Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Interview #12

Herman Melville (1819-91) led a troubled life as a writer, producing an enormous volume of high quality work, which was often well regarded by critics, but spurned by the public in terms of actual sales.  He produced at least three major front-rank characters, beginning with the ill-fated captain of the whaling vessel Pequod, moving along to a naive young sailor, and after the disastrous reviews sustained by his novel Pierre, a quirky copyist at a law firm who in many ways was a dramatic version of the philosophy expressed in Ralph Waldo Emerson's famed essay, "The Transcendentalist."  Bartleby, the Scrivener:  A Tale of Wall Street, is thought to be Melvlle's response to the publishing industry in general and his reviews for Pierre specifically. Bartleby first appeared in 1853, when Melville was thirty-four years old.


Interviewer:  How does it feel, playing the literary equivalent of first mate to Captain Ahab?

Bartleby:  Don't get me started.  The man had no style, rather a predictable and boorish performance.

Interviewer:  Is it possible to conclude that you've carried a jealous animosity toward Ahab for his flamboyant behavior and seemingly secure position among American literary characters?

Bartleby:  It was a mistake to have him portrayed by an actor of the stature of Gregory Peck.  Sylvester Stallone would have been more appropriate,

Interviewer:  Which actor would you chose to portray you?

Bartleby:  Anthony Hopkins projects a nice world weariness, but my real preference--

Interviewer:  Yes--

Bartleby:  I prefer not to say.

Interviewer:  Any reason why not?

Bartleby:  I am programed by my creator to prefer not to.

Interviewer:  But that's only to make the point that Melville prefers not to write the way the critics want him to write.

Bartleby:  This fellow Clooney, I think he'd give it a nice ride.

Interviewer:  George Clooney as Bartleby the Scrivener?

Bartleby:  Has a nice ring to it, at that.  But you mustn't think me a narcissist in the way of some characters who are all gone over to style and no real substance.  I was quite a remarkable copyist and scrivener.  Had that legal firm up and running, I did, all thanks to the high quality of my work.  I am preferring not to from a rather high plateau.  People don't seem to realize that.  People think of me as a passive wretch.  I am anything but.  You must take into consideration what I chose not to do, what I was willing to risk my life not doing.  Nothing, i repeat, nothing, passive about that.

Interviewer:  And you think George Clooney could bring that off?

Bartleby:  I prefer--

Interviewer:  --not to say.


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