This Week’s (or Month’s) Read: Herman Melville, by Hershel Parker

I have a certain fondness for 19th century American authors: Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Poe, and Herman Melville. A couple of years ago, I did a marathon reading of Melville’s fiction, along with a brief biography of him. At the time, I said, “The two-volume biography by Hershel Parker seemed a bit much at this stage.” But literary biographies are one of my favorite sub-genres, so I’m finally getting around to reading Parker’s massive work on Melville’s life.

Volume 1 is a bit over 900 pages (880 pages of text, the rest of indexes and bibliography), and I’ve started reading it now. (I’m surprised to find that there are no detailed notes, as I would expect in such a work; a glance at volume 2 on Google Books shows that there are only a few dozen pages of notes.) The second volume is more than 1,000 pages. So this is a big work, but Parker is recognized as the leading Melville scholar in the world, and I’m looking forward to the time it takes to read these books.

I’m sure that not many of the readers of my blog are interested in such works, but if you are, feel free to add a comment. What literary biographies have you read that you’ve liked?