A long time ago I started to read Moby Dick. I never finished it. Maybe someday I will, but this week I read Melville’s short story “The Bell Tower”. The language was older both because the story is older and it’s set sometime in the Middle Ages, but the language was beautiful just the same.
The story revolves around Bannadonna, an Italian artisan, who, in building a bell tower, keeps upping the ante in artistic and technological (for the middle ages) achievement. Allusions are made to the Biblical story of the tower of Babel inferring that the artist wanted to be God. It raised the question in my mind as to where does art end and technology begin or can they somehow be intermingled. Bannadonna sometimes seemed to be an artist and other times seemed to be an inventor-perhaps one doesn’t have to exclude the other. I was also reminded of a certain literary Doctor who created a monster.
The story itself is simple but it’s a story by a brilliant writer. I found it in an anthology called Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages. The stories were selected by Harold Bloom. I’ve read some other things by Mr. Bloom and while he can be somewhat of a fuddy-duddy about literature, he’s picked some great stories in this collection. The picture below is of Melville, not Bloom.