Story of the Week; Contextualizing Bartleby

Just stumbled across the wonderful “Story of the Week” web page, from the Library of America (publishers of the ubiquitous black-with-a-red-white-and-blue-ribbon classics). The current run of baseball-themed stories aren’t really my thing, but the archives go back to 2009.

Further exploration of the site led to this thoughtful response to “Bartleby the Scrivener,” a precursor of Milton from Office Space (but without anything resembling a red Swingline stapler to idolaize).

The text of Bartleby the Scrivener is available online in many places, but I really enjoy listening to the B.J. Harris recording (from his wonderful “Classic Tales Podcast“).

Here’s is what the Reader’s Almanac has to say about Bartleby.

Pondering paperwork leads [Ben] Kafka to wonder why paperworkers “so often feel sorry for ourselves . . . while having so little sympathy for others.” And why “paperwork has so few heroes in mythology, literature, cinema, real life. There is no John Henry or Mighty Casey or Casey Jones or Rosie the Riveter inspiring us to work better or harder.” Such thinking leads to his appreciation of Melville’s treatment of “the physical and psychical consequences of office work” and, in particular, his portrayal of what the story’s narrator describes as “the interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom, as yet, nothing that I know of has ever been written—I mean the law copyists, or scriveners.” via Reader’s Almanac.

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