This is a reading of the classic American novel Moby-Dick, as interpreted by Jack Pendarvis. To embark at the beginning, please click here.
Uhm, so, my parents and my sister and her husband and their little boy all came to visit. To see the new house. And there was a lamp. I thought, okay. My father’s kind of dozing. Everybody’s doing their—ooooh! Church is in session today. I forgot about church! People are parked willy-nilly on the street. Church is a big thing in Mississippi! People clog up the roadways. “Hey, we’re goin’ to church, we can park wherever we want.” [Laughter.]
“People understand! It’s church day!”
Or Sunday, as it’s called… in some quarters.
“And we can just, we’re gonna line the streets with our worshipfulness. And… let the infidels deal with it.”
So, in other words, I almost smashed into a parked car just now is what I’m trying to say.
The parked car of a… of one of the faithful.
Now I’m at a crosswalk. Oxford—we’re in the… town square of Oxford, Mississippi. Now, I used to live—Theresa and I rented a house a few blocks from here, and it was really nice to be able to walk to the… square. Now we… have to… drive. In a car.
What was I talking about?
Oh, I think I was going to say… I, you see, one thing, I ordered a lamp for my office, a banker’s lamp. I’ve always liked the sight of those in movies, the green… with the green shade.
Ordered one for my office. It arrived, and the shade, poh—the glass… green glass shade was, uh, shattered into many pieces. So I wrote to the company, who… uh, offered a free replacement, not of the lamp, but of the shade alone. And, errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, getting the broken pieces of the shade off, were—was—[rattling] easy… at first, uh, easy and then it became more dif—I thought, “I’m gonna take care of this in about ten minutes.” But of course, you have to un—you have to detach the socket into which the bulb is inserted, and you have to, uhuhuhhhhhhh, you know, remove everything except the wires! So…
The… socket wasn’t put together in such a way as to make that very easy. And… I ended up… destroying it with some help from my father and my brother-in-law. We all destroyed… dismantled…
My father said, “If we can just go get a socket at the hardware store…”
This is my Moby-Dick!
We did not show the same expertise as the… crew of the Pequod.
And I will say that my father and my brother-in-law did most of the work.
Really—three men standing over…! And I can see us, as if from a distance. Three grown men, uhhh, white men of various ages… none of them very… none of us young anymore. All standing, crowded over a dismantled banker’s lamp—what a sad sight!
Three people can’t fix a lamp together at the same time!
My brother-in-law cut his hand with his… pocketknife twice! In the process. Yesterday. No, I think, maybe, once—one of the cuts was from the shards of glass that remained attached.
I had some way of tying this into Moby-Dick, but I can’t remember.
In any case, ehhhrrerrrhhhehhrehh, I have a lamp that works, uhhhhm, you know. Maybe it will burn the house down.
But I don’t think so! We got the ground wire connected to the correct screw… I do believe.
My father works with mechanical objects for a living.
One of our—while we were at the hardware store, Dad put on several pairs of, uh, reading glasses. You know, you can buy, uh, non-prescription reading glasses just about anywhere now, and Dad relies on those, uh, and…
He can’t see so well anymore.
I asked him today, before they got on the road, uh, “How do you work…? How do you do your work? Your work is about delicate engine parts, and, uh… mechanisms. Tiny… objects.”
And he said, “I just remember what to do.”
Chapter Twenty-Three of Moby-Dick.
[Very long pause.]
A short chapter! As so many of them are. And this one is about… the figure of Bulkington, who is a sailor, who just got back from a four-year trip, and now he’s going back out with the Pequod on a thr—and he just got back on land! Uh… Ishmael marvels, uh, at him, with… admiration.
“This guy. He—he’s probably—he’s definitely gonna die. Uh, at sea. And he can’t stay on land to save his life. And… good for him! You… There’s a kind of… you know, if you’re in a storm and the harbor is calling to you, don’t go toward the land, where you’ll smash yourself on the rocks. You have to go against the wind, and… and… throw yourself into the harsh mercy of the…”
Boy! You know what? You should just read the chapter, because… Melville describes it a lot better than I am, and it’s incredibly… brief.
I need to pay attention to where I’m going, because, you know, I don’t want to… crash my ship onto the rocks!
Talkin’ and drivin’. Livin’ and thrivin’.
[Turn signal is activated.]
Here we are at the Home Depot. I also need to go to the Office Depot, and… who knows? Whatever other depots throw themselves in my… if it’s a depot…! I have to say I really enjoyed going to the Home Depot last time I w—I never have, I don’t think I’d ever been to the Home Depot before we bought a house. And I enjoyed walking around in the—you know, and [unintelligible] bein’ like some kinda stereotype, you know? I was like, here I am, a man, you know, gruntin’ around in the Home Depot like Tim Allen. And you know what? It feels okay, surprisingly.
Mmmm, let me see if I can park somewhere that I’ll recall. IIIIIIIIII’ll park by these same weird yellow whatever… you know what? I don’t know what things are. This is where Herman Melville and I differ.
Having arrived at my destination—and I believe, who knows? [Car door opens.] I’ll get home and transcribe this and think, “I didn’t say anything, really! But, uh, at least we’re alive.”
[End of field 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.
You may also like to read along with the text of the novel here (highly recommended).