This review is an easy one, because I despised this book. I guess I shouldn’t say that. I just didn’t get it. It went over my head.
Bartleby the Scrivener
By Herman Melville
Now, I’ll admit that I read this book earlier in the challenge when I had gotten behind and it became attractive because the ebook was only 49 pages. Also, it’s somewhat of a classic from Moby Dick author Herman Mellville, so I felt like I was being an intellectual. (Ha!)
This is the story of Bartleby, a scrivener. (The fact that I didn’t know what a scrivener was – basically a clerk, scribe or notary – was another sign I should have passed on this book.) He gets a job working for a lawyer who comes to admire his hardworking nature. Bartleby did more work and appeared to have less flaws than the other scriveners. That is, until Bartleby is asked by his employer to do a task and responds, “I would prefer not.”
This happens repeatedly. The lawyer even tries to fire Bartleby, but Bartleby “prefers not” to leave.
I mean, there have been many a time that an editor has asked me to write a story that I wish I could have said, “I would prefer not.” But I found it difficult to relate to the book, or even be entertained by it.
Even though it was short, it was too long. Way too wordy for me. I wanted to beat my head against a wall. A co-worker, who majored in English and had to read it the book while in college, was surprised I made it through.
Interesting description from Goodreads:
Academics hail it as the beginning of modernism, but to readers around the world—even those daunted by Moby-Dick—Bartleby 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 commerce finally just said, “I would prefer not to”?
The tale is one of the final works of fiction published by Melville before, slipping into despair over the continuing critical dismissal of his work after Moby-Dick, he abandoned publishing fiction. The work is presented here exactly as it was originally published in Putnam’s magazine—to, sadly, critical disdain.
Sadly? No, understandably. I guess I just don’t have an appreciation for the classics.