Call Me Ishmael. Charles Olson.
Call Me Ishmael

Call Me Ishmael

San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books, 1966. First Edition Thus. Softcover. "CHARLES OLSON, true poet of Gloucester, Mass., first published this barnacled study of Herman Melville almost twenty years ago, and it has since become recognized as a classic of American literary criticism, a fine whalebone key to the great American saga of the White Whale (and to the hunt for that America which still goes on)." Undeniably the voice of Lawrence Ferlinghetti on that blurb for Charles Olson's first tossed firework into the literary world, his "Call Me Ishmael." Olson's work is often too erudite for even the unabashedly literary reader. It is often poets or scholars who take the time to work with Olson, to see in him something beyond the code-laden postmodern crumbs from the plates of T.S. Eliot and James Joyce. Although however "obscure" Olson's source material was, it was always interleaved with a personal mythology, and in that sense was not unlike the Beat ethos--perhaps one of the only true similarities with the decisively more academic scholarship inextricably a part of his catalog and consciousness. Want to know the kind of "archaeology" Olson did for this study? Here's an anecdote from Tom Clark's exceptional "Charles Olson: Allegory of a Poet's Life": "Charlie and a friend made the drive to East Orange [New Jersey] over slick, icy back roads one freezing Sunday in December. The hair-raising tide was forgotten as soon as he had laid eyes on ninety-five volumes once personally owned by Melville. Mrs. Osborne (A.D. Osborne, sister of Eleanor Metcalf, Melville's granddaughter) allowed him to carry them off. Many of the books, he soon found, contained marginal annotations in a strange, barely legible pencil script--Melville's private shorthand. These annotations, once deciphered, would shed essential light on Melville's use of other writers, from immediate contemporaries to classics...The real treasure, however: Melville's Shakespeare, a seven-volume edition set in the "glorious great type" that had allowed the weak-eyed author to read the plays for the first time in 1849, at a crucial point in his development, only months before starting 'Moby Dick.' " (Clark, pg. 24-25). It is no wonder that with resources such as these, and with the determination it took to acquire them, that Olson's study would blossom into the insightfully effusive & original masterwork it is recognized as today. From the collection of Ken & Ann Mikolowski; founders of Detroit's visionary "Alternative Press," close friends of Robert Creeley and publishers of many Beat/"New York"/Black Mountain-affiliated authors. Book in fine condition with moderate shelf-wear and rubbing to front, back covers; a few vertical creases near spine-edge at bottom left-hand corner. Near Fine. [Item #3096]

Price: $20.00

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