Herman Melville (1819-1891), now at the center of the American literary canon, was wildly dismissed for this labyrinthine effort. With the Boston Post writing upon its release, "it might be supposed to emanate from a lunatic hospital rather than from the quiet retreats of Berkshire." Perhaps Melville's most difficult and wildly textured work, "Pierre: Or, The Ambiguities", (1852) to this day evades easy categorization or critical interpretation. Now seen as an ambitious foray into proto-modernist composition, the text was initially met with utter consternation and was a commercial failure. Published a year after his magnum opus "Moby Dick, or, The Whale", "Pierre" tracks the nineteen year old Pierre Glendinning through his life in New York City as a fledgling novelist. Mr. Melville himself can be seen in the melodramatic life of Pierre. Wrestling with the literary trends of transcendentalism that pervaded his day, the novel, on some level, also parodies the gothic tradition of grand morality. But it is this morality that is brought into focus, scrutinizing it only as Melville can. Spoken of as "word piled upon word, and syllable heaped upon syllable, until the tongue grows as bewildered as the mind, and both refuse to perform their offices from sheer inability to grasp the magnitude of the absurdities...", the torrential dismay that this novel was met with now sounds like the unknown beginnings of a revolution. Experimental and without reservations, "Pierre" will remain a glowing oddity of American literature.
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- Title page
- BOOK I. PIERRE JUST EMERGING FROM HIS TEENS
- BOOK II. LOVE, DELIGHT, AND ALARM
- BOOK III. THE PRESENTIMENT AND THE VERIFICATION
- BOOK IV. RETROSPECTIVE
- BOOK V. MISGIVINGS AND PREPARATIONS
- BOOK VI. ISABEL, AND THE FIRST PART OF THE STORY OF ISABEL
- BOOK VII. INTERMEDIATE BETWEEN PIERRE'S TWO INTER-VIEWS WITH ISABEL AT THE FARM-HOUSE
- BOOK VIII. THE SECOND INTERVIEW AT THE FARM-HOUSE, AND THE SECOND PART OF THE STORY OF ISABEL. THEIR IMMEDIATE IMPULSIVE EFFECT UPON PIERRE.
- BOOK IX. MORE LIGHT, AND THE GLOOM OF THAT LIGHT
- MORE GLOOM, AND THE LIGHT OF THAT GLOOM
- BOOK X. THE UNPRECEDENTED FINAL RESOLUTION OF PIERRE
- BOOK XI. HE CROSSES THE RUBICON
- BOOK XII. ISABEL: MRS. GLENDINNING: THE PORTRAIT: AND LUCY
- BOOK XIII. THEY DEPART THE MEADOWS
- BOOK XIV. THE JOURNEY AND THE PAMPHLET
- BOOK XV. THE COUSINS
- BOOK XVI. FIRST NIGHT OF THEIR ARRIVAL IN THE CITY
- BOOK XVII. YOUNG AMERICA IN LITERATURE
- BOOK XVIII. PIERRE, AS A JUVENILE AUTHOR, RECONSIDERED
- BOOK XIX. THE CHURCH OF THE APOSTLES
- BOOK XX. CHARLIE MILLTHORPE
- BOOK XXI. PIERRE IMMATURELY ATTEMPTS A MATURE WORK TIDINGS FROM THE MEADOWS. PLINLIMMON
- BOOK XXII. THE FLOWER-CURTAIN LIFTED FROM BEFORE A TROPICAL AUTHOR, WITH SOME REMARKS ON THE TRANSCENDENTAL FLESH-BRUSH PHILOSOPHY.
- BOOK XXIII. A LETTER FOR PIERRE. ISABEL. ARRIVAL OF LUCY'S EASEL AND TRUNKS AT THE APOSTLES'.
- BOOK XXIV. LUCY AT THE APOSTLES
- BOOK XXV. LUCY, ISABEL, AND PIERRE. PIERRE AT HIS BOOK. ENCELADUS
- BOOK XXVI. A WALK: A FOREIGN PORTRAIT: A SAIL: AND THE END