The first two times I tried to start Billy Budd, I couldn't do it. I was too distracted or too tired, it was too difficult to find my way through each sentence, unraveling and detangling Melville's intricate structures and infinite digressions.
Last night, though, was the opposite. Smooth sailing, if you'll pardon the terrible, terrible pun. Melville's sentences are complicated, thorny, and carefully composed, but they are also intensely readable, personal, and personable. He writes like someone I'd love to talk to, with a mind as antsy and encyclopedic as the most self-conscious of postmodernists, but with a rhythm and an ease that make his work compulsively readable.
I'm less than 30 pages in, but the whole thing already makes me awfully happy. Also, the Signet Classics edition I have has the best cover art ever.