Professional spokespeople take the place of performers, relaying stories, market shocks and TED talk-like speeches to a live audience.
The Confidence Man was Herman Melville’s final novel. Maybe it was bad sales, disappointing reviews (“Herman Melville Crazy”), but there’s a pattern in these late works, the novels adding up to a deep suspicion of drama. Causality, the corner brick of narrative, never ended well for the men Melville wrote of. (The whale stole my leg, therefore…) Now it was 1857, PT Barnum was in full scam, moods floated down from the markets. Melville’s plan, I guess, was to plot a novel from these fluctuations in shared weather and market mood. The stories are relayed through ghostly reappearing archetypes, stories never experienced first hand, maybe not even believed, nonetheless the interface carries things along.
1646, Den Haag. Performers: Jeremiah Fleming, João Paixão, Abner Preis, Pasquale Camporeale. Camera: Lukas Heistinger.
A: So it was. He told me not to omit seeing I had a lifepreserver in my state-room; said the boat supplied them, too. But where are they? I don’t see any. What are they like?
(B looks towards the chairs.)
B: They are something like this, sir, I believe. Yes, this, I think, is a life-preserver, sir; and a very good one, I should say, though I don’t pretend to know much about such things, never using them myself.
A: Why, indeed, now! Who would have thought it? that a life-preserver? That’s the very stool I was sitting on, ain’t it?
B: It is. And that shows that one’s life is looked out for, when he ain’t looking out for it himself. In fact, any of these stools here will float you, sir, should the boat hit a snag, and go down in the dark. But, since you want one in your room, pray take this one. I think I can recommend this one; the tin part (rapping it with his knuckles) seems so perfect—sounds so very hollow.
A: Sure it’s quite perfect, though? (scrutinising it closely) Well soldered? quite tight?
B: I should say so, sir; though, indeed, as I said, I never use this sort of thing, myself. Still, I think that in case of a wreck, barring sharppointed timbers, you could have confidence in that stool for a special providence
(A stands, life-preserver under arm.)
A: Then, good-night, good-night; and Providence have both of us in its good keeping.
B: Be sure it will, be sure it will, sir, since in Providence, as in man, you and I equally put trust. But, bless me, we are being left in the dark here.