While in college, a visiting professor recommended that I read The Confidence Man in my spare time. I don't know what he was thinking. This is a book for an accomplished and determined reader with a lot of extra time on hand. I was arguably the former, but certainly not the latter.
Melville published the book on April Fool's Day, 1857. And in the book the main character sneaks aboard a Mississipi Riverboat also on April Fool's Day, 1857. So think about that, there's a message there.
My personal experience with the book was interesting. I tend to have a large working vocabulary; not just in the sheer number of words, but also in the depth of meaning of the words; I usually know a word's primary, second and other alternative meanings and uses. But this book had me scrambling for the dictionary again and again. Not only did I encounter new words to expand my vocabulary, but I was often searching well past the primary meanings to understand Melville's unusual use of a word. See that manuscript? That's how messy the part of my brain dealing verbal ability and acuity started to feel when I was half-way through.
This summary is meant to warn but not discourage prospective readers. While reading the story, you might also keep in mind a sentiment Melville express in a letter to his friend Samuel Savage: "It is—or seems to be—a wise sort of thing, to realise that all that happens to a man in this life is only by way of joke, especially his misfortunes, if he have them. And it is also worth bearing in mind, that the joke is passed round pretty liberally & impartially, so that not very many are entitled to fancy that they in particular are getting the worst of it."
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