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The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade

Herman Melville

Book Overview: 

The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade was the last major novel by Herman Melville, the American writer and author of Moby-Dick. The Confidence-Man was Melville's tenth major work in eleven years. The novel portrays a Canterbury Tales-style group of steamboat passengers whose interlocking stories are told as they travel down the Mississippi River toward New Orleans. The novel is written as cultural satire, allegory, and metaphysical treatise, dealing with themes of sincerity, identity, morality, religiosity, economic materialism, irony, and cynicism. Many critics have placed The Confidence-Man alongside Melville's Moby-Dick and "Bartleby the Scrivener" as a precursor to 20th-century literary preoccupations with nihilism, existentialism, and absurdism. (Introduction by Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . was reading him for his gloom, instead of his gossip. But I let him talk. And, indeed, by my manner humored him."

"You shouldn't have done that, now. Unfortunate man, you must have made quite a fool of him."

"His own fault if I did. But I like prosperous fellows, comfortable fellows; fellows that talk comfortably and prosperously, like you. Such fellows are generally honest. And, I say now, I happen to have a superfluity in my pocket, and I'll just——"

"—Act the part of a brother to that unfortunate man?"

"Let the unfortunate man be his own brother. What are you dragging him in for all the time? One would think you didn't care to register any transfers, or dispose of any stock—mind running on something else. I say I will invest."

"Stay, stay, here come some uproarious fellows—this way, this way."

And with off-handed politeness the man with the book escorted his companion into a priva. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Strange, that in a work of amusement, this severe fidelity to real life should be exacted by anyone, who, by taking up such a work, sufficiently shows that he is not unwilling to drop real life, and turn, for a time, to something different. Yes, it is, indeed, strange that any one should clamour...more

Combustible, brilliant, dialectical, like a Marx brothers film in the mid American 19th Century. Literally filled with ramshackle, charming, sleazy, opportunistic, phantasmal, eccentric, grotesque, gaudy, loquacious characters who are all out to

* Talk- to anyone, about anything, especially their...more

...what is this novel? is it a novel? is it a collection of vignettes? is there a plot? honestly, who knows?

Following up the critical failure of Moby-Dick, Melville decided to pen his final novel, The Confidence-Man. I'm not even sure if I can give a plot summary here. It's set on a steamboat on...more

This is Herman Melville's last strange novel and it is obvious why, a very nebulous plot doesn't help. A Mississippi steamboat leisurely floating down the river, picking up and disembarking passengers along the way, from St. Louis to New Orleans in the antebellum south before the Civil War. Set o...more

The Confidence Man is a very cryptic book. Poorly received during its time and was the last book he published in his lifetime. It is part morality play, part theatre, part absurd - it is very hard to label in fact. At the beginning, the revolving characters reminded me of Chaucer's Tales (a possi...more

Short review: Complicated, dense, angry, and funny too (though in that depressing kind of way).

Longer, more rambling comments and some quotes:

If one is going to try and come up with some sort of definition of a "masterpiece" surely one of the criteria must be an almost permanent relevance - tha...more

An arduous read. I read 4 pages a day. Very tough going but I finished it. Only great admiration for the author pulled me through. Not recommended if you have not read his other works. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, of course, but for something lighter try Typee and Omoo. Both are South Seas adventure...more

This is the kind of book that could’ve gone on forever, concluding only when the author’s spleen and/or exuberance gave out, and Melville admitted as much with the last sentence

Something further may follow of this Masquerade.

but this reader’s glad it didn’t, as his enthusiasm for the book faded t...more

Introduction, by Stephen Matterson
A Note on the Text
Bibliography

--The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade

Notes

Appendix A: 'The River'
Appendix B: James Hall's 'Sketches'

Herman Melville es y será uno de mis autores favoritos. De hecho, Moby Dick es mi libro preferido.
El Embaucador es la historia de un farsante de poca monta y charlatán que se sube a un barco que va de Mississipi a New Orleans y, disfrazándose, va engatusando a pasajero desprevenidos, formado por...more

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