Jason's Reviews > Melville: His World and Work

Melville by Andrew Delbanco
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's review
Oct 16, 08

bookshelves: biography
Read in October, 2008

Delbanco's working thesis is spot on: Melville is a writer who covers so much ground that he can speak to everyone. Melville expresses so much ambivalence about God, human nature, politics, in short, ambivalence about everything, that he can strike a profound chord with any reader. Delbanco does an excellent job capturing the ambiguity and exploring the questions that Melville asks but rarely answers. Delbanco also really brings his subject to life, capturing a man who is the product of his own time who speaks to ours.

My one complaint is that Delbanco spends an inordinate amount of time on the prurient side of Melville's life and works. I haven't read some of his bawdier tales, so perhaps the focus was in part justified. But Delbanco seemed to dedicate half of his Moby Dick analysis to sexual readings. I know it's all in there, but there's so much more there, and, in my mind, much more worthwhile material to dig up. But I suppose that's what we have to put up with in a post-Freud society (the dirt bag!).

Still a good read overall.
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