Back on the shelf: Bartleby the Scrivener

Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street

Herman Melville

“I prefer not to,” he respectfully and slowly said, and mildly disappeared.

I came across a blog post that mentioned this novella by Melville and was intrigued for two reasons. One, the main character embodies a counter-cultural attitude (to a fault) wherein he simply says “I would prefer not to” when asked to do something he doesn’t want to do. My second reason for reading this tome came from being a fan of the Bone graphic novel series, in which the title character – himself a fan of Moby Dick (a novel I didn’t much care for) – befriends a baby monster and names it Bartleby. The story progresses slowly and deliberately, taking the reader through various moral quandaries experienced by the storyteller, a mid-19th century Wall Street lawyer who employs the odd Bartleby as a scrivener (a copyist). As the lawyer wrestles with Bartleby, his quirky staff who are perturbed by their new colleague, and his own conscience, we’re challenged to decide how we would respond if placed in his shoes. While somewhat dark, the haunting and memorable story can be read in a couple hours and is well worth it.

See what else is on my bookshelf…

Back on the shelf: The Books of Magic

The Books of Magic

Neil Gaiman

In this graphic novel, Gaiman, one of my favorite fiction authors, explores darker version of a character that closely resembles the more familiar Harry Potter (though this was written years before Potter was). Instead of the towering and goofy Hagrid, our protagonist Timothy is instead intercepted by four darkly grim – and rather disturbing – men and whisked away on an equally disturbing adventure through the darkest realms of the magical world. During the journey, he is taught about the perils of accepting his talent and destiny about which, up to this point, he had had no clue.

Richly drawn in four distinct art styles, this is not light reading, though it is very much Gaiman’s quirky and unpredictable style of fantasy. This wasn’t my favorite work by the author, but I still recommend it to anyone who enjoys his work.

See what else is on my bookshelf…