Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 37.6 (Herman Melville)

The Piazza Tales by Michael_Kelleher
The Piazza Tales a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Melville, Herman
The Piazza Tales
And Other Prose Pieces
1839-1860


I think this was purchased at Talking Leaves...Books. I must have bought it at a moment just before the interent became flooded with free reading material. I remember shelling out a stupidly large sum of money just because it was the only book in print I could find that contained the essay, "Hawthorne and His Mosses."

It's such an ugly book.

Why is it, I wonder, that when university presses put out authoritative editions like this one they always decide to shun cover design?

It's as if they want to emphasize the point that "you shouldn't judge a book by its cover," the assumption being that an attractive cover somehow diminishes the content of the book.

I guess it also has to do with creating a FEELING of authority.

"No money spent on aesthetics or marketing here, folks! We don't care if anyone buys this book. You can feel completely certain that every dime was spent on copy editing and textual scholarship. This is the real, official, authoritative version of the classic text. You will get tenure if you use it. Otherwise, you are taking your chances!"

from The Piazza Tales

from "Hawthorne and his Mosses"

A PAPERED CHAMBER in a fine old farm- house--a mile from any other dwelling, and dipped to the eaves in foliage--surrounded by mountains, old woods, and Indian ponds,-- this, surely, is the place to write of Hawthorne. Some charm is in this northern air, for love and duty seem both impelling to the task. A man of a deep and noble nature has seized me in this seclusion. His wild, witch voice rings through me; or, in softer cadences, I seem to hear it in the songs of the hill-side birds, that sing in the larch trees at my window.

Would that all excellent books were foundlings, without father or mother, that so it might be, we could glorify them, without including their ostensible authors. Nor would any true man take exception to this; --least of all, he who writes,--"When the Artist rises high enough to achieve the Beautiful, the symbol by which he makes it perceptible to mortal senses becomes of little value in his eyes, while his spirit possesses itself in the enjoyment of the reality."

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