This week in Summer Reading

Book cover for Bartleby the Scrivener

Bartleby, the Scrivener
Herman Melville

I recommend Bartleby, the Scrivener, written by Melville in 1853. In this short story, Bartleby is a new, quiet clerk in a lawyer’s (the narrator’s) office, who soon ends up not doing any of the work, for inexplicable, impenetrable reasons. He adamantly resists answering any questions or to go along with accommodations his baffled employer tries to make for him. The lawyer and we readers can only guess at what kind of an anarchic (maybe?) inner life he lives. Another part of the joy of the story is the lawyer’s inability to do anything about Bartleby, not even to fire him, so that Bartleby’s inscrutable life has found a perfect partner in his employer’s avoidance. Bartleby is THE classic character of passive inexorability in the face of the rules. His short reply to all probing is one of the most well-known quotes in American literature: “I would prefer not to.”

Slavic and E. European Cataloging & Metadata Librarian