This is a reading of the classic American novel Moby-Dick, as interpreted by Jack Pendarvis. To embark at the beginning, please click here.
[New recording begins.]
Chapter Seventeen, although it was not explicitly about the h—or was it? Well, once again, Ishmael and Queequeg have a spousal, uhm… in my view… uh… [bird tweeting outside]. Perhaps that’s not the intention of this chapter, although it was obviously the intention of earlier… chapters. I’m gonna sneeze.
[Sniff. Throat noise.]
I was reminded, and I’ve written this as a story somewhere, but it’s never been published, so I think it’s okay to… rehash it.
Once, Theresa left the house. I didn’t know she was leaving, and she left a cabbage on the counter. [Throat noise? Water drinking. Lip smack.] A dewy, freshly washed cabbage, ripe for the chopping. Into… you know, slaw, or whatever.
The outer leaves untouched. Well, aside from a gentle… scrubbing.
But they hadn’t been peeled away. So…
Then she was gone for an hour and a half! And I thought, surely… I thought, “When do I call the police?” Because you don’t take a cabbage, wash it… get out the knife, which was right next to the cabbage on the cutting board… and leave the house for an hour and a half! So it seemed to me. Seems you would have refrigerated the cabbage. [Laughter.] Or perhaps I’m too… meek in my cabbage… habits.
In any case, I immediately leaped to a terrible conclusion, like, “Oh my God! What happened to Theresa? How long do I have to wait before I can call the police to find out what happened?”
Then she came home, and I can’t remember why she—it was—there was some mix-up, you know. [Sniff. Pause. Lip noise.]
But, uh, Ishmael goes… he knows that Queequeg is fasting. As a religious rite. And, uh… but he goes back to his hotel and he tries the door, and it’s bolted from within. He’s… down on his knees, looking in the keyhole. He can’t see anything. He calls and calls out… and there’s no answer.
“Oh, he’s had a stroke!” is… is Ishmael’s conclusion.
[Sniff. Another sniff.]
“Somebody help me! Let’s break down the door! This guy’s had a stroke!”
Something [long pause]… when your life partner… when your life partner’s routine is disrupted in a significant way, the mind races.
Turns out, of course, that Queequeg is just deep in meditation. Squatting on his haunches. Totally absorbed… in his devotional practice.
I, you know, luh, ah, eh, it helped me go to sleep last night. I, luh, lay in bed thinking about what… what does it mean? Aside from foreshadowing of something that happens later in the book. [Long pause.]
Well, there are a couple of things.
[Very long pause.]
Something about the impenetrability of… Queequeg. The… his complete containment, his admirable [long pause]… self-worth in solitude.
Well, it’s kinda like Bartleby! A little. Maybe.
It shakes up Ishmael a little bit. This is one of the times—Ishmael’s generally pretty supportive of Queequeg’s religious practices, and even participates in them! And does a little idol worshipping. He doesn’t see how it’s a big deal. He would’ve gone to see [stifled laugh]… Ishmael would’ve gone to see that Martin Scorsese movie Silence and thought, “Hey! What’s the big deal?” [Laughter.] That’s a—that’s an allusion for no one. Sorry.
Once again, he speaks in the language of a… of a lover. “Don’t you scare me like that!” [Laughter.] Uhhh… “I don’t… I just want you to take care of yourself.”
Other developments. I… got two books in the mail yesterday. One was Mary Miller’s new novel. I ran into Mary on one of the few occasions when I’ve left this house, and she asked whether I might, uhm, be the moderator, or, uhrrrr, her co… I don’t know what you would call that. She, uh, when she launches her novel at our local bookstore. Would I be the one who… you know. Gently, uh [very long pause]… stands between her and a ravenous public.
And coordinates the… shape of the… ah! Ah, boy, it sounds like I’m gonna do a good job, though!
So! Will this interfere—I have to read the book! I mean, have to and want to. And I’ve already read maybe the first two and a half chapters. They’re very good. Uhm, that’s gonna cut into Moby-Dick time.
The other book I got, I ha—I started thinking about the play that Simon Callow admires greatly, that Orson Welles wrote—a stage adaptation of Moby-Dick. And… cleverly constructed. I looked at it [short laugh] and it’s about seventy pages long, and I thought, this thing I’m doing is already almost that long, and [sigh]… I’m just on Chapter Seventeen. So, Orson Welles knows something I don’t know.
[A bird tweets for the entirety of a long pause before the recording is terminated.]
Chapter Eighteen. Queequeg heaves his harpoon with unerring eye. And arm.
Uh, you know…
“I don’t know! We don’t want any… [bird tweeting outside] uh, heathenish cannibals on our whaling vessel! Now, you, you better be a good—are you a good Christian? Have you converted?”
Then, uh, Ishmael gives ‘em a little razzle-dazzle about “Aren’t we all children of God?” And the two Quaker gentleman, well, they have an interesting…
What’s goin’ on, Big Boy?
The big cat… is… what’s up?
What’s goin’ on in that bathroom? Somethin’ I nee…
[Meow! Meow! Meow!]
Oh, you want to see your friends?
We’re tryin’ to slowly introduce the… two feral cats, who we rescued, uh, if you want to call it that.
You know, when you’re readin’ Moby-Dick… who… how… what would [laughter] Ishmael say? About these cats. You know?
“Rescue, indeed! Rescue from their freedom?”
You know. Or some crap.
[Coffee slurping. Throat noise. Lip smack.]
Jack Pendarvis is a writer who lives in Oxford, Mississippi. In this weekly transcription, we join him as he reads Moby-Dick.