Melville at 200 and, of course, Moby Dick

Herman Melville is not only, arguably, our most American author; he is America.

Author of the most successful second act in literary history (posthumous, alas), Melville is sui generis as cultural, spiritual, and aesthetic phenomenon. Misunderstood, and worse, ignored, as he diligently, impossibly, churned out masterpiece after masterpiece, he had no reason to believe the world would ever read, much less understand (much less lionize) him. Nevertheless, he persisted. With the same almost religious intensity and obsession, he left it all on the pages, because…