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Bartleby the Scrivener

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  51,530 ratings  ·  3,864 reviews
Academics hail it as the beginning of modernism, but to readers around the world—even those daunted by Moby-DickBartleby the Scrivener is simply one of the most absorbing and moving novellas ever. Set in the mid-19th century on New York City's Wall Street, it was also, perhaps, Herman Melville's most prescient story: what if a young man caught up in the rat race of commer ...more
Paperback, 64 pages
Published May 1st 2004 by Melville House (first published December 1853)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  51,530 ratings  ·  3,864 reviews

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Aug 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: u-s-lit
I would tell you what I think of this story, but I prefer not to.
Bill Kerwin
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing

What a pleasure it is to return to a work of genius and find it inexhaustible! What a host of insights, what a web of subtleties, are contained within this short account of the breakdown of one man in a five man office!

I think of Melville the sailor, accustomed to wide sea vistas and many sea duties, recoiling at the confined, reduced lives of New York City office workers. I think of Melville the innovative writer, his popularity—and income—waning as his daring increased, contemplating the act o
Muhtasin Oyshik
Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville

I would prefer not to. In the story, a lawyer hired a clerk but he preferred not to do any work. Now the interesting part is how the lawyer would handle him. That's a magnificent story about sympathy and depression. The beauty of the book is the way it develops. From a rather jovial, common description of office life, the story suddenly takes a twist to a sad story. Brilliant concepts and insights still fitting for today. Sometimes a character out of a bo
Riku Sayuj
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: r-r-rs, spiritual

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
Ahmad Sharabiani
Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street, Herman Melville

Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street is a short story by the American writer Herman Melville, first serialized anonymously in two parts in the November and December 1853 issues of Putnam's Magazine, and reprinted with minor textual alterations in his The Piazza Tales in 1856.

In the story, a Wall Street lawyer hires a new clerk who, after an initial bout of hard work, refuses to make copy or do any other task required of
Ahmad Sharabiani
Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street, Herman Melville

Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street is a short story by the American writer Herman Melville, first serialized anonymously in two parts in the November and December 1853 issues of Putnam's Magazine, and reprinted with minor textual alterations in his The Piazza Tales in 1856.

In the story, The narrator, an elderly, unnamed Manhattan lawyer with a comfortable business, already employs two scriveners, Nippers and Turkey, to
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
This classic 1853 Herman Melville novella is absurd and bleak, darkly humorous and heart-wrenching at the same time. It's the first time I've read it since a college English course years ago, when I didn’t much care for it. I appreciated it much more this time around.

Bartleby is a scrivener - essentially, a human copy machine, back in the pre-Xerox days - working for a Manhattan-based lawyer who is the narrator of the tale. His co-workers: two other irritable scriveners of dubious temperament, a
"i perefer not to"

A very touching and sad story about passive resistance! That encourages me to think. How i would behave in the situation? Would I accept him like that or would I fire him? I really dont know?! oh book. "oh Bartleby, oh mankind."
Jun 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I could ask you to look beyond your desk if you are at work or peep down your balcony if you are at home and spot a Bartleby.
But I would prefer not to.
I could urge you to frame that calamitous Bartleby whose 'selective' inveterate muteness is either enhancing your tolerance reserves or sharpening your fighting skills.
But I would prefer not to.
I could exhort you to unsuccessfully debase this Bartleby’s assiduity in light of his proven peculiarity.
But I would prefer not to.
I coul
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Florencia by: Dolors
Shelves: favorites
...happiness courts the light, so we deem the world is gay; but misery hides aloof, so we deem that misery there is none. (15)

I see a blurred silhouette. A person is sitting at the table. He is writing. He is not looking up. Nobody could have ever seen his face. It's been hours and he doesn't get up. A man, a chair, a table and a million papers. The spitting image of desolation. Does he have any life outside that place? Probably not.
I hope he does.

I read about this particular theme concerning
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Tulsa Doom: Bartleby the Scrivener, contemplate this on the tree of woe.

Bartleby the Scrivener: I would prefer not to.

Monica Bellucci: Bartleby, come to me!

Bartleby the Scrivener: Um ...

Melville as a pre-existentialist, good read, and funny, also a precursor to absurdist theater, it reads like a long joke, I was left waiting for the punch line

Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!”

Reading the closing lines of this novella, one part of my self immediately exclaims:

“That was unexpected, brilliant, absolutely perfect, let’s write a review!”

Another part of me, confused, stubborn, rebellious, rejoins:

“I prefer not to!”

My social self, eager to share my reading experience, and to act according to the established patterns and traditions I have set up for my literary projects, cannot understand that attitude, as it doesn’t make any sense.

“But WHY?
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
My favorite short story of all time! "I prefer not to" is the best answer ever. ...more
Lynne King
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing story about a scrivener! I haven't read such an excellent novella as this in a long time.

Set in the 1850's and narrated by a lawyer in New York, this tale breathes and glows like a star and yet death is lurking in the background throughout. The lawyer has known many scriveners but not one such as this particular individual who continues to fascinate him so much. Nuances about the bible with Adam and Eve, etc. give such a sense of place and spirit to this work that I can only desc
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013

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
In 19th century New York, a lawyer who already has two temperamental employees decided to hire Bartleby as a copyist in his small office. At first, very active in his work, Bartleby refused one day to collate his writings until he did nothing more with his days.
Bartleby the Scrivener is the story of a man who decides to stop. Stop copying, stop talking, stop living. But he decides to stop with infinite politeness: "I would prefer not to." This politeness is disarming, as much for the reader as B
Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sidharth Vardhan
"He was more a man of preferences than assumptions."

You know I often buy food from a local dhabha ( North Indian native restaurants). The waiters and cooks there work 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week before going to bed in a room within restaurants.Their whole life involves for months involves waking up at 6, cleaning the place, cooking, serving all day. Their social life for months is limited to the fellow workers. Many of them start working when they aren't even in teens. Literally no
Book Review
I remember disliking it because it was all about this guy that slept in an office and his boss came in and he never did any work or something. These are just my first thoughts about the story. Time to read it again. Yes, I did read this. But this time, I think I got more out of it. It’s about choices and what someone will do and won’t do. It’s also about the walls of Wall Street. Basically it’s all about being an individual versus being part of a society. It was suggested
Paul Secor
I read Bartleby years ago. I read it again recently. I still don't know what to make of it in a logical sense, but it speaks very deeply to something inside of me. What that something is, I may never know, but I do know that the book will stay with me for as long as I'm around.

Is there a Bartleby somewhere in each of us?
Remarkable. One of the richest short stories I've ever read. It felt more like a novel in its scope and import: the shortest Great American Novel.

Unlike - apparently - most Americans, I wasn't familiar with the storyline before I read Peter Coviello's up-to-the-minute and distinctly anti-capitalist introduction in the Penguin collection Billy Budd, Bartleby and Other Stories. But Bartleby was a name that, over the last few years, I'd become used to seeing referenced in online reviews, articles,
Ben Winch
Sep 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american, anglo, 5-stars
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
Aug 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing


To ask you for your preferences, I prefer not.

Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Classic story on an employee named Bartleby who prefers no to do some assignments. We get no information on his background or family status. He is pale, faceless, invisible, antisocial and worn out. A modern worker spending his days in the job machinery of the big city. His boss shows a mild side to his mannerisms. But how does the story end? Doesn't it end like the life of most of us? A modern classic. I can but highly recommend this strange piece of fiction to everyone. Great parable with lots ...more
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Agnieszka by: Florencia

Bartleby. Bartleby the scrivener. Poor, inconspicuous man. Came from nowhere and disappeared in nothingness leaving us with his canonical already phrase I would prefer not to .

Deceptively little reading. But don’t be deceived by appearances. It starts in truly Dickensian style. The old office where one could easily imagine the lawyers in famous Jardynce & Jardynce case and the copyists are more caricatures than real people. But Bartleby ? At first is working as mad by days and nights, diligent
Dec 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I would prefer not to write a review.
Lee Klein
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ah Bartleby!

This is one of the best short stories I have ever read. Truly deep, dark and amusing. Melville's prose is truly captivating.

I would prefer not to write a complete review.

5 stars on 5!

Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the ones who fight back
Recommended to Dolors by: the voices
Shelves: read-in-2013
To a sensitive being, pity is not seldom pain. And when at last it is perceived that such pity cannot lead to effectual succor, common sense bids the soul be rid of it. Bartleby, the Scrivener

Life glues us together in ways we can’t anticipate, obliging us to broaden our individual frames of reference in order to imagine the other, overcoming our self-centered blindness.
That inevitable interconnectedness is most plausible in Melville’s most enduring and intriguing short novellas Bartleby, the S
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
This novella seems to anticipate both Kafka and reflect Dostoevsky. I would say more but I prefer not to.
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Challenge Corner: Bartleby and Benito Cereno, by Herman Melville - Starting November 1st 2018 12 7 Nov 07, 2018 06:30PM  
Essay Prompt 2 51 Mar 30, 2015 02:47PM  
what does bartleby means to you? 11 229 Dec 02, 2014 01:16PM  

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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 d

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