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! But I remember there’s a scene in The Drinking Den where the blacksmith, the cheerful, for the moment, ohh… I don’t know. He’s pretty mel—melancholy even then. Why are we getting off on Zola?
Getting Off on Zola: A Memoir.
I’m imagining. You could sell that book. “I decided to read Zola for a year while I was going through my divorce.” You know. Some hapless scholar. New York Times bestseller. Getting Off on Zola.
I was just gonna talk about how his nails—he was embarrassed ‘cause he was just making these nails or spikes or bolts. They were some—some metallic… you know. He’s a blacksmith, figure it out. And, uh, the heroine of the novel, soon to… collapse under the weight of, you know [long pause]… frailty [throat noise], ends up—I don’t want to spoil the ending of the novel for you, but everything bad happens. She says, “No, you’re an artist! Look at those nails. Those nails are beautiful! I think they’re great because… they’re all a little bit different.”
And it’s one of the nicest… things… there’s a certain point in that book, and I’m sorry… so what? Here we are. What am I doin’? I got a meeting in a couple of hours. What time is it? Hmm. Has this clock been… readjusted for the… end of Daylight Savings? Or the beginning? The end! Ohhh, how I… despair of my mental… faculties.
[Long inhalation through nose. Sigh.]
That’s a cat.
Go back through all these… yeah, I have a meeting in… three hours. A little under three hours, so it could be a—we could talk about anything we want!
If you go back through, you could find all the names I’ve said of cats and figure out how many cats we have, but I’m not going to tell you, because it’s too… you know. Speaking of my mental state. It’s too revealing.
[Sigh. Coffee gulping.]
One other thing may interfere with our reading of Moby-Dick.
Megan Abbott and I are in sort of a [coffee being poured] book club for two, where we read—and I’ve read—I can’t remember how many years… it’s been years! Uh… we read, suhh, celebrity… [sniff] autobiographies and biographies. And, uh, Hollywood tell-alls. That sort of thing. And we have one going all the time for, for several years now. I hate to think… no, I don’t hate to think! It’s like having a lot of cats. [Throat clearing. Long pause.] It’s frowned upon in polite circles to read this many books about… celebrities.
And, as you’ll see, we use the term “celebrity” pretty loosely, because… in fact, “celebrity” is the wrong word altogether. That was my word! My inept word.
G-Man has become fascinated with one particular door in this new house.
Why do you like that door so much, G-Man? Can we get a word for our… friends out there in… the world?
What do you think? What’s, what’s goin’ on with that?
Oh! So we’re—right now, we’re gonna start today. We have a new one slated to start. It’s, eh, it’s by a guy named Daniel Fuchs, who wrote screenplays. We’ll see if he was crabby about it or not. Or if he was, you know, a jolly screenwriter. I have no idea. Uh…! I can’t remember what he wrote, except for some reason I recall… [sniff] he wrote the script for Panic In the Streets…! Uh… which is a movie about Zero Mostel running around New Orleans with cholera, or… the plague. Does Zero Mostel have the plague? It’s not funny [laughter], though. I don’t know why I said “though.”
Well, you can imagine a… a… “Hey, I’m Zero Mostel and I’ve got the plague! Uh, cha cha cha! I’m gonna…”
No, I guess… [Laughter]. I guess that doesn’t sound funny at all.
So. Yuh, yeah. Is that a celebrity? I mean, Daniel Fuchs? I don’t think so! It’s just a Hollywood tale.
What’s that, G-Man? G-Man just made a high-pitched… [sigh] squeak that’s his trademar—no, no! I, eh, ooh! Don’t claw up—I’ve got a nice chair that I really like. When we moved into the new house… you know, I haven’t even finished talking about this chapter yet. Sorry.
Because we meet the two harpooners. Now, Queequeg is assigned to Starbuck. Whenever there’s a whale, we are given to understand—these are all still preliminaries. We’re barely out to sea. A whale has not been spotted. But we’re just, uh, being told about the jobs and the responsibilities and the personalities of some of the… more prominent citizens. Citizens! Islanders! Uhm… Ishmael notes that islanders seem to make the best whalers. If you come from an island, you’re a good whaler, and… he also notes that every man is an island! Contradicting—who was that? Donne? Uh, he doesn’t mention Donne by name, but he says that whalers are very… he calls them “Isolatoes.” Uhm, they’re islands unto themselves. Each very… self-contained. [Pause.] And one can’t help but think… this has come up so often with the characters we’ve met so far, excluding Ishmael, who’s [short laugh] kind of needy! Really. That Melville seems to… uh, admire… a self-contained quality in a person.
And we, we have to conclude, and here’s where we must part, once I get all the facts out…
I’m sitting in my nice chair now. The chair I like. Which G-Man threatened to claw, and yet withdrew… the poniards of his spiky soul. [Quietly wheezing laughter.] I was trying to sound like Herman Melville, and I didn’t.
Set sail with us into the next chapter!
Jack Pendarvis is a writer who lives in Oxford, Mississippi. In this weekly transcription, we join him as he reads Moby-Dick. Please read along here, if you like (highly recommended).