Monday, January 27, 2014


There is a book that I hope to acquire soon—The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World by Greg Grandin, a professor of history at New York University. Grandin's book examines the historical event that is also the basis of Herman Melville's novel Benito Cereno, the latter of which I recently read again this summer while on vacation.

Grandin has been writing companion pieces in various newspapers and magazines, which is keeping his book on my horizon, as well as building interest for me (and hopefully others).


"Ahab is certainly one face of American power. In the course of writing a book on the history that inspired Benito Cereno, I’ve come to think of it as not the most frightening—or even the most destructive of American faces. Consider Amasa."
—Greg Grandin

Read "The Two Faces of Empire: Melville Knew Them, We Still Live With Them" at


"Barack Obama may have avoided the fate of the protagonist of “Invisible Man,” but he hasn’t been able to escape the shadow of Babo. He is Babo, or at least he is to a significant part of the American population—including many of the white rank and file of the Republican Party and the Tea Party politicians they help elect."
—Greg Grandin

Read "Obama, Melville and the Tea Party" at


Order Grandin's book from Powell's City of Books.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Am intrigued. Benito Cereno may be my favorite of all Melville's stories because I remember reading it in a college class on American Antitranscendentalism, just after Hawthorne's "My Kinsman Major Molineaux" which also has deeply disturbing subtexts in light of American politics today. But Melville's valences in that story have always stuck with me: I can't trust anyone's perceptions, least of all mine! Can't wait to hear more!