This classic story of a New York lawyer and his oddly rebellious clerk is as relevant today as when it was first published in 1853. Herman Melville brings us into a small Wall Street law office and introduces us to the lawyer and his quirky staff, the quirkiest of whom is poor, quiet Bartleby, whose increasing refusals to participate in office procedures lead to increasingly bewildering and tragic consequences.
Written as a first-person narrative from the lawyer's perspective, Melville's story exposes the lawyer's internal struggle as he tries to balance empathy and self-interest in dealing with Bartleby. In doing so, this poignant tale asks some of the essential questions of humanity: What are our responsibilities to each other, and what are the limits of our compassion?
Cover photo: ft_edm_park__0103.jpg by Jeff Nelson, used under a Creative Commons CC By-SA 2.0 license. Adapted from original.
Public Domain (P)2016 Ken Cohen
What a pleasure it is to be able to encounter again Melville's classic story, Bartleby, which I had read as a student and like so many others would never forget Bartleby's iconic response, "I would prefer not to".
Especially wonderful here is Ken Cohen's narration which captures first the humor of the story as we are introduced to Melville's eccentric characters which make up this small Wall Street law office. But then this sensitive and moving narration follows the arc of the story which deals with the moral and spiritual dilemma facing the owner of the law firm as he grapples with the increasingly difficult, perplexing and ultimately tragic life of his scrivener Bartleby.
I highly recommend this engaging audiobook of this classic tale.
The story is as funny as it is sad, at least to anyone who's ever had to deal with an employee acting like this. What I like best is the narration, which really brings it to life.
This is an odd little piece, one of the most unusual by a major American writer of the nineteenth century. Melville writes a surprising combination of satire, business ineptitude, and the natural inertia of human nature on his way to what turns out to be a commentary on isolation and inability to connect. Frankly, I wouldn't have thought it possible to pull all that together in a form that turns out to be much more enjoyable to listen to than it is to read. But Ken Cohen manages it. He captures perfectly the tone that Melville almost certainly intended, bringing out the unexpected nuances of the story. While interesting for students of American literature or of nineteenth-century business practices, I think any manager or employer who's ever dealt with a seemingly competent yet recalcitrant employee will particularly enjoy this.
Stunning short story of passive aggression, written in Melville's wordy, florid style, which is a welcome departure from the stark prose we get nowadays.
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