The Handsome Sailor

The Handsome Sailor

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By Larry Duberstein

by Larry Duberstein


240 pages



As he labored on his masterpiece MOBY DICK in 1851, Herman Melville was a popular and charismatic young author. One year later, this Melville-successful, outgoing, knowable-had gone underground. His witty and expansive letters would for the rest of his life be brief and businesslike. He burned manuscripts and letters received, left behind no personal journals, and by 1856 ceased to write fiction altogether. It is not surprising, therefore, that the mystery of Melville, arguably America's greatest novelist, has enticed generations of readers and scholars. Most intriguing of all, perhaps, is Melville's return to fiction very late in life. After nearly a thirty-five year hiatus and with no intention of publishing, he wrote the tale of the handsome sailor, Billy Budd, just before he died. Through a combination of research, intuition, and sheer literary muscle, Larry Duberstein weaves speculations that bring Herman Melville to life, in all his complexity and humor.

A New York Times Notable Book

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