Until reading Umi’s post below, I wasn’t aware of how well traveled author Herman Melville was. He tells how Melville traveled to Hawaii, and wrote of his exotic – and erotic – experiences there. Melville also traveled to the Ottoman Empire and throughout the holy land – hence Clarel. He was extremely let down by his experience there, and a year later his friends in the American Colony there were attacked and murdered. They were relatives of John Steinbeck. Small world.
When E.L. Doctrow said on the Charlie Rose show that Moby Dick was the greatest American novel and that Melville had accomplished something truly monumental (which, of course, was not recognized in his time), I resolved to finally read the book. Along the way I developed something of an obsession with this introverted and under appreciated writer. I visited his home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts – the town next to the one my wife is from, and the one she was born in. I stood in the room where he had written the Great Book, and on the piazza where he had written The Piazza Tales. I stood in the house at Tanglewood – summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Lenox and Stockbridge – which was rented by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a friend and supporter of Melville’s literary career, whom Melville would have visited around 1850.
Herman Melville, ca. 1860
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