Herman Melville was an American novelist, poet, and short story writer active during the American Renaissance period from roughly the mid 1840s until his death in 1891. His best known works include magnificent classics such as Moby Dick and Typee, and while Melville today is considered one of the great American authors, his work…and Melville himself…were practically forgotten for the last thirty years of his life. A man of astounding creative vision, Herman brought to life his heritage and his experiences on the open ocean in his works, and additionally wrote of the large contradictions of American society during a time of rapid change. This was a man who lived on the open seas for years hunting whales for oil, a man who witnessed the Civil War yet was prevented from fighting in it, one who desperately sought to connect with his readers though sadly could not reach them through his storytelling until nearly 100 years after his birth. Melville’s existence is full of ups and downs like the waves of the ocean he so fondly knew, from his youth in New York City to his final days piecing together one last manuscript. I have to warn you, this week is both fascinating and melancholic as we discuss Herman Melville, because Melville’s writing career parallels that of the story Icarus: he was a bright spark amongst his contemporaries, deemed to be one of the greats of his generation, and then it’s as if those wings helping him to soar melted away when he neared too close to the sun. As a result, Melville was never able to fly again, thus leading him down a path of duress, struggle, and heartbreak. Don’t worry, I picked a very strong drink for the drink of the week, so let’s go ahead and get episode 15 of Legacy: the Artists Behind the Legends rolling with writer Herman Melville.

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