Taboos And Totems

Herman Melville’s first book, Typee, describes his adventures among the natives of the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific.  His whaler, the Acushnet, had reached Nuku Hiva, and by that time the young rogue had reached the limits of his tolerance of shipboard life.  So he left.  He and his friend Toby took a few personal possessions and descended into the valley of the Typee (Taipi) tribe, to see what the great Unknown had to offer.  Melville had had enough with tyrannical ship-captains; he could accept no further impediments to his exploratory desires.  As the Roman historian Velleius Paterculus says,

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Herman Melville’s “The Confidence Man: His Masquerade”


The Confidence-Man was Herman Melville’s last novel.  By some weird cosmic joke it was (perhaps suitably) published on April Fools’ Day in 1857.  It is a difficult and in some ways ambiguous work, but yields up rich rewards for those willing to stay in the race to the end.

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