You probably heard of this novel when studying Melville in high school or college. You learned that it's a minor work and haven't thought of it since. But this was Melville's most popular book during his lifetime. It's a great adventure story, told by a master storyteller, and gives the feeling of having been lived firsthand. (For the most part, it was.) George Guidall provides a spirited narration of the plot-driven passages and enlivens expositional chapters (for example, Melville's extensive anthropological observations). Guidall's gift for wry humor and the arch comment serves him (and listeners) well throughout.
Herman Melville is one of the greatest figures in literary history. His classic Moby Dick is generally considered the finest novel ever written by an American. Yet in Melville’s day, Typee was a far more popular book. Largely autobiographical, this classic adventure story is set in the South Seas, where a runaway sailor is captured by the Typees. Described as “a fierce and unrelenting tribe of savages," the islanders have no intention of letting their captive go.
Herman Melville's first book Typee is a blend of creative memoir, cultural commentary, and good story telling. Melville recounts and elaborates on his experiences among the Typee cannibals on the French Polynesian island of Nuku Hiva (Marquesas Islands) in 1842. Typee ended up being Meville's best-selling book during his lifetime, no doubt due to both his skill as a writer mated with his romantic story of life among Polynesian savages.
The book flows nicely and balances between the chasms of cultural superiority & nobel savage worship that can easily dominate these types of books. Reading this made me think of similar types of long-form journalism that catch fire in our day (Junger to Theroux to Conover to Vollmann). While approachable, it isn't Melville's best work, but shows early signs of motifs that would show up later in Moby-Dick, Billy Budd, etc.
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The narrator does a wonderful job with this minor classic. Part novel, mostly travelogue, and full of charming descriptions and turns of phrase.
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