Herman Melville Book Club: "Billy Budd" & Other Stories

Thursday nights, 6-8 pm Pacific, June 6 to July 18

This event has passed.

If you've already read Moby-Dick, you need to read the stories. If you've never read Moby-Dick, read the stories first. 

Over six weeks, we'll read a long short story and two novellas by Melville: "Bartleby, the Scrivener," "Benito Cereno," and "Billy Budd, Sailor."  All three were written for American magazines — Harper's and Putnam's — in the years after Moby-Dick's dismal failure. 

This Zoom class, meeting on Thursday nights through June and half of July, will be led by novelist and essayist and Melville fangirl for decades, Rebecca Brown. She talked about her relationship to Melville's work on this episode of the FrizzLit Podcast.

We owe to "Bartleby" the immortal response to your boss: "I would prefer not to." Did you know the subtitle of this enigmatic tale is "A Story of Wall Street"?

"Benito Cereno" is the devastating story of a naive white American's encounter with a mysterious slave ship. Melville's looking at three troubling things in the American character: the mechanization of work, racism, and the destruction of innocence. 

And Billy Budd is a beautiful boy whose very existence troubles his superiors. The manuscript of "Billy Budd, Sailor" — still unfinished at the time of Melville's death — was discovered in a tin box almost 50 years after Melville died in obscurity. Its publication inspired a revitalization of interest in the mostly forgotten author of Moby-Dick

The seventh and last session of this club will open response to Melville's work and/or an optional talent show for anyone who's inspired by Melville to create something.

Are meetings recorded?

Yes. All meetings are recorded and automatically sent out to all ticketholders within 48 hours. 

Recommend edition of the book

This is the edition of Melville's stories to get if you want to have the same page numbers as everyone else. 

Who is leading this club?

Rebecca Brown is the author of 14 books, including novels, books of short stories, and books of essays. Her most well-known novel is The Gifts of the Body. Her most recent book is a work of nonfiction about art and the seasons, You Tell the Stories You Need to Believe. She also has almost 40 years of experience teaching literature and creative writing in university settings. 

Is financial assistance available?

Yes. If you would like to join this course but price is a barrier, financial assistance is available. Please apply here.

Thank you to everyone who donates

We see your name on the list if you choose to pay extra, and we do a happy dance of gratitude. Thank you for making this class accessible to someone who would not be able to afford it otherwise. 

Melville's portrait

Spendidly illustrated by Kathryn Rathke