James's Reviews > Billy Budd, Sailor

Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville
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Oct 11, 11

bookshelves: literature

Fantastic book. Melville is such a sophisticated writer/observer of the human condition. Nothing seems to escape his eye. In this short but extremely powerful tale, we see what happens when resentment and institutions come together as forces of fate to destroy the naive embodiment of innocence--Billy Budd. You also learn something about the psychology of living on a ship and what it was like during the height of the mutiny scares back at the turn of the 18th century in the English navy. You wouldn't think that someone could pack such a powerful punch in such a short space, but Melville, just as he does in Bartleby, comes through in a big, shattering way. With the vividness and the uncanny descriptiveness of his prose, he comes very close to the worlding power he created in Moby Dick, which is probably the greatest work in American literature. If you haven't read Melville before, start here, with this little gem. This is how novels should be written. Someone show me a modern work that has writing as powerful as Melville's. I would be eternally grateful!
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