدري لم لم أسمع عن الكتاب قبل ذلك حقيقة لا أظن إنه يقل مستوى عن غريب كامو وهو
قريب من مسرح اللامعقول بشخصياته الغريبة الأطوار ..

من هو بارتلبي إنه نساخ ذا سلوك غريب ينضم لمكتب محاماة من أجل نسخ الوثائق القانونية .. الراوي هو رئيسه في العمل
يجلس بارتلبي في زاوية ويباشر النسخ لكنه يرفض
أن يؤدي أي عمل آخر وفي أول بادرة لتلقي الأوامر والإستجابة لها نجد بارتلبي صاحب الوجه الشاحب والمثير للقلق يقول : أُفضّل أل...more
Best ever review here (go on, it won't take long):

How on earth could this have been written thirty years before Kafka was even born? The adjective should be Melvillesque.

On careful examination, I found that mostly Bartleby says 'I would prefer not to', which, it seems to me, is a reaction to a specific situation. But then he begins to say (though not always) 'I prefer not to' which seems more like a fundamental attitude, a permanent stance. Which might be...more
Nov 06, 2010 Mariel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: fugitives
Recommended to Mariel by: my mom
We used Bartleby to get out of doing things our mom wanted us to do. "I'd rather not..." It worked. If we wanted money we'd channel Samuel L. Jackson in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever. "They say I got the job! I just need a hundred dollars." (If she was being tightfisted we'd throw in his "little gator dance" and sing "I like getting high uh huh!") Eventually she caught on and we'd reenact the scene from Reservoir Dogs when Mr. Pink knows he didn't do it, he knows Mr. White didn't do it, and he's "fuc...more
Glad to plug this tiny gaping hole in my reading dike. Two thirds of it I read aloud to the wife and cat as one drew and the other slept, the TV on mute showing NFL divisional playoff action. The convolutions of the syntax struck me while reading aloud, backflipping cartwheeling old-timey tuxedo inversions that usually but not always landed as though Herman had hammered down each sentence with a nail. Every utterance revolved becoming spirals of articulation commencing time again with Bartleby o...more
I would prefer not to write a review.


Bet On the World

The genius of Melville's tale "Bartleby, the Scrivener" rivals that of "Moby Dick", and despite the claim that with it Melville forecasts our (post)modern state sounding rather trite, it's very difficult to see it as doing anything but. Like the best of tales, the premise of "Bartleby, the Scrivener" is straightforward: having lost his job as "subordinate clerk" in the Dead Letter Office at Washington, Bartleby winds up working as a copyist at a law firm on Wall Street. A...more

I can see that figure now -- pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn! It was Bartleby.

One more on my reading list that comes from a Goodreads tip. Thanks again, folks! I've read it in an hour or so, but I believe it will stay with me for a lot longer.
I had to check twice the year this novella was first published : 1853!!! I couldn't wrap my mind around how modern and fresh and relevant the story of Bartleby, the human xerox machine, still is. Decades before Franz Kafka or Eugene...more
Preferiría leer este libro otra vez. Una y mil veces. Preferiría olvidar que lo he leído y que cada vez que me acerque a él sea la primera vez. Preferiría saberlo todo sobre Bartleby, pero también preferiría no saber nada.
¡Oh Bartleby! ¡Oh humanidad!
I can understand why the Occupy movement took to this book so well. The titular character after a while does nothing but occupy his chosen workplace, in a sort of calm refusal to acquiesce to anyone's demands that would be the envy of any peaceful protester. There is a certain elegance to Bartleby's constant response of 'I would prefer not to' to any demand made of him, especially when it not only makes those who talk to him respect his wishes, but even causes the word 'prefer' to crop up more i...more
Come farsi odiare dai recensionisti seri, ossia come fare recensioni facendo gossip sulle vecchie conoscenze.

Insomma il punto è questo.
Quando facevo l'Università, abitavo con una ragazzetta bionda e tonda. Quando arrivava a casa, aveva sempre il sorriso, ti aiutava in qualsiasi cosa tu stessi facendo.
Stavi lavando i piatti, ma avevi fretta perché dovevi andare a lezione?
Arrivava lei e ti diceva: "Lascia, faccio io". E li lavava al posto tuo.
Dovevi andare a fare la spesa, ma stavi litigando a...more
Travis Nagunst
Feb 29, 2008 Travis Nagunst rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: the enthusiast
Another of Melville's thought provoking short stories.

Liken it to a painting. A painting that begins as a portrait as you spot if from across the room. But as you approach, the face seems to lose focus, no longer a clean portrayal. It becomes less and less clear, more and more disconcerting, as you get closer and closer, until you are certain that what was obviously a portrait can be nothing more than an abstract exercise. Your too-close inspection will yield nothing but stubborn, withholding, p...more
Questo è un racconto perfetto, non si può far meglio di così. La tranquilla ostinazione di Bartleby non può non far pensare a un problema sociale: a me piace pensare la sua ribellione come una tragica ricerca di libertà e indipendenza. Per quanto questa interpretazione possa sembrare banale, quando leggo altre possibili spiegazioni basate sull'analisi della personalità di Bartleby sento che sarebbe ingiusto nei suoi confronti affermare che è lui ad avere dei problemi, e non le persone che lo cir...more
I picked this up after it was referenced in an episode of Archer (Skorpio, if you're curious) a method which has, in the past, introduced me to the wonders of PG Wodehouse- so I trust Adam Reed's taste.
I would prefer not to. Bartleby, the Scrivener? Anybody? Not a big Melville crowd here, huh? He’s not an easy read.

Not a big Melville crowd.

I've been on a bit of a plot-heavy reading kick of late and had forgotten just how much I love to read someone like Melville whose sequences of words unto themselves are small wonde...more
Emilian Kasemi
Bartleby is the Bachelor, about whom Kafka said, "He has only as much ground as his two feet take up, only as much of a hold as his two hands encompass" - someone who falls asleep in the winter snow to freeze to death like a child, someone who does nothing but takes walks, yet who could take them anywhere, without moving. Bartleby is the man without references , without possessions, without properties, without qualities, without particularities: he is too smooth for anyone to be able to hang any...more
Originalissimo racconto, ambientato nella New York del 1850. Traduzione accurata, una volta tanto; acconcia al linguaggio d'epoca. Eccellente apparato di note, recensioni, interpretazioni e commenti critici al testo. Un libretto di grande svago e lunghi pensieri. Arbitrariamente affianco a questa lettura un mio convincimento: un'effettiva e audace autonomia mentale è avvertita come minaccia in qualsiasi ...democrazia. Come minaccia, nel mondo moderno, a qualsiasi livello, viene sempre trattata....more
I was very moved by this story when I read it in college. This time, I was struck by how funny it is. I'm not sure which of the two me's is more in tune with what Melville had in mind.
Writing a review? I would prefer not to.
About time I read this timeless novella! My wife wrote her MA on Melville, I'm a fan of Melville House (and their brilliant Novella Series and their "I would prefer not to..." tote bags), and I'm getting into the meta-literature of Enrique Vila-Matas (and I want to read his Bartleby & Co.), so it's about damn time I read Melville's Bartleby! And I already want to read it again!

Reminiscent to me of the timeless quality of Gogol's Overcoat (poor Akaky Akakievich and his shitty name, I'm a Russ...more
So a couple of weeks ago I was reading an article by Garrison Keillor, in which he described what an optimistic people we are. His example was that every year the most-bought least-read book is the Bible, primarily because we all tell ourselves we're going to read it and then quickly give up. We want, once and for all, to figure out the will of God, but after a few chapters we realize that we pretty much know the will of God and we would just prefer not to. Which of course made me think of Bartl...more
Starts out funny, but ends up quite moving and deep. There's something compelling about Bartleby, his extreme composure, his unflinching yet mild refusal. There's something unnervingly inhuman about him, precisely because behind that veneer you know there is something essentially human, vulnerable, and very much like ourselves. But we are not privy to the inner life that lies behind the blank expression, and Melville wisely does not let us in on it. It's hard not to feel sorry for both the narra...more
It's about capitalism, with Bartleby functioning as a Jesus-like figure. The subtitle reads, “A Story of Wall-Street". Walls, of all kinds, are a reoccurring theme in this story.

Bartleby is humanity, itself: life, death, and singularity. His difference, or disability, his adamant presence exposes the lawyer for what he truly is and arguably transforms him. I read this because a book I'm currently reading (about autism) discussed it at length. I've also heard it referenced on numerous other occas...more
One of the great pieces of short fiction in America. Actually it sort of reminds me of my role in work. I usually comment that I rather not to that - and it is sort of understandable. I guess in Melville's case, one doesn't understand and what I found fascinating is not only the characteristics, but also the daily work day of the characters. It's an interesting documentation. The work force is live with various narratives. I personally could sit where I work and just document things and they wou...more
a review?
i prefer not to.

har har har de har!
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
A story which probably would not have been conceived had the photocopying machine been invented much earlier. The narrator is a lawyer with a law office in Wall Street. Law offices had always dealt with documents and legal documents had always needed duplicate copies. This story is set during the time when documents were still made, and recopied, by hand. And those who did these were called the scriveners.

Bartleby was one of the four scriveners who worked in the law office aforementioned. His st...more
Melville Books advertises Bartleby as the first Wall Street Occupier, and the book's flap says, "What if a young man caught up in the rat race of commerce finally just said, 'I would prefer not to'?"

I don't know that this book really fits that description. Yes, Bartleby refuses to work and later to even move, causing great bother for his employer and others in the building. But it doesn't seem to me that he's protesting. So what then?

1. Is it a parable of Modern Life or Capitalism crushing a so...more
Cristiane Serruya
Jun 29, 2013 Cristiane Serruya rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cristiane by: Brown university
First of all, I must say that I ignored that Bartleby was written by the great author of Mobi Dick, Herman Melville.
This is a short book, nonetheless SPECTACULAR, A MUST READ.
The story is recounted many years after Bartleby has died by the narrator, or may be by Melville himself.
Bartleby is admitted to be a copyist, a scrivener, in an office - peculiar by the way - where 3 employees are already working, which one has his strangeness - and the owner, who proclaims himself as a greedy man only in...more
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what does bartleby means to you? 8 98 Jan 04, 2014 06:58AM  
Essay Prompt 1 21 Oct 24, 2011 06:55PM  
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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
More about Herman Melville...
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale Billy Budd, Sailor (Enriched Classics) Benito Cereno Billy Budd and Other Stories Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life

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“I would prefer not to.” 174 likes
“Ah, happiness courts the light so we deem the world is gay. But misery hides aloof so we deem that misery there is none.” 23 likes
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