Book Heaven

Where the world of books and life intersect

Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Melville Channel

Until the Melville Channel launches (I do expect to see it in my lifetime) I will have to content myself with the already expanding universe of all things Melvillean. One of the reasons I can't retire is that the Newark Public Library has half a shelf full of inaccessible Melville stuff including one book I'm just dying to get to -- Melville's Reading by Merton M. Sealts, Jr. (University of South Carolina Press, 1988). This rather hard-to-find volume discusses books that Melville either owned (he was a real book fiend!) or had access to. Before I treat myself to that though I've got to get to Hershel Parker's two volume biography, surely the most definitive biography of any writer. A few books might possibly be longer, but at 940 pages for volume one, I wouldn't count on it. It's hard to imagine the kind of scholarship that went into creating this two volume biography.

In the preface to the first volume is this opening statement made by H.M. Tomlinson, in the London Athenaeum, 4 June 1921:

Now is the time to tackle that book about him. If this task is neglected a little longer, so that some priceless recollections of Melville, now available, are lost, and documents and other evidence of the man, which now exist, are buried still deeper beneath the litter of the years, then the book about him will be but tentative, and will leave the mystery darker than ever. And what a jolly task the writing of that biography would be! If only one lived near Nantucket.

One wonders what Tomlinson would think if he held Parker's work in his hands. Turning to any page in the book will fascinate you and I must admit that I cheated and skimmed some pages that mention Melville's acquisition of books. His life is even more interesting than his work and thanks to Parker no stone has been left unturned. Now if only I don't get sidetracked by some other book .......


Blogger Bill said...

But if you retired, wouldn't you have even more time to read all those great books about Melville?

4:48 AM  
Anonymous Hershel Parker said...

Please don't get sidetracked.

8:50 PM  

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