This is a reading of the classic American novel Moby-Dick, as interpreted by Jack Pendarvis. To embark at the beginning, please click here.
Aaauhhhh, Melville, you know, he can get pretty, “Ah, my boots…” He can give you a couple of good, uh, paragraphs about the state of the guy’s boots. Using, you know, but the—once again, the language, while, uh, elevated, is presented almost in a winking… a winking way. Like, I know I’m full of crap, talking about my boots like this. “Come on, let’s have fun with it, though.” Okay, that was the voice again, the voice of Ishmael again.
Chapter Two. Moby-Dick. Chapter Two, take five.
“Well, folks, here I am again, Ishmael, your humble friend, cold, dark, everything around here is kinda givin’ me the creeps but it’s kind of exciting, or at least I’m putting on a happy… uh… lilt as I… uh… recite these… interesting sights and… y—sensations… invite you to enjoy them with me, to experience them along with me… the… fact is that I’m kind of down on my luck. But that’s what makes me a r—that’s what makes me a… [throat clearing] you know, a fun dude.”
“I haven’t a care in the world, really, uhm, when you think about it. I mean… I’m a little… gonna have to stay at this, uhhhhh, I have a bad feeling about this place where I’m gonna stay… Haaaohhhhh, but that’s also part of the adventure. The guy’s name is Coffin. The guy who runs it. Peter Coffin? That’s not a… you don’t want to hang out with that guy! Oh, I know I’m just being silly. Look, this is a place I can afford, probably. You know, what’s the worst…?”
“I’m in the novel Moby-Dick. What’s the worst that could happen?”
That was not worth a laugh. I felt that laugh was a bit forced, coming from my own… uhh… esophagus, or wherever laughter comes from.
From the diaphragm!
[Throat noise. Pause. Recording is terminated.]
[Recommencement of recording.]
You can see it all before your eyes. You know the story.
Uh, Ishmael goes in… let’s just say they’re big on… the place, the inn, the tavern, it’s really—they really go with the whale theme. There’s a lot of whale paraphernalia. Nnh, things are shaped like whales, there’s a painting of a whale, and… there’s a bunch of whale… [stifled laugh] hunting equipment. You know, it’s kind of like being at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, or Ruby Tuesday’s. [Sigh.] There’s a lotta… whale decorations. It’s like goin’ to Disneyland. Aaeehrh, you know, I’m being facetious. It’s very atmospheric and it’s wonderfully described, and… this, of course, Chapter… Fo… Three! Chapter Three is when we meet Queequeg…! You, you know the scene! And, uh…
I mean, the narrator, he…
Gets pretty—early in the chapter, he’s… gets kind of… a little… jittery, persnickety… a lot more… hey, Queequeg and Ishmael are kind of like Oscar and Felix in The Odd Couple, I guess, th—no! Uh… that’s not fair to Queequeg, really. He’s no Oscar. He’s quite neat and self-reliant. Uhm… but early in the chapter: “Oh, do you mind sleeping with a harpooner?” You know? “We’re pretty full, but there’s a room, and, you know, look, the bed is gigantic, by the way. It’s, you know, you could put four harpooners in there and have plenty of room. And it’s just gonna be you and this harpooner.”
And [swallowing] Ishmael, uhhh, goes, suddenly his character shifts a little because he’s no longer the… “Here I go about, a happy tramp, blown, uh, on the winds of… hobo… chili.” [Laughter.] I don’t know why I said th… “Blown on the winds of hobo chili.” One could only imagine.
But, chuh, yes, that’s it. “Hi!” [Laughter.] “I’m Ishmael. Blown on the winds of hobo chili.”
I’m just gonna keep sayin’ it.
“Blown on the winds of hobo chili, I wafted hither and yon. Nnnnnnh, nar—nary a… nary a tinkling of silver in yon pocket! Mhnh. A scallywag of sorts!” And, yes, I said that in such a way as to spell it incorrectly.
“I… who knew where I would go? Wherever the gurgling trickle of… salty seawater… uh… reached my thirsty ear. There the hobo chili…” [Laughter. Stomach makes a noise.] “Called me forth.”
“Here I am in my raggedy hat and my… boots with the holes in it, and I can’t afford a frickin’… hamburger! But now I’m upset I’m gonna sleep with a harpooner?”
I mean… come on, Ishmael!
It doesn’t seem like you.
“Oh, golly! A harpooner?” He really gets a little, uhm… germophobic! There. “A harpooner?” He’s just imagining it, you know? “A harpooner! G—gee! They probably don’t do their laundry very often.” That sort of thing.
[Two sniffs and a rattling sigh.]
But, you know…
I snapped my fingers, because as quick as a snap… he makes his peace with not only sleeping with a harpooner, but in a… but with a… uh… a cannibal! As he thinks of Queequeg.
And he, you know, likes it. He’s like, “This guy’s all right!”
He does come out against smoking in bed, which is fascinating. Long before the PSA.
Herman Melville includes, uh, “Smoking in bed is dangerous!” I believe that’s close to an exact—if it’s a paraphrase, it is but a minor… one. “Smoking in bed is dangerous. I do not approve of smoking in bed, sir.” So Queequeg puts out his pipe and they snuggle into the big bed for a… [stomach gurgling] good night’s sleep. The best, avows Ishmael, the best night’s sleep he ever had.
Jack Pendarvis is a writer who lives in Oxford, Mississippi. In this weekly transcription, we join him as he reads Moby-Dick. Please click here for the next installment.