His World and Work
By Andrew Delbanco
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375702976, 448pp.)
Publication Date: September 12, 2006
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If Dickens was nineteenth-century London personified, Herman Melville was the quintessential American. With a historian’s perspective and a critic’s insight, award-winning author Andrew Delbanco marvelously demonstrates that Melville was very much a man of his era and that he recorded — in his books, letters, and marginalia; and in conversations with friends like Nathaniel Hawthorne and with his literary cronies in Manhattan — an incomparable chapter of American history. From the bawdy storytelling of Typee to the spiritual preoccupations building up to and beyond Moby Dick, Delbanco brilliantly illuminates Melville’s life and work, and his crucial role as a man of American letters.
Andrew Delbanco is the author of The Death of Satan (1995), Required Reading: Why Our American Classics Matter Now (1997), and The Real American Dream (1999), all of which were NYTBR notable books. The Puritan Ordeal (1989) won the Lionel Trilling Award from Columbia University. He has edited Writing New England (2001), The Portable Abraham Lincoln (1992), volume two of The Sermons of Ralph Waldo Emerson (with Teresa Toulouse), and, with Alan Heimert, The Puritans in America (1985). His essays appear regularly in The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, The New York Times Book Review, Granta, Partisan Review, Raritan, and other journals.
In 2001 he was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2003 named New York State Scholar of the Year by the New York Council for the Humanities. He is a trustee of the National Humanities Center and the Library of America, and has served as Vice President of PEN American Center. Since 1995 he has held the Julian Clarence Levi Professor Chair in the Humanities at Columbia University.
“Masterful. . . Delbanco is a fine historian as well as a fine critic”–The New Republic
“An eclectic, humane, historically grounded tribute to Melville’s best achievements and a moving account of the troubles that closed in on him. . . . Among recent lives of Melville, this one has no peer for grace of style, vividness of historical evocation, and sympathy for a subject whose flaws and prejudices are nevertheless kept in view.”
–The New York Review of Books
"In Andrew Delbanco, Melville has found the perfect combination of biographer and critic [skilled] at re-creating the circumstances — the historical moment, the physical setting, the emotional state, the spiritual frenzy, that attended Melville's art.” –The Wall Street Journal
"Andrew Delbanco places the enigmatic Herman Melville in a light that is remarkably sustained and often brilliant. His acute sense of the man, his wide-angled literary insight, and the range and strength of his grasp of Melville's world enable Delbanco to deliver full-scale the strangest of our literary giants. He also has placed himself in the company of Edmund Wilson, Alfred Kazin and Richard Chase as a trustee of our literature who writes as well as he reads." -Ted Solotaroff“
Delbanco’s Melville is a reward, a brilliant and nourishing narrative that reaches beyond literary biography to an exuberant cultural history. His voice is strong–at times personal in his fresh reading of Melville’s life and work.” –Maureen Howard