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Within the Monastery of Mountains: Melville’s The Piazza

Tuesday’s Tale    July 30 and August 1, 2019




August 1st is the 200th anniversary of Herman Melville’s birth date, born in 1819 (click to visit Arrowhead website). Hence, the celebration this week of Herman Melvillle’s fiction. I am featuring one of his short stories The Piazza because it reflects his homestead, Arrowhead, at the foot of Mt. Greylock in Pittsfield, MA.

My readers here know how precious Mt. Greylock is to my creative writing, and many who have read my supernatural mystery Greylock, will appreciate this post today. Melville began writing his most famous Moby Dick in 1850 during the snowy month of February at Arrowhead, the farmhouse built in 1780. The novel, as we all know, is a story of the unrelenting Captain Ahab who is driven to pursue the white whale who ends up destroying him. Melville would sit at his desk in the upstairs study, his window in full view of Mt. Greylock.


The piazza, after which the story and the book “The Piazza Tales” were named, is a porch Melville added to the north side of Arrowhead’s farmhouse shortly after he purchased the farm.

(Arrowhead, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the piazza on the back side of the farmhouse.)

When I visited Arrowhead Homestead Museum in Pittsfield and gave a reading of Greylock there in 2017, I toured Melville’s home, walked through his study and ran my finger along his desk as if I could touch the dead author. For a long moment I soaked in the view of Mt. Greylock, one of the most ghostly and mysterious mountains in Northeast America. As a writer of ghosts stories, I sometimes think we can connect to the dead through our own thoughts and by reading their words; this moment was a deep one for me.





Here you can see Melville’s exact view out his study window of Mt. Greylock. Look closely and you’ll see it resembles a great humped whale in the sea of sky. How inspiring is that! Visitors to Arrowhead can  stand on that piazza and soak in the same view Melville did when he spent hours there in his rocking chair.

The works Melville wrote at Arrowhead included Moby Dick, Pierre, The Confidence-Man, Israel Potter, a collection entitled The Piazza Tales, and such short stories as I and My Chimney, Benito Cereno, Bartleby the Scrivener, and The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids. Melville became known as one of the Dark Romantic writers, much like Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia Peabody, Mary Shelley, and Poe.

This short story, The Piazza, takes place at Arrowhead—a view from the piazza—and the narrator makes a magical journey to the mountain he calls “old Greylock, like a Sinai.” Sitting on this piazza, our narrator absorbs all of nature on the mountain—the far forest, hill and valley, flower and berry bush, and the woozy air. Light, shadows, dreamy thoughts from this mountain play hide-and-seek before his eyes and mind.  At one point yellow birds appear on a darkened path. Then, little footprints form among the ferns. He follows the footprints to a cottage, thinking he is entering a fairy land, a place where blond fairies dance.

Melville brings us beyond Mt. Greylock, into a place between two azure worlds. Can you smell the moss? Hear the yellow birds? Can you hear Marianna’s dusky voice? Listen with your highest awareness to truly enjoy this adventure with Melville. Celebrate one of our greatest American writers at 200 years.


Read the short story here:



Listen to the audio on You Tube by Librivox Recordings:





View my original blog post from my book signing at Arrowhead at the foot of  Mt. Greylock: https://paulacappa.wordpress.com/2017/06/











The Piazza Tales include 6 short stories: The Piazza, Bartleby the Scrivener, Benito Cereno, The Lightning-Rod Man, The Encantadas or Enchanted Isles, The Bell-Tower.  You can read all these tales FREE at Gutenberg.org: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/15859

The Melville Society: https://melvillesociety.org/

Melville at 200: https://melvillesociety.org/calendar/eventdetail/9/-/melville-s-birthday

Please comment below if you are a Melville fan

or an admirer of Mt. Greylock!



Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month.

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Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed


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