First published in 1947, this acknowledged classic of American literary criticism explores the influences -- especially Shakespearean ones -- on Melville's writing of Moby-Dick. One of the first Melvilleans to advance what has since become known as the "theory of the two Moby-Dicks," Olson argues that there were two versions of Moby-Dick, and that Melville's reading King Lear for the first time in between the first and second versions of the book had a profound impact on his conception of the saga: "the first book did not contain Ahab," writes Olson, and "it may not, except incidentally, have contained Moby-Dick." If literary critics and reviewers at the time responded with varying degrees of skepticism to the "theory of the two Moby-Dicks," it was the experimental style and organization of the book that generated the most controversy.
Not only important, but apocalyptic. * New York Herald Tribune * One of the most stimulating essays ever written on Moby Dick, and for that matter on any piece of literature, and the forces behind it. * San Francisco Chronicle * Olson has been a tireless student of Melville and every Melville lover owes him a debt for his Scotland Yard pertinacity in getting on the trail of Melville's dispersed library. -- Lewis Mumford * New York Times *