This is a reading of the classic American novel Moby-Dick, as interpreted by Jack Pendarvis. To embark at the beginning, please click here.
Sometimes this cat of ours just likes to talk. Not with any—sometimes with a certain object in mind, other times… not so easy to…
Just lie down there in that patch of sunlight, as your kind are said to do.
Yeah? You like that?
Curling around, finding a place in a patch of sunlight, just as I predicted.
Ohhhh, Big Boy, you’re so… so much a creature of your…
[Bird tweeting outside.]
Where was I?
Do you mind if I continue? Talking to the cat.
Shuh, am I making you nervous, pacing around?
[Coffee slurping and gulping. Sigh of coffee enjoyment.]
All right, I’m gonna go downstairs and get another cup of coffee. And as I do so, I’ll continue to… talk about these two… wily Quakers. [Laughter.] You know, “We don’t want any gosh darn cannibals! Unconverted. Walkin’ around.”
Then, of course, Queequeg demonstrates his skill! And once again we see, as I believe I’ve noted before: skill! Skill is the… now, skill won’t save you, as we find out later. [Coffee being poured.] Skill can take you so far. [Bumping as coffee pot is returned to its place.] All the… all your mortal talents… [unidentified rattling] wiping up a spot of coffee I got on the counter. Oh, my parents are… visiting! They should be here by this evening, and I should really wipe… off the stove, too. I made… pork chops last night. But I really left kind of a—with some rice and beans—I really… should wipe down the stove.
Skill! Skill and discipline! Skill is what…
[Sigh. Extremely long pause.]
Is the chief…
Indicator… of worth.
Queequeg… casts his harpoon with, uhh… you know, that superhuman Travis McGee-like… [laughter] uh… accuracy.
Not that Travis… eh, yuh, go back and read th—the earlier… don’t. Or, or, don’t!
[Coffee slurping. Coffee cup heavily placed on surface. Throat clearing.]
Right away, and, uh, it’s not presented as hypocritical—well [lip smack]… is it?
Uh, right away, they’re like, “Oh, oooooh, hey, come on, cannibal! Yeah! We love you now! You’re really good at what you do! Uh, you know, come on! Come aboard! Quick! We love you!”
It’s practicality more than hypocrisy.
Well, and here the Quakers part, in a way, from one another, so that we can see both sides of this [bird tweeting]… let me also remark, at this point, and I’ve said it before, and it continues to be true, that Moby-Dick, so far, is just fun and happy. [Laughter.] Not Moby-Dick the character. Moby-Dick the novel. We haven’t… I don’t even think the words Moby—of course the words Moby-Dick have not [pause]… We haven’t heard the name Moby-Dick yet.
But the novel, so far, is just like a big, fun… it’s like Treasure Island, you know. It’s like On the Road. One of those boyish fantasies. And, uh… you know. Hardly could be distinguished from… [sniff] a boy’s tale.
[Long pause. Lip smack.]
Uhhyhhuhh, just, oh boy! This is gonna be a load of fun. This guy really knows how to throw a harpoon!
And the characters are funny… they make a lot of jokes. The narrator—of course, the narrator makes jokes. But the author as well, makes, uh… jo… well, of course, the author… wuh, luhllp, okay. This started off pretty smoothly, didn’t it? What happened?
But, you know, the author introduces funny bit players to come on and act goofy. Like when, uh, in the last chapter, when, errrrrrhhhhhhhh, Ishmael thinks that Queequeg’s in danger, the… landlady… gets it in her head that he’s committed suicide with his harpoon, and she gets her… u—underling to run down to the sign painter and get a… a sign painted that says, “No Suicides on the Premises and No Smoking in the Parlor.” You know, stupid jokes like that.
Uh, the frazzled landlady [coffee gulping, bird tweeting], who equates smoking in the parlor with suicide. Dark comedy, we call it now. Or whatever we call it.
Who are we?
Who are we?
But so these two Quakers… once they see Queequeg’s skill and invite him onboard, uhh… for the voyage… one of them is, uh, one of them hands him some pamphlets, errhhh, in the interest of converting him, you know. Like… uh, pamphlets, such as—do people still hand out religious pamphlets in airports? I haven’t seen that happen in…
Airports used to be…
Never mind what airports used to be.
Anyway! So Queequeg gets some Blib—Biblical literature, some… and, d-uh, and yet the other Quaker says, “No! No. Don’t give him that!” You know, uh… “Heathens… Pagans make the best… harpooners! They’re not afraid of death. Christians are too afraid of death.”
“Once a man gets converted he starts… squirming around. Worryin’ about his soul.”
“A good harpooner needs to be somewhat like a shark, and this guy’s got shark written all over him.”
Says… Quaker Number Two.
Uh, a bit scattered in my mind, and… not… [long pause] in an enjoyable [short laugh] way for the listener… reader… friend. I… feel… it would be in the best interest of… yourself, myself, and the project in which we are… dedicated partners… and I do hope…
I’m taking on, now, a voice… that you might associate with NPR. A kind of an NPR… host voice is creeping into my… I’m being possessed by the spirit of a dead NPR host. [Laughter.] And… I find, as I, eh, close… that I do hope, and, nuh, nuh, in all honesty, I have not thought of this very much, or at all. Perhaps a little. Mm-mm-mnh! Where’s that NPR host? I feel myself slipping into my old… it’s a struggle! It’s a struggle between—much like the two Quakers, I am split.
Let me return to the assured tones of NPR.
As I say…
I do hope that you are reading along at home as we continue to enjoy the journey together.
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).