This is a reading of the classic American novel Moby-Dick, as interpreted by Jack Pendarvis. To embark at the beginning, please click here.
[Another recording begins.]
All right, I’m trying not to get too far ahead. I’ve read—well, let’s just go.
Queequeg makes me think of Travis McGee.
Let me… I’m sure you don’t know about Travis McGee, or maybe you do. But just in case. Nnnh, I’m not, I’ve read a bunch of these novels, they’re by John D. MacDonald. I haven’t really enjoyed… any of them, but I keep reading them. Uh, Travis McGee, the character, has many… advocates. High-profile. John Hodgman, I noticed, uh, has mentioned him a few times on Twitter.
Uh, my neighbor and friend, uh, I live really just… there are no corners here. I was gonna say around the corner. But we live on a sort of a circle. Why is it—yes, I guess “a sort of a circle” is a proper term. I doubt it’s a perfect… circle.
There’s a lake with some… swans in it. Privately owned swans, I might add. They’re not… the property of the community.
I have noticed that people’s dogs just… walk around this neighborhood with impunity.
So far, very… good-natured dogs.
Anyway, Ace. I was just gonna say, he’s our neighbor, now that we moved. Moved onto his round street. [Laughter.] Yuhhhh, our street. His street. It will always be Ace and Angela’s street.
Here we are. He… he, Ace, is a big fan of Travis McGee, and I do not begrudge either Ace or Hodgman that, uh, pleasure.
My problem with Travis McGee is that he’s, uh… perfect. He, he knows everything. He… not only… does he kn—well, he’s nautical. He lives on a boat. He lives on a houseboat. The exquisitely maintained Busted Flush. Uh… he polishes every… oh, he could tell you all the names of the parts of the boat. There’s not a part of a boat that Travis McGee can’t tell you about, and you know what? That’s fine! If you live on a boat, you should know the names of all the parts, and you should polish them and rub them with special oils. Nobody’s gonna tell you [stifled laugh] not to do that. But… Travis McGee also knows everything about—I’m gonna name some things. You couldn’t name a thing he doesn’t know everything about! Art. Uh, women’s fashion. Furniture, uhm, history… I’m thinking, uhm, astronomy, which is also good if you’re on a boat, I’m sure. Uhm, literature… uhhh… ye—I don’t know, boxing, gambling. He’s the perfect gambler. He’s the king of lovemaking. He—in fact, uh… many—in all of these books, he… there’s a woman who’s sad and Travis McGee, uh, takes her out on his boat and… through a… yuh, a rigorous program of his excellent cooking, lovemaking, and fishing, he… uh… turns her into what is inevitably called “nut-brown” from the sun, and all her problems also vanish, because of his—the Travis McGee program of, you know, complete immersion in Travis McGee.
I’m tryin’ to think of other subjects that—he knows everything about every—you couldn’t think of a subject. En—the environment. He knows about… noise pollution!
There’s one of the books where his girlfriend is impaled on a… like a wooden pole or something. And dies. And then the next three or four pages are Travis McGee explaining noise pollution. So…
[Long pause. Lip smack.]
But I’ve read—why do I read so many Travis McGee novels? I don’t know. Does some, uh… dark… unacknowledged… part of my sick brain luxuriate in his mastery?
Yes, so bear that in mind. I keep reading the novels. So let’s give that tribute to John D. MacDonald.
I, I’m, I, I feel like I’m done. I don’t think I’ll ever read another one, but… you know what? Maybe I wee—will. I, I read them on airplanes. That, uh—is that like the furtive gesture of a… [laughter] of a… uhm… I don’t know. Nyuh, let’s…
Now, the reason I say that Queequeg makes me think of Travis McG—thuh, dyuh, Queequeg is much, uh, more, uh… tolerable, because, I think, for one reason, uh, the Travis McGee novels are first-person, from Travis McGee’s point of view. Now, of course, Moby-Dick is in first person, but it’s from Ishmael’s point of view. So, uh, the nobility and… uh, absolute keenness in all aspects of life that Queequeg puts forth are seen from sympathetic eyes, not Queequeg’s own. It’s not Queequeg telling you how great he is, it’s somebody else, who likes him, and then therefore you grow to like Queequeg as well.
In the chapter I’m talking about, first someone insults Queequeg, so he… throws him up in the air, and while he’s in the air, he punches him in the gut, which is a real Travis McGee move, I tell ya. And, uh…
So he completely just annihilates the guy with no problem… then, uh… [long pause; sniff; more pausing] then he, uh… [long pause] oh! Then, ruh, ruh, ruhhhr, the guy gets knocked overboard in an unrelated incident, and Queequeg, really using superhum—almost, almost like a superhero, uh, yuh, swims out and rescues the guy. And no one else can see this guy, but Queequeg’s like, just unstoppable, you know? And he saves the guy’s life. The very guy that he once… that he just previously punched in the gut. So… you know.
He’s pure. He really is. He’s like a knight. Queequeg is.
And, as I say, much more tolerable th—for me than Travis McGee, although I did think of Travis McGee a couple of times [laughter] while I was reading that chapter of Moby-Dick.
Jack Pendarvis is a writer who lives in Oxford, Mississippi. In this weekly transcription, we join him as he reads Moby-Dick.