Never stop reading. (Content originally posted at Blogger.)
“I would prefer not to.” I’ve seen this phrase all over the bookish internet: on totes, mugs, t-shirts. Bartleby’s refrain always struck me as petulant. It reminds me of a kid whose parents have just asked them to do their chores. I would prefer not to do the dishes. The response to this usually some variation on, “Tough, kid. Do them anyway.” So this was my impression of Herman Melville’s story Bartleby, the Scrivener. I confess that I only picked it up because it was so short and I didn’t have enough time to read another pre-1950 classic for my monthly reader’s resolution goal. Now I think I see why readers are so endlessly fascinated by this story. We know very well what Bartleby would prefer not to do. We don’t know the answer to the unasked question: what would Bartleby prefer?
Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type.