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In these stories of the surreal mundanity of office life and obscure tensions at sea, Melville’s darkly modern sensibility plunges us into a world of irony and mystery, where nothing is as it first appears.
A lawyer hires a new copyist, only to be met with stubborn, confounding resistance. A cynical lightning rod salesman plies his trade by exploiting fears in stormy weather. After boarding a beleaguered Spanish slave ship, an American trader’s cheerful outlook is repeatedly shadowed by paralyzing unease.