Narrator Robert Blumenfeld does not sound like a sailor, but like a scholar performing a work by Melville. Blumenfeld’s diffident and professorial tone will make listeners feel as if they are hearing a rare lecture on life along the South Seas in the mid-1800s. Although it lacks the action of Melville’s other works, Omoo excels in reportage concerning every aspect of life for natives, missionaries, and sailors. One can see beyond the romance and caricature provided by other writers, and hone in on real life. Melville is unerringly honest; he critiques what he sees, and takes his humor where he finds it. Omoo is Melville’s closeted take on autobiography. A seasoned sailor, Melville imparts his own calm alertness and wit to protagonist Tomas.
Following the commercial and critical success of Typee, Herman Melville continued his series of South Sea adventure-romances with Omoo. Named after the Polynesian term for a rover, or someone who roams from island to island, Omoo chronicles the tumultuous events aboard a South Sea whaling vessel and is based on Melville's personal experiences as a crew member on a ship sailing the Pacific. From recruiting among the natives for sailors to handling deserters and even mutiny, Melville gives a first-person account of life as a sailor during the nineteenth century filled with colorful characters and vivid descriptions of the far-flung locales of Polynesia.
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But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
Omoo is Part II of Melville's adventures in the South Pacific. Typee, his first book, focused on the French Polynesian island of Nuku Hiva (Marquesas Islands). Omoo starts after Melville leaves Nuku Hiva, and centers on his adventures on a whaling ship, the ship's subsequent "soft mutiny" and his imprisonment with a majority of the ship's crew on the island of Tahiti.
Melville writes travel memoirs the same way my father-in-law would tell stories of his youth: built on a solid framework of veracity, but completely filled-out and fattened with fiction. Both my wife's father and Melville, however, were d@mn good storytellers. Early Melville is fun because after reading these books one grasps a firmer hold of the author and the influences that brought on his later, great novels. Here is a man writing a memoir and you see the fiction genius pushing hard against the boundaries of his own narrative.
Melville's prose is straightforward and his narrative is quick. He also approaches the people of the South Pacific with a dignity and reporting that was very very forward thinking for the time. He avoids both the 'savage' and the 'noble savage' world views that so dominated Western thinking at the time. Melville's views of Christian missionaries (although he heavily redacted them before publication) still managed to keep it from being printed in the US.
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