This is a reading of the classic American novel Moby-Dick, as interpreted by Jack Pendarvis. To embark at the beginning, please click here.
What was I saying?
It was something… oh, yeah.
To begin again… reading this chapter, it felt so familiar. Every incident archetypal. [Stomach growling.] The… [more stomach noises] situation imprinted indelibly from past acquaintance, not only with the book, but with the John Huston film, uh, the account in—I don’t know, Leslie Fied—Fiel… what is his name? You know who I’m talking about. Love and Death in the American Novel. Reading it, reading about it, seeing adaptations of it… the thought occurred to me again, I have to admit. “Is this… Should this… [long pause] Shouldn’t I be reading [long pause]… Pierre; or, the Ambiguities instead?”
[New recording begins.]
I need to pee. I turned the thing on. The digital recorder, that is.
Sensing already that I needed to pee. Well, I won’t.
I’m a civilized… human.
Whatever that means. What does it mean when you’re reading Moby-Dick? After all, Queequeg is described as a quote, “savage,” unquote, yet, uhm, admiringly… portrayed with love… deep love! I’m not the first… by far… to notice [short laugh], I mean, how can you not notice? It’s right there on the page. “I woke up.” Uhhhh, “Queequeg had his arm around me as if I were his wife.”
Queequeg and Ishmael described… several times in Chapter… Four… are we only on Chapter Four?
[Sniff. Long pause.]
In bridal terms. Connubial descriptions.
Everybody knows that.
There’s no point to this exercise.
Uh, did I think that…
Sometimes I think—I’ll tell you what I think, sometimes.
Sometimes I think that if you do something that has no point for long enough… that it begins to have a point.
[Pause. Rattling sigh.]
If you do something that has no point for long enough, it begins to have a point.
My spiritual ancestors in this are, of course, David Lynch, who ate a hamburger and had a chocolate milkshake every day. [Short laugh.] For many years. Sun Ra, who said that if you eat peach pie—if you only eat… eat… [throat clearing] If you eat nothing but peach pie, one day it’s going to taste like something other than peach pie.
I didn’t—he said it better.
[Sniff. Pause. Lip noise.]
But there’s inevitably a… point… [short laugh] in, d—in a, in another… sense.
God! You know, just listening to myself talk is unbearable. Just… you know, I hear it twice, at least. I hear it when it comes out of my big… jagged hole.
And then I, uh, hear it again as I’m transcribing it, and, you know, shut up.
[Inhalation. Pause. Lip noise.]
I just meant to simply note…
That discouragement is… [stifled laugh] paramount.
Discouragement is paramount.
[Very long pause.]
The trick may be…
[Sniff. Long pause.]
To feel the electricity of discouragement!
Deeply intimate. Bridal. Conjugal. Linked. A marriage. Explicitly!
Queequeg shaves with a harpoon, because if there’s a chance for whale imagery… you know, there—there’s gonna be some whale imagery in this book.
When I, dehhhh, I, uh…!
Earlier, in one of the previous rambles, I thought I was wrong to compare Ishmael and Queequeg to O—Oscar Madison and Felix Unger. But! You know… that too was a marriage, explicitly in the text. So in that way, I guess I was right after all. They are like Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, though both of them are quite regular in their habits. There’s not a neat one and a sloppy one. They’re both extremely, uhm…
I was on a podcast the other day, and, uhm, it was s—s—someone was interviewing me about my mentor, my late mentor Eugene Walter, who, wuh, you know, I described his fluidity, his, neh, uh, I don’t know, I d—I didn’t describe him correctly. I should have pointed out that he was… you know, people that are, uh, eh, gifted with, uhhhhm… bounteous imaginations, or some of the most seemingly… I think of John Waters. Uh, he has a lot of rules, you know? He has a lotta—I think of Buñuel. I read Buñuel’s autobiography, and, you know, “This sort of wine… this sort of red wine can only be consumed, uh… izzuhhh, slightly chilled, out of a goatskin or [short laugh] it’s not good.” I mean—and then, of course, his famous martini recipe.
Uhhh! People who are, you know, thought of as subversive, and, uh… uhm… bursting with ideas… are, are often quite rigid in their habits, uh, their tastes. Some things are proper. You know. For John Waters, some things are properly outrageous. Like, I think he wouldn’t wear velvet after a certain time of year. Or before a certain time of year, whatever. You know. “Oh, I just wouldn’t wear velvet bef…” I don’t know when you wear velvet. All I know is when I met him, I think I was wearing velvet, and it was at the wrong time of year. Weh, wooh, he said nothing! ‘Cause he’s a very polite man. But I read in an interview or something, sometime later, uh, his velvet feelings.
His velvet feelings.
[Loud, long, rattling sigh.]
But I described my mentor Eugene, uh, incorrectly. He, vuh, uh, this po—and I went on about it for an hour, more than an hour. I just yammered. That’s what they wanted me to do, and God knows what I said, and… what improper, uh… wrongful…
She asked me about Mobile. I don’t know what’s going on in Mobile now! I—you know, I said, “I remember there was a wig shop [laughter] downtown.” That sort of thing. Flippant! But that’s what I re—for some reason, the wig shop popped into my head. I know that wig shop doesn’t still exist.
But I don’t know what is of significance to the people of Mobile. What, what their hopes and dreams are back in Mobile, anyway.
Jack Pendarvis is a writer who lives in Oxford, Mississippi. In this weekly transcription, we join him as he reads Moby-Dick.
You may also like to read along with the text of the novel here (highly recommended).