This is a book for all devotees of Herman Melville. Olson has done some original and arresting research, in particular the records of the horrifying voyage, disaster and survival of the crew-or part of it- of a whaling ship, the Essex. This record is in and of itself an amazing piece of Americana. Olson indicates its influence once on Melville, who actually know one of the survivors. Another influence Olson traces is that of Shakespeare, proved by reference to an annotated edition read by Melville at the time of the inception of Moby Dick, and by correspondence with Hawthorne. The last part of the book traces the decline of Melville. Olson is not content with mere scholarship; he develops a theory of his own,- that Ahab the villainous hero of Moby Dick represents America with the overweening pride which brought all to tragedy. Unfortunately, the organization of the material is poor; the style is mystical, rapturous; esoteric; ""caviaro to the general"" -- noteworthy to the few.