Review by Choice Review
Quality control is the chief problem with this collection of new essays on Melville. Seven of the 13 authors convey their views with commendable tact and reasonably plausible evidence: essays that do not convince readers fully at least force them to reconsider and perhaps modify their own views. The best pieces are Andrew Delbanco's afterword, Robert Milder's attempt to locate a dominant purpose running through Melville's works, and the essays on Moby-Dick, Pierre, Melville's poetry, sexuality in Melville's works, and Melville's "engagement" with British culture. To varying degrees, the other pieces assume moot premises without establishing reasons for accepting them and/or assert the influences of events, people, concepts, etc., without providing solid evidence that Melville thought of them in a particular way--or, in some cases, even knew of them. An essay on the influence of African culture on Melville's art, for example, repeatedly leaps from possibilities (may, might, and would have) to unwarranted certainties (did and must have). This volume has a useful chronology of Melville's life and a good bibliography, but its index has serious omissions, and its copyediting was careless. Though this book will serve upper-division undergraduates through faculty, a better collection is Melville's Evermoving Dawn: Centennial Essays, ed. by John Bryant and Robert Milder (CH, May'98). D. R. Eastwood; United States Merchant Marine Academy
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.