Melville – Literary Genius or Failed Author

Review: Pierre, or the Ambiguities by Herman Melville

In short, if you want to be taken on a literary adventure for its references rather than its tale or themes, give this book a shot. If not, I would consider skipping on this torturous narrative. To give the novel some credit, the way Melville writes the chronicle allows it to be at times enjoyable, if you read just for the sake of reading some descriptive imagery and the mentions of famous literary works and art.  As a reader that cherishes the analysis of the “so what?” question following the end of a good read, Pierre leaves you too tired to even ask.

Pierre plays with the concept of time in a way that is no longer enjoyable for the reader, drawing out single, irrelevant moments of time and jumping into unnecessary background context for a whole book. One theme that I can show some appreciation for is difficult communication. It is evident how difficult it is for the narrative to communicate with us, the readers, even some of the most simple plot developments. There are tons of ambiguities, and maybe this was Melville’s intention to challenge the mode of literature. How could a novel potentially be masterful in philosophy but completely horrendous in plot? Was the way Melville pained his readers an act of art or just bad authorship? Either way, my final thoughts is that any message that Melville was trying to convey could have been done in an easier and more impactful way that wouldn’t make me question whether his ambiguities were enticing or just the outcome of bad writing.

Final Review : 3/5

Read Again? : No