This is a reading of the classic American novel Moby-Dick, as interpreted by Jack Pendarvis. To embark at the beginning, please click here.
[Recording starts again.]
I’m gonna leave the music playing. I wish you could hear it.
Wadada Leo Smith, some early seventies stuff. Troubled.
[A loud trumpet blast!]
Troubled, searching trumpet.
Makes me feel like a… beatnik.
Uh… perhaps will introduce slam poetry rhythms into my already… stumbling… [trumpet runs] tongue.
[Trumpet seems to growl in reply.]
Speaking of sucking… so. Ahab, alone. “Bring me forth…!”
I guess he’s not alone, because…
“Bring me forth my ivory stool! And by ivory, I’m talkin’ about whale bones, ‘cause this ship has got nothin’ but whale accouterments, all right? You know the one I’m talkin’ about! My three-legged whale stool, made of the corpse of a whale. Get it up here! It’s time for me to sit, smoke my pipe…”
[Low, quiet, prolonged trumpet tone.]
And so Ishmael, if we may still call him Ishmael, because… who is he, this wandering spirit? He sees and knows all on the ship. I guess Ishmael just gets around. Let’s, let’s leave it at that.
He sees us—he’s like Santa Claus! [Laughter. Descending trumpet run.]
Oh, Ishmael. Okay.
Uhhhh…! God. “I got my…”
Okay. I’m gonna turn the music down. I think I’m just considering the difficulties of transcription. [Rapid notes, up and down the chromatic scale.] Ooh, that was quite a run, Wadada Leo Smith.
All right. Turned the music down. [Throat clearing.] Should we start over?
Chapter Thirty: take two.
[Laughter. Violent throat clearing.]
“You, there, yon… urchin!”
“Bring me my three-legged whale stool, baby!”
“Yeah! I’m gonna put my ass on this piece of whalebone and sit on the—I’m Ahab, by the way. All right! Oooh, scoochin’ in. Gettin’ comfortable on my whale st—whalebone, uh, it’s ni—it’s more comfortable than you would think! Ah! Now for my trusty pipe. What could be more pleasant than to be an old man sittin’ on a whale… bone… smokin’ a pipe. The pipe’s probably made out of a whale, for all I know. I don’t have anything that’s not made out of a—the whole, you know, my—you should see my house!”
“All whale! All right. Wuh, okay, I’m gonna sit here and smoke my pipe. Puff, puff, puff.”
Oh, Ishmael remarks, or our invisible, all-knowing narrator, who easily glides… from persona to persona… [sigh] that the Danish kings of legend sat likewise on thrones of whale… materials. [Laughter.] Ohhhhh, there’s just…
“Oh. Puff away, I do, upon my pipe. What the…?”
And little puffs of smoke are goin’ in Ahab’s face. And he’s like, “What the hell am I doing? What…? Even this pipe is not giving me pleasure! Uh, you know, pipes aren’t for people like me. I—heeuhhrrh—I’m like a whale! Eerrurrrhhh, stru…”
He identifies with a—the whale. In the whale’s last, uh… tragic… apocalyptic breaths.
“I’m like a whale! Ah! Pipes aren’t for… Pipes are for old… I’m old! What am I doing? I… I’m just an old man. You know, when your pipe doesn’t make you happy anymore, you really… got to think about your situation. Oh, fuck it.”
And he gets up and he throws his pipe into the ocean and it… sizzles as it hits the—it’s still lit, and although I find it difficult to believe that when you throw your lit pipe from a whaling vessel, you’d be able to hear it sizzle out as it hit the ocean… seems like there’d be a lot of other stuff [short laugh] goin’ on…
I’m no… whaler.
[Sniff. Very long pause.]
Although I can…
Understand being upset when your pipe no longer gives you…
[Very long pause.]
This was supposed to be…
[Extremely long pause.]
The little pleasures leave you cold.
[Recorder snaps off!]
This is important. It’s important if you consider unimportant things important.
Uhm, but I was realizing… I was in the [short laugh] shower, and I realized… wait a minute! It is… Flask! Who is most like Danny DeVito. The character Flask. Whereas Stubb is more like Popeye the Sailorman. And yet in my most recent… hold on, I’m putting my… laundry… don’t worry, I’m fully dressed. By the way. I didn’t want you to think I hopped out of the shower [door squeaking]… I have some… modicum of… well, call it convention, if you must. Say that I’m a creature of, uh… where is that one cat? If only I knew where he w—was, never mind what I could do. Oh, what plans and schemes.
Gotta feed these cats. I have a meeting coming up. Feed the cats. They don’t seem too interested right now. But… timing. Timing is everything.
Ahhhhh, dear, dear, dear.
Where are you guys?
Oh, but, I, I, I, I apologize, because in a previous… nobody in the world would care about this! [Much clattering.]
Hello. I knew Big Boy would come out.
As you could tell from his name, he enjoys food!
Where’s Doc, though?
[Loud clattering of dishes, presumably cat dishes.]
Okay, let me get to the point.
[Crinkling of a bag.]
Savory salmon feast! Speaking of the sea!
Wait a minute, salmon don’t swim in the sea. They—you know what they do.
[Footsteps become distant. Clattering and banging from a distant place, another room. A long pause with nothing but distant noises.]
Fair winds and following seas, wayfarer, 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).