The Piazza Tales (Modern Library)

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9780679601982: The Piazza Tales (Modern Library)
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First published in 1856, five years after the appearance of Moby Dick, The Piazza Tales comprises six of Herman Melville's finest short stories.  Included are two sea tales that encompass the essence of Melville's art:  "Benito Cereno", an exhilarating account of mutiny and rescue aboard a disabled slave ship, which is a parable of man's struggle against the forces of evil, and "The Encantadas", ten allegorical sketches of the Galapagos Islands, which reveal nature to be both enchanting and horrifying.  Two pieces explore themes of isolation and defeat found in Melville's great novels:  "Bartelby, the Scrivener", a prophetically modern story of alienation and loss on nineteenth-century Wall Street, and "The Bell Tower", a Faustian tale about a Renaissance architect who brings about his own violent destruction.  The other two works reveal Melville's mastery of very different writing styles:  "The Lightning-Rod Man", a satire showcasing his talent for Dickensian comedy, and "The Piazza", the title story of the collection, which anticipates the author's later absorption with poetry.

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"Melville's lyricism, which reminds us of Shakespeare's, makes use of the four elements. He mingles the Bible with the sea, the music of the waves with that of the spheres, the poetry of the days with the grandeur of the Atlantic. He is inexhaustible, like the winds that blow for thousands of miles across empty oceans and that, when they reach the coast, still have strength enough to flatten whole villages." --Albert Camus

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The Modern Library has played a significant role in American cultural life for the better part of a century. The series was founded in 1917 by the publishers Boni and Liveright and eight years later acquired by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. It provided the foundation for their next publishing venture, Random House. The Modern Library has been a staple of the American book trade, providing readers with affordable hardbound editions of important works of literature and thought. For the Modern Library's seventy-fifth anniversary, Random House redesigned the series, restoring as its emblem the running torch-bearer created by Lucian Bernhard in 1925 and refurbishing jackets, bindings, and type, as well as inaugurating a new program of selecting titles. The Modern Library continues to provide the world's best books, at the best prices.

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