Ann's Reviews > The Confidence-Man

The Confidence-Man by Herman Melville
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's review
Jan 19, 2010

liked it
Read in December, 2009

It took me three solid months to read this book. It was worth it but only if you like footnotes and obfuscation and constant references to um, everything. Which I do-ish. I especially enjoyed the 2 chapters parodying Emerson and Thoreau respectively. There's the chaper all about all sorts of boys which adds creedence to the "Melville's gay" theory. I liked the random chapters every once in awhile where Melville talks directly to the reader convincing us (or himself) that though characters in novels are drawn from real life, we should really give them a pass if they are unrealistic because if they were true to life entirely Melville says they would be boring.

I remember the reason why I read any Melville in the first place, being in one of those super hip fancy cocktail bars saying that if I'd write a novel, it would be about whaling in the mid nineteenth century and Dylan politely informing that Moby Dick had been already written and then being supremely freaked out by a portrait of Melville on the wall above our heads that we'd maybe only noticed subconsciously until that point. Anyway, he does have a strange familiarity in his first person narrative style that makes him seem oddly contemporary and relatable, as he's talking about the doldrums of everyday existence, and then throws in a reference to having to go to the "customs-house" which throws you into his time. But you could just mentally substitute it with the DMV. The more things change...

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