This is a reading of the classic American novel Moby-Dick, as interpreted by Jack Pendarvis. To embark at the beginning, please click here.
Oh! Ahab, you know what? And I didn’t [short laugh] put this together until just now. I’m kinda like Ahab. [Laughter.] Because he hasn’t been out of the house in a long time either. Like, “Where’s Ahab?”
“Oh, I don’t know. He’s in a mood. He’s been kind of moody.” I believe that’s almost an exact quote. That he has… been… [long pause] “a kind of moody”? I believe that’s the peculiar phrasing. I can’t remember. I just noted that it was slightly different than the way we would say it now. “He has been a kind of moody,” I think was the… phrase.
And you know what? I have been a kind of moody.
If you think Ahab is grandiose…! What about a guy who compares himself to Ahab? Ahab already having been compared to God within the body of the text.
It’s a… it’s a puzzle.
Oh, yes, yes. Oh, so… Ishmael. Oh, yeah. The job interview. And… “What do you think…?” Well… “What makes you think you’re a good fit with our… company?”
“Well, really what I want to do is see the world,” Ishmael answers.
“See the world? All right. Go look over the side of the boat over there. What do you see out there?”
“Well, it’s a lot of water.”
“There, you’ve seen the world. Uh, dummy. Because when you get out there, that’s what you’re gonna see. A whole lot of water.”
[After a lengthy pause, the recording is terminated with no more being spoken.]
[New recording commences.]
I thought of one reason that I was… [throat noise] uh… mistakenly… picturing Quakers as vegetarians, because I read about, in Jill Lepore’s history of the United States [stomach growling]… I… [throat clearing] recently read about, uh, Benjamin Lay, who was four feet tall and lived in a cave. And some of these may not be facts. I think they… I think you could take most of it to the bank. [Throat clearing.] Four feet tall, lived in a cave… Quaker… vegetarian. Uhm… abolitionist! And at the time we’re talking about, many Quakers were slave-owners, unbelievably. He put a stop t— he was, was instrumental in getting them to see the error of their ways on that point. Having long been pacifists. [Throat clearing.] And he… and this I may be partly making up… I think it’s accurate. He… ran into a Quaker church h—holding a Bible, and… “This is what you’re doing! Uh… when you own slaves!” And he took a knife and stabbed it into the Bible, into which he had concealed a, an inflated—it can’t have been…! [Stifled laugh.] Well… I believe, an inflated pig’s bladder filled with… blood, or maybe it was with mulberry juice?
Well, why, why can’t I remember the difference between mul—I need to find this book. It’s a problem, because, you know, we just moved, and the books are… uhm… our primary goal was to—just to get the books out of the boxes and onto the shelves, not to organize them with any kind of… I mean, how long does it take to pay for a house? Thirty years. So I figured… you know, by then… we’ll know where all the books are.
That’s assuming a lot. A lot! A lot of different assumptions contained in that one.
Okay, let’s say it was mulberry juice, and let’s say it was something other than a pig’s bladder because if… if you’re such a great vegetarian, what’s he doin’ goin’ around with a [laughter] pig’s bladder?
In any case, he stabbed his Bible and what appeared to be blood gushed out of it.
And that’s how he made people think twice… well, that’s one of his methods. Uh, dramatic.
But he was a vegetarian, and, uhm, an ardent vegetarian. So, in my mind, I had jumbled… you know, I had conflated him with the—he was exceptional even at the time.
“Even” at the time? I don’t know what I mean by “even.” He was just exceptional. An exceptional Quaker.
That has nothing to do with Moby-Dick. In fact, I haven’t begun Chapter Seventeen yet.
But my meeting was pushed back. My work meeting. And I had a little time to…
I’m gonna try to find that…
I’m gonna walk around and try to find that book.
Oh, sorry, Sonny! It’s just me!
That’s one of the feral cats that… we… took in and brought over to the new house. He’s been exploring the house today. More comfortable in a closed-off room, like Captain Ahab.
We should call him Ahab! But his name is already Sonny.
Where is that book?
Oh! I found it. That was remarkable. Remarkable on my part.
Better check and make sure the meeting hasn’t started. The videoconference.
Plenty of time.
[Long pause. Laughter.]
Oh, just looking at work messages. They’re a funny bunch of people.
All right, let’s see. I found the book by Jill Lepore. It’s called… These Truths.
Let me look up Benjamin Lay and make sure it was mulberry juice. And not blood.
I also ordered a book that Benjamin Lay wrote. I’ve got that around here somewhere.
Benjamin Lay. Looking in the index.
[Long pause. Stomach growling.]
[Pause. Unintelligible muttering. Throat noise.]
[Pause. Pages flapping. Pause.]
He only traveled on foot because “he would not spur a horse.” That’s almost a direct quote from Lepore. So that points—that tells me that probably it was not a pig’s bladder.
Oh, it was a… pig’s bladder! Well, I guess… maybe [exhalation]… I guess he was okay with, hyuh, using pigs’ bladders for, for… prank purposes. It was filled with “pokeberry juice, crimson red.” That’s a quotation from Lepore. A comma between those two… uhm… beautifully pungent phrases: “pokeberry juice, crimson red.” [Sniff, throat noise.]
Oh, he pierced the Bible with a sword!
[Stomach growling. Sniff.]
Well, and then the pokeberry juice splashed all over the congregation. So that was pretty dramatic.
All right. [Book noises.] Anyway, that’s why I thought—you know, I don’t know, I had vague… vague misunderstand—oh, no, not vague misunderstandings… uh, total and… devouring misunderstandings, about everything, not just that.
[End of recording.]
Sail forth into the next chapter here.
Jack Pendarvis is a writer who lives in Oxford, Mississippi. In this weekly transcription, we join him as he reads Moby-Dick.