I Would Prefer Not To
by Herman Melville
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 26 Oct 2021 | Archive Date 28 Sep 2021
Pushkin Press, Pushkin Collection
Includes "Bartleby, the Scrivener", "Benito Cereno" and "The Lightning-Rod Man"
A lawyer hires a new copyist, only to be met with stubborn, confounding resistance. A nameless guide discovers hidden worlds of luxury and bleak exploitation. After boarding a beleaguered Spanish slave ship, an American trader's cheerful outlook is repeatedly shadowed by paralyzing unease.
In these stories of the surreal mundanity of office life and obscure tensions at sea, Melville's darkly modern sensibility plunges us into a world of irony and mystery, where nothing is as it first appears.
"Melville instinctively aspired to the grandest scale, and even in his shorter works offers vast inklings and the resonance of cosmic concerns." -- John Updike
"Melville seems to promise the very stuff of existence: time, space, air. We don't so much read him as inhale him." -- Geoffrey O'Brien, Village Voice
"There are very few stories that, on re-reading after re-reading, seem to become impossibly more perfect, but Herman Melville's eerie, aching story 'Bartleby, the Scrivener' is one such." -- Stuart Kelly, Guardian
Average rating from 11 members
Melville is a master. Moby-Dick is obviously one of the greatest novels ever written but Melville can definitely write a great short story. Most of these stories are fantastic and well worth reading for any Melville fan or fans of classic literature in general.
Until yesterday, I confess the only work of Melville's I had read was Moby Dick, and it is not a book I've ever been especially fond of. So, when I saw I Would Prefer Not To listed on NetGalley, I immediately requested a review copy, as I was keen to give Melville another try and see what some of his other writing was like. Overall, I would say that I prefer these shorter works of his to Moby Dick. "The Lightening-Rod Man" and "John Marr" I found so-so. However, "Benito Cereno" held my interest, as did "Bartleby, the Scrivener". The latter was my favourite piece in the collection, as Melville painted such a marvellous portrait of the enigmatic Bartleby that, as a reader, I could share in the narrator's confusion and consternation over his strange new employee. I would recommend this book to short story fans, readers of 19th-century fiction, and those who, like me, are intrigued to learn what kind of fiction Melville wrote other than Moby Dick.
"A new selection of Melville's darkest and most enthralling stories in a beautiful Pushkin Collection edition. Includes "Bartleby, the Scrivener", "Benito Cereno" and "The Lightning-Rod Man." A lawyer hires a new copyist, only to be met with stubborn, confounding resistance. A nameless guide discovers hidden worlds of luxury and bleak exploitation. After boarding a beleaguered Spanish slave ship, an American trader's cheerful outlook is repeatedly shadowed by paralyzing unease. In these stories of the surreal mundanity of office life and obscure tensions at sea, Melville's darkly modern sensibility plunges us into a world of irony and mystery, where nothing is as it first appears." If a title of a book could sell me on it, this would be that title.
This beautifully bound collection of short stories is a worthy bookshelf-addition for Melville fans. I had previously read his most well-known works (Moby Dick, The Confidence-Man, Billy Budd, Sailor, and Bartleby the Scrivener) so this was a refreshing insight (re-reading Bartleby was an added bonus). There’s a common thread of morality in much of his writing as well as more than one seafaring adventure. Aside from <i>Bartleby</i> I particularly enjoyed <Benito Cereno</i>. Thanks to NetGalley and Pushkin Press for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Pure joy! Oh, how I love Herman Melville's prose and insight into human nature...truly special. He had such a way with words, intelligence, wit and irony. Though his Moby Dick isn't a favourite book of mine, it would have been a shame to miss this new collection of four short stories. "Bartleby, the Scrivener" is superb, my idea of utter perfection, and my favourite in the book. It practically had me gnaw my tongue in frustration with the clerk and anticipation for the ending but also caused me to chuckle with enjoyment. "Benito Cereno" is also arresting. If the book title alone doesn't entice you, none will. Anyone seeking unique and brilliant writing ought to read this. I had forgotten how mindblowingly pristine Melville's writing is. The late 19th century is one of my favourite writing eras resplendent with masterful authors. My sincere thank you to Pushkin Press and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this extraordinary book, a real treat.
Melville is undoubtedly for me one of the best writers in early American literature and I have loved being able to read his other most famous short stories through this compilation! I would recommend this collection for anyone wanting to embark in his literature.
I’ve heard said that Herman Melville’s classic story Bartleby The Scrivener is the first true example of existentialism in American Literature. I leave it up to English Scholars to debate the issue, but for me first reading the story in college circa. around 1968 I viewed it as an episode of The Twilight Zone I was not familiar with. With the new release of four classic Melville stories, #IWouldPreferNotTo, which includes Bartleby The Scrivener, I had a golden opportunity to check my hypothesis. Bartleby, the 19th century law office scrivener whose only reply when asked to do anything is, I Would Prefer Not To, is perhaps one of the most alienated characters in American Fiction. But it is the possible explanation appearing at the end of the work which is why in my twisted mentality the story becomes Twilight Zoneish . Then add to that a last line that is as timely today as it was when it was written, a line I’ve taken to using more and more the older I get. On top of Bartleby, #I Would PreferNotTo contains the classic stories TheLightening-Rod Man, John Marr, and the novella Benito Cereno,which makes this a must have for your literature libraries. Don’t leave home without it !