Known for her masterful critical interpretation and award-winning novelistic talent, Elizabeth Hardwick presents her take on arguably the most important classic American literary figure, Herman Melville. Melville's Moby Dick continues to be the quintessential American masterpiece. Despite the modern-day acclaim Melville has received, much of his work was misunderstood and badly received at the time of its publication. Hardwick explores the tumultuous career of Melville, from his dangerous days as a whaler off the coast of the South Sea Islands, to his employment as a customs inspector in New York City, his failure to achieve literary success, his ill health, debts, and ultimately, his steadfast refusal to stop writing. Though his masterfully-wrought work was rediscovered in the 1920's, Melville was not to see the fruits of his labor in his lifetime. He died in poverty and obscurity.