From the author of the international bestseller "The Last Station,"
a stirring novel about the adventurous life and tragic literary
career of Herman Melville.
As "The Passages of H. M. "opens, we see, through the eyes of his
long-suffering wife Lizzie, an aging, angry, and drunken Herman
Melville wreaking domestic havoc in his unhappy New York home. He
is decades past his flourishing career as a writer of bestselling
tales of seagoing adventures like "Typee "and "Omoo." His epic but
ungainly novel "Moby-Dick "was meant to make him immortal, but
critics scoffed and readers fled. His days are spent trudging the
docks of New York as a customs inspector and contemplating his
malign literary fate. But within him is stirring, perhaps, one
great work yet--the tale of a handsome sailor in the Napoleonic
Wars, undone by one moment of uncontrollable rage . . .
Lizzie's chapters alternate with third-person accounts of
Melville's crowded life: his shipping off to sea on a merchant
vessel as an impoverished young aristocrat; his fateful voyage on a
whaling ship; his desertion in the Marquesas Islands and sojourn
with cannibals--a great adventure and polymor-phous sexual
idyll--and his instant fame as a novelist; his fateful encounter
and soul-deep friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne; and the long
years of physical decline and liter-ary obscurity.
Jay Parini creates a Melville who is at once sympathetic and
maddening, in sync with the vast forces of the universe and
hopelessly impractical and abstracted. And one who, in thought and
deed, is unambiguously attracted to men--a surmise well supported
by the known biographical facts but still sure to cre-ate
controversy. Parini penetrates the mind and soul of a liter-ary
titan, using the resources of fiction to humanize a giant while
illuminating the sources of his matchless creativity.
"From the Hardcover edition."
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