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Herman Melville was an 18th century American novelist, poet, essayist and short story writer. He is best known for his works Moby Dick and Typee. During his lifetime he was considered a failure, but after his death his worth as a writer was recognized. Bartleby is a novella, which first appeared in Putnam's Magazine. The narrator is an elderly lawyer who helps his clients with mortgages, titles and bonds. The lawyer's office has two employees Nippers and Turkey. Turkey is a drunk and Nippers has indigestion. The office is able to function because Nippers indigestion is at a time when Turkey is sober and Turkey is hung over when Nippers is feeling better. Bartleby is hired in the hopes that his temperament will calm down the office. As the story progresses Melville brings a sense of the human condition as seen through the eyes of a lowly employee.

Published: HarperCollins on Apr 28, 2009
ISBN: 9780061920967
List price: $1.99
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I tried to write a review, but I'd prefer not to.read more
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Read this in a Lit class, loved it... still struggling with Moby Dick,of course, I'll finish it one of these days.read more
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This story was so much fun! I feel like there are a hundred valid readings of this economical little tale... I never thought I would feel sympathy for a "boss" character, until the narrator of this story. But Bartleby too, seems a kind of hero, as frustrating as he is -- a classic American slacker. Despite the occasionally satirical overtones, ultimately a very subtle rendering of the relations between working people, between men, between humans. Oh Bartleby, oh humanity!(I see below that there is a Deleuze article on this story, which I am now eager to read.)read more
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I tried to write a review, but I'd prefer not to.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Read this in a Lit class, loved it... still struggling with Moby Dick,of course, I'll finish it one of these days.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This story was so much fun! I feel like there are a hundred valid readings of this economical little tale... I never thought I would feel sympathy for a "boss" character, until the narrator of this story. But Bartleby too, seems a kind of hero, as frustrating as he is -- a classic American slacker. Despite the occasionally satirical overtones, ultimately a very subtle rendering of the relations between working people, between men, between humans. Oh Bartleby, oh humanity!(I see below that there is a Deleuze article on this story, which I am now eager to read.)
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A dark tale about a man who lives in a corner of an office and the story that ensues, definitely one of those stories that portray eccentrics and is therefore what I would regard as a parasitic story where the sad, lonely etc become fodder for the more prosperous novelist. That does not mean we should have a free for all in real life or novelistic life.
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Bartleby the Scrivener is a very odd tale. I do not know what to make of it, and at the time I write this, I feel confused and bewildered. A well-to-do property lawyer on Wall Street in the 1850s, the narrator hires Bartleby, a tall, gaunt, taciturn man, to be one of his scriveners, or copyists as we would now call them. Bartleby proves to be an excellent scrivener, but in character a very strange man. He refuses to do anything but copy, no other errands will he perform, and soon he stops even the copying. If there is a moral to this tale I do not know what it is. The narrator tries, through many means, and with varying motivations, to deal with Bartleby. The tale left me with a feeling that I had only half of the story, but I'm relatively sure that the narrator felt the same way. This book has been heralded variously as the beginning of modernism, as a work of existentialism, and as a forerunner of absurdism. Whatever it is, it was unsettling and I am glad to leave off the story of the strange Bartleby and his narrow, restricted life.
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Reason for Reading: I've decided to try Melville House's Novella book club for 6 months and plan to read the two selections, the month following their arrival. Hence this is my second January read.I was not actually looking forward to this. I once tried to read "Moby Dick" and failed miserably. I cannot recall if I've run across Melville in anthologies but if I have obviously it is not something that I've remembered. Melville's writing style is a touch difficult for me and I found this a bit difficult to get into with the first several pages long-winded. However, this changed quite rapidly and I became quite smitten with this story and must say it was not Bartleby I was most intrigued with but the narrator. Bartleby is a most curious fellow, one who starts work in his position as a copyist, but gentlemanly refuses to do any other work by politely saying "I prefer not to." to any such requests. Only speaking when spoken to, this solitary man seems to always be present at work and when not working diligently is seen standing staring into space or out the window at a view of a brick wall. His condition deteriorates until he eventually "prefers not to" work at all, leave the premises, or be let go from his position. He becomes a peculiar, perhaps mentally unbalanced, perhaps supernaturally guided (what does he live upon?) character.However, I found my interest laying mostly with the character of the narrator, a lawyer, the Master in Chancery for the state of New York. At first impressed with his new employee's fast and diligent output of quality work, he starts to notice the man's peculiarities. When Bartleby virtually refuses to engage in any other work than copying the lawyer is flummoxed, leaving him be and making up reasons for the man's behaviour. This is in character with the lawyer though as he has done the same with his two other employees, one who is disagreeable in the mornings, the other in the afternoons. The lawyer has learned to work around this and sympathize with the men by inventing character flaws and health reasons for their behaviour. Bartleby, however, becomes unfathomable and yet the lawyer continues to show him kindness and think the best of him. Things become intense though once the lawyer finds Bartleby in dishabille in his chambers early one morning, doors locked from the inside and the lawyer finds that he is allowing himself to walk around the block several times upon Bartleby's orders. From this point on Bartelby becomes the one with the power and the lawyer eventually must leave his own chambers and move elsewhere to be rid of the man; this then starts a downward spiral of events for Bartleby which he can no longer control nor the lawyer's aid be accepted.I found this story entirely intriguing and a curious look into the human condition. I honestly don't know what to make of it; what is the point or moral being made here. Even though I don't share this viewpoint, I do feel that many readers may find themselves siding with Bartelby and perhaps finding this a story of the downward drudgery of the clerical worker's monotonous plight. But I felt Bartelby went into this position with a chip on his shoulder and I see it more of a psychological tale of how the lawyer tries to help someone who obviously is in need of help both socially and mentally and yet there is only so much one can do to help another when they are unwilling to help themselves. Thought-provoking.
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