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The Piazza Tales

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  460 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
In this new edition of The Piazza Tales, the editors of the acclaimed Northwestern-Newberry Edition of the Writings of Herman Melville have used the original magazine versions for five of the six stories in order to present the most accurate tests of these works. Here, in such famous stories as "Bartleby, the Scrivener" and "The Encantadas, or Enchanted Isles," we find Mel ...more
Paperback, 187 pages
Published November 18th 1996 by Northwestern University Press (first published 1856)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
A star and a half. My first acquaintance with Melville was a dramatised version of Bartleby the Scrivener shown on PBS back in the late 60s or early 70s. It was wonderfully well done and intrigued me.
Fast forward twenty-something years and I found myself forced (the operative word) to read Moby-Dick or, The Whale to help the students I tutor. I've so far read it twice, and it does not grow on me. Faugh. It was a huge FLOP when it came out, and if it hadn't been for Alexander Woolcott, it would h
...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I have been studiously avoiding Melville's Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, which is on the 1001 list. The members of the group reading that list here on Goodreads have a sort of love/hate reaction to it; one of the things most often mentioned against it is the writing style. I decided I could preview that style by reading some of the author's shorter fiction.

The title story is the one I liked best. The language and style are poetic, and the story lends itself quite well in that direction. Bartleby, T
...more
Adam
Mar 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ecantadas parodies Biblical cadence, travel articles, naturalistic reportage, Dante, and Spenser; in a mix that is comic and bizarre, Melville’s Inferno. Other highlights of this underrated collection are the dark Faustian bargain/Frankenstein/Tower of Babel styled, science and hubris, parable of the “Bell Tower”, grotesque comedy and allegory of the exploitation of fear for commerce in “Lightning Rod Man”, brutal farce of “Benito Cereno”, and that masterpiece of narrative genius and absurd comi ...more
Ben
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This works contains some of Melville’s best known shorter works, consisting of six short stories: “The Piazza,” “Bartleby,” “Benito Cereno,” “The Lightning-Rod Man,” “The Encantadas” and “The Bell-Tower,” and a brief biographical sketch that contributes to one’s reading of the texts. While the sea is the natural setting for many of Melville’s best known works, only two of these stories take place on the waters – “The Encantadas” and “Benito Cereno.” I often get the sense reading Melville that he ...more
wally
Oct 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: melville
bartleby..."i would prefer not to..." read this one, of the 6 tales w/i the piazza tales, in high school. could be i read them all, just don't recall, but bartleby made an impression. "i would prefer not to." HA HA HA HA! ginger nut, "he's a little luny.......all those dead letters...

began "the lightening-rod man" last night...and finished just now...yeah, "the lightening-rod man still dwells in the land."

onward and upward.

enchanted islands, whatever, starts out w/this spooky strange description
...more
Kirk
Feb 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Depending on which biography you read, Melville was either so bitter over the failures of MOBY DICK and PIERRE that he started writing extended allegories on the lameness of the literary marketplace OR he was just plain old batshit bonkers. Either way, it's hard to read these stories without projecting the myth of the tormented Romantic artist onto them. That's too bad, because the biographical angle gets in the way of some truly fantastic writing. There is "Bartleby," of course, and "Benito Cer ...more
Vera Maharani
...and with this ended my No-Fun Reading November.

Melville is truly a master in description. I think he loved that descriptive style so much, I feel like these short stories consisted of 85% description. He could describe sea and I would feel the seasickness. In fact, mostly I feel only seasickness. Considering currently I am far away from any large body of water, I would say that is something.

No doubt this is an artful collection of short story (I am particularly intrigued by 'Bartleby the Scri
...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
This is a collection of 6 shorter pieces, not a novel, published in 1856. As a whole I far prefer them to Moby Dick or Billy Budd. I don't care for "The Piazza" (although it does boast the rarity of a female character in Melville) or "The Encantadas or Enchanted Isles" (10 sketches about the Galapagos Islands that are far more "tell" than "show.") "The Lightening-Rod Man" about a pushy door-to-door salesman is mildly amusing and "The Bell-Tower" is a rather traditional story reminiscent of Poe o ...more
Peter
Aug 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book gets four stars overall, but only because of the great "Bartleby the Scrivener" and the very good "Benito Cereno", both of which I had already read. The rest of the stories are a mixed bag: the title story has an interesting premise but little payoff; "The Encantadas" is a weird mix of poetry, travelogue and fiction (I would have rather read an extended story just about Hunilla, the stranded widow of Norfolk Isle); "The Bell-Tower" is an intriguing mystery that Melville ruins by over-e ...more
Anya
Jun 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
it's sort of like everything wonderful about Melville condensed. no, it's not as haunting as moby dick - how could it be - but in many ways it is sharper and wiser - definitely written by someone who is no longer motivated by the ambition for success, but is more pensive and honest about his situation, which frees him to write stories like 'bartleby' and 'Benito cereno,' which are beautifully composed but never didactic; in fact, they strike me, at least, as earnest inquiries rather than issues ...more
Sheida
Sep 16, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed Bartleby's story but the rest of the short stories in this book bored me to tears.
Jim Bradford
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Honestly and truly brilliant - and of course it is. It's Herman goddamned Melville.
Theut
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Le Galápagos diventano, per l'autore, una sorta di paesaggio dell'anima, un luogo desolato in cui, ad esempio, le tartarughe giganti gli ricordano dei condannati a una lunga pena detentiva che soffrono interminabilmente. La scrittura di Melville è sempre un piacere da leggere ma qui ho trovato una cupezza che non mi aspettavo.
William
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I closed out the year with this collection of six stories, two of which I had read a while back (“Bartleby” and “Benito Cereno”) but was delighted to revisit. The stories range in theme and subject, from the haunting psychodrama of “Bartleby” to the allegorical travelogue of “The Encantadas.” We see Melville step out of comfortable sea territory in four of these tales, so right away it’s fun to anticipate a different side to this brilliant writer.

While well-received and widely read when the sto
...more
Derek Davis
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This collection of tales covers a remarkable range of storytelling styles and differing approaches to what a "short story"can be and do. Most remarkable is that, since the writer is Melville, it isn't remarkable at all. To my mind, he was and is, the greatest stylist in the English language.

The title story takes the narrator on a trek from his isolated Central American home to a still more isolated house seen in the distance were he meets – but the less said the better. It's a memorable, unlikel
...more
Neens Bea
Having already read Bartleby the Scrivener and Benito Cereno, I decided I might as well read the remaining four short stories of The Piazza Tales. With the exception of The Bell-Tower, I really needn't have bothered. The Piazza is so long-winded and written with such flourishing language (sentences longer than a page with roughly 50 commas in them) that it is difficult to separate the highfalutin prose from the story's substance. The Lightning-Rod Man doesn't seem to have much substance at all, ...more
Jim Leckband
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Six pieces from Melville that aren't really related to each other - one meandering introduction from his "piazza", an existential pre-Kafka tale, a disturbing sea story, a traveling salesman spoof, a collection of vignettes from the Galapagos and a pre-Frankenstein monster story.

Everybody has read or heard of "Bartleby, The Scrivener", so I would prefer not to spend time on that. (What, do I hear some groaning in the audience? I would prefer not to notice.)

"Benito Cereno" was the real surprise.
...more
David
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
Rating a collection like this can be strange. Let's go piece by piece:

-Benito Cereno and Bartleby I've reviewed elsewhere on Goodreads, and they're both brilliant. 5 stars for the book just based on these.
-The Piazza: Oddly angled weird tale. You can almost see some of the roots of Arthur Machen, maybe. Whatever the case, it works. 4 stars.
-The Lightning-Rod Man: I just love this story. Funny and strange, and with quite the sting in its tail. 5 stars.
-The Encantadas (Enchanted Isles): Mileage va
...more
Scott Middleton
This collection of Melville's short stories contains two of my all-time favorite stories/novellas, "Bartleby, the Scrivener" and "Benito Cereno," alongside four other, more forgettable sketches. "Bartleby" is an opaque, yet prescient tale of extreme office-space ennui that seems more Kafka than Moby Dick. "Benito" is a mysterious tale of revolt, slavery, and coercion on the high seas that raises intriguing moral questions.

The other fare in the collection is serviceable, but not anything that wil
...more
Scott Brennan
Jul 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I went back to reread this collection, and it impressed me. It famously includes "Bartleby the Scrivener" and "Benito Cereno," but I really found myself captivated by "The Encantadas." There Melville tapped into the richly ambivalent symbolism that makes Moby-Dick so great, and he once again summoned the fine prose that seems rather uneven in his overall body of work. "The Encantadas" possesses what we now think of as postmodern qualities in that it blends and deconstructs genres while experimen ...more
Ruthie Jones
Feb 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nook-book
Eerie and flush with color and texture. It is easy and dangerous to view the far away as magical and ideal. And isn't it odd and a bit humbling when you discover that the ones in that far away place think you are equally magical and ideal? Perception!

This story is ripe for interpretation!

"How to get to fairy-land, by what road, I did not know; nor could any one inform me; not even one Edmund Spenser, who had been there--so he wrote me--further than that to reach fairy-land, it must be voyaged to
...more
Tonia
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Starting with the Encantadas...It took me 2 days to get through the first sketch, only because of all the references. Had to look up quite a few things. But once you get through those and then re-read, wow. This text can be interpreted in so many ways. Very haunting. Possibly post-colonial, possible critique of Romanticism, possibly auto-bio... possibilities are endless. This a work to be re-read and contemplated.
Humphrey
Melville is always balancing on the knife point of delightful crazy and annoying crazy. Moby-Dick is the former, Pierre is the latter. This volume is similarly split, with Benito Cereno on the first side and the Encantadas on the other. In either case, however, there is no doubt that Melville's absurd genius is present.
Quirkyreader
Feb 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave this book a 4 because of "Bartleby The Scrivner", which happens to be one of my favourite stories. If the story wasn't in the book I would have given it no stars. Many of the stories were disjointed and I found myself thinking about other things while reading.
Brian
Aug 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An outstanding collection of short stories including "Bartleby the Scrivener" and "Benito Cereno". The former is a slyly funny investigation of motive and purpose in a complex society; the latter is a surprisingly taut, high-seas thriller that burns slow and ends with a bang.
Emily
May 26, 2009 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
i purchased this book in Spanish at the museum of Anthropology in San Salvador...

stories to read on the bus..
Thomas
Apr 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Bartleby" and "Benito Cereno" are '5-star' classics by the author of "Moby-Dick" and "Billy Budd." The rest of the stories are forgettable.
Nullaesomines
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bartleby alone would make this collection worth while. I also really enjoyed The Encantadas. A far as Benito Cereno goes however, I would prefer not to.
Lavanya Singh
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful.
Gregory
Jan 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah, Bartleby! Ah, Humanity!
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1624
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
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“if some books are deemed most baneful and their sale forbid, how, then, with deadlier facts, not dreams of doting men? those whom books will hurt will not be proof against events. events, not books, should be forbid.” 3 likes
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