This is a reading of the classic American novel Moby-Dick, as interpreted by Jack Pendarvis. To embark at the beginning, please click here.
Now, the next chapter is just like a, really like a standup comedy, uh, bit. Uh, Bob Hope in style. I’m not going to stop and give you a… ten-minute talk about Bob Hope. You can look him up. I’m tired.
I’m not really tir—yes I am! It depends on what you mean by tired. Yesterday, one of my eyes crossed! Or both of them, maybe. It’s hard to tell when you’re… when you are you, looking out from the crossed eyes.
Anyhow, was that from reading too much? Or is there a problem in my brain? Stay tuned! Maybe we’ll both find out together.
Oh! But it’s like a standup comedy routine. Luh, as delivered by Bob Hope. About Nantucket, to whence, uhm… uhh… Queequeg and Ishmael travel.
I’ll try to remember.
“Hey, folks, uh, fuh, it’s nice bein’ here in Nantucket. You know, uh, it’s, uh, it’s a little sandy here. I mean, I hear they have to import the weeds! Am I right, folks? Weeds! They have to import the weeds.”
Uh… that’s him waiting for the laugh, I guess.
“I’m not sayin’ there’s nothing, th—uh, I’m not saying that nothing grows here. Wuh, why some of the table legs have clams attached to them!”
You know. Stuff like that.
“Uh, you know what they call a toadstool here in Nantucket? They call it ‘shade’! Mm. ‘Cause there’s no shade, it’s just sand and… nothing. Yeah, but I kid. I kid the people of Nantucket.”
And it really does wind up this way, like when Don Rickles would insult everybody and then at the end of his act he would remind everyone that… “Hey, we’ve had a good time tonight. Remember: brotherly love.”
It’s kind of like that.
“I mean, I kid the people of Nantucket, but let me just say this. They own the world! The people of Nantucket are the absolute kings of the sea. And nobody can ever go on the sea… without giving tribute to these fine men and women of Nantucket. So thank you and good night.”
And that’s Chapter Fourteen.
Chapter Fifteen, they stop in at a restaurant to have some chowder. [Laughter.] They really do! I mean, that’s the chapter. And it’s like, “Mm, I’m gonna get some chowder now.” And the title of the chapter is “Chowder.”
You know, pretty much it’s all smooth sailing… nyeh, nyiiih, mm. So far.
I’m, well, you know, I think at the end of Chapter Thirteen there’s another hint of doom, just like at the end of Chapter One. He says, “Oh, that Queequeg! He’s a regular Travis McGee. I would, you know, I would follow him anywhere. And so I did. Until his last… dot dot dot. His last dive.” Or whatever. You know, it’s, uhm… a, just a tiny pinprick of, of anxiety.
But then in Chapter, uh, what is that? Ch-ch-ch-choo. Fifteen, we’re back on happy times, uhhh… Ishmael… does some dad jokes, as they’re called now, and… in the patriarchal, you know, vestige, that, uh… abscessed root, that, uh… thuhhhh… that worm that infests my soul, does think [stifled laugh], “Didn’t we used to call these ‘jokes’?” But now they’re dad jokes. Yuhhhhnh, me as a childless man. I realize that the term “dad”… let’s not get into that, because I have no desire to… participate in any patriarchal, uh… grandiosity. [Laughter.]
But, uh, so, this is a dad joke, right? ‘Cause Ishmael—what we now call a dad joke—‘cause Ishmael… the woman at the place says, uh, “All right, clam for two!” And goes off into the kitchen. And Ishmael says to… Queequeg, “What do you think, we can…? You think one clam’s going to be enough for both of us?”
I, you know, he’s, he’s pretending… or is he genuinely…? This is a good question. Is he genuinely that stupid? Because… occasionally Ishmael is made to seem truly naïve. Or is he being ironic? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. In this case, I’m just going to say that he’s making a joke. “A clam? What, do you think one clam will be enough for both of us?”
But, of course, by saying “clam for two” she means, “Bring out two bowls of clam chowder.”
And so the clam chowder comes out and it’s just the… it’s the… most frickin’ amazing [stifled laugh] clam chowder, described in the most mouthwatering fashion. Very buttery. Seasoned with salt and pepper. The little clams no bigger than hazelnuts, et cetera. Uhm… sounds great. [Throat noise.] Some salt pork in there. It’s veritably a recipe.
[Lip noise. Sigh.]
And I have to say, you know, there’s no… he drinks some milk. Even the, even the cows are eating fish in Nantucket, I tell ya! We get back to a little of that, you know.
Uh, the cows, he goes outside and sees the cows eating fish. And he’s like, “That’s why the milk here tastes so fishy!” But…
“I gotta tell you, folks!”
And the chapter ends on a real upbeat—a real rousing… you know, what could be better? Just good times and chowder!
And you feel like, if you didn’t know any better… Hey, this is a pleasant book so far! Sure, in the first chapter there was some hint that something big and white is gonna [short laugh] cause some problems. And then, uhh, at the end of that one chapter, what does he mean? “Queequeg’s last dive.” Why—ooooh! That doesn’t sound good! You know, why isn’t he diving anymore? I can only think of a few reasons, so…!
I was gonna mention… which chapter was this?
At the end of the chapter… in which… [long pause] you know, dis—uh, we discover how fun it is to smoke in bed with your best friend, there’s a Rockwell Kent en—in the edition I’m reading—there’s a Rockwell Kent engraving of two arms, and the hands are clasping one another in a… in a manner not unlike the final shot of the Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell film Tango & Cash.
So that’s the kind of camaraderie we’re talking about.
Is to mention that to cheapen the… symbol? Or the illustration? Or is it to… I don’t know why I mentioned that. You know, if I’m to really examine my motives carefully, I’m just a jerk who wants to reduce art to… what am I doin’? Am I stompin’ all over beauty?
[End of recording.]
This way, please, to your next seafaring adventure.
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).