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, think not it odd. What? Hey! Remember when Stubb was bein’ kind of crusty with Ahab, or ‘salty,’ as they… say now.”
“Salty” seems to have changed its meaning in subtle ways in the popular… uh, usage.
God! But I bore myself.
Let me list…
Okay, I’m gonna try again. Chapter Thirty-Four. Take two.
“Dough-boy, his famous bread-shaped face peeping around the corner. You know.”
Chapter Thirty-Four. Take three. Moby-Dick. Chapter Thirty-Four.
“Dough-boy, that Poppin’ Fresh rapscallion… with the face like a loaf of bread, peeped his little peepers around the corner and squeaked out…”
Ohhhhhh, honest to Jesus, this is nothing like Chapter Thirty-Four.
Chapter Thirty-Four. Take five, I believe. Is that take five, Pan?
“Dough-Boy, everyone’s favorite chubby bread-faced… steward, squeaked his squeaky eyes around the corner and… said, ‘Captain Ahab!’”
Thank you, Pan! The old cat Pan just, uhm, gave me some… kisses! She’s nothing like Ahab! I’m sorry I comp—you’re old, you have white hairs. In that much, we are both like Ahab.
Chapter Thirty-Four, take six.
“There he was. Dough-Boy.”
[A prolonged burst of wild laughter.]
“Dough-Boy rolled like a ball of dough down the deck, stopping himself before Ahab. ‘Dinner is ready,’ he squeaked. And thus he scampered away: Dough-Boy, faithful to the last. Now… here’s the way it goes onboard. Starbuck goes into dinner f—he waits, you know. Ahab walks by and says, ‘Starbuck? Dinner.’ And clomps away on his clomping ivory foot. Starbuck waits until the captain is probably settled, and, uh, goes and says, ‘Hey, Stubb. It’s time for dinner.’ Stubb goes to Flask! Says, ‘Flask, come on. Dinner.’ In they go, one by one, like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. And they sit there, and why… Do you think it odd that Stubb was a crusty old bastard, and—to Ahab, right to his face, and he didn’t even care? And now he’s all, ‘Oooh, pardon me sir,’ and sitting there all cowering and… polite? Well, you know! Have you ever, whuh, huahh…”
“Have you ever had anyone over for dinner? Then you have tasted what it is to be Caesar! Much in the same way, the respect given the captain’s table was absolute. Meanwhile…”
“Over with the harpooners, they’re just havin’ a frickin’ party. They just like—it’s like a barbecue. It’s like… uh… ‘Uhh, give me some more of that stuff!’ And everybody’s… havin’ a great time. Dough-Boy… it’s so rambunctious in there, and there’s some racism mixed in with this description… uh, that… curious admixture… of racism and hero worship that comes up whenever we talk about the harpooners.”
[Coffee gulping. Lip smack.]
“And, uh… ‘Giants are not fed on bread and butter!’ Uh… such is observed of Daggoo, who, uh, nibbles tiny bites. Dough-Boy trembles and quakes! ‘What if one of these guys eats me?’ he thinks. Dough-Boy’s a racist. Although it has been established that Queequeg has eaten people before in the past, as a character. So, you know. Dough-Boy… and [stifled laugh] let’s not forget! That his face looks like a… loaf of bread, so, you know. It’s like those cartoons where some guys are… stranded on a raft, and one looks at the other and his head turns into a hot dog or a roasted chicken. In any case, oh, Dough-Boy. Dough-Boy, the beloved racist!”
I don’t know if Dough-Boy is beloved at all! He’s just a… he’s Dough-Boy, what do you want from him?
“Now, yes, they wander the decks, for who can—nobody wants to sit… no—you know. You don’t wanna go down there and hang out with Ahab! Ahab’s a—old! We’re gonna keep hitting this pretty hard. That he’s old. Being old. Oldness. Bad. He’s old.”
Am I taking this personally?
“Ahab, his soul is wuh, uh, guhh, uhrrhh, yuh… his… grizzly bear soul is snuggled up in his body like an old grizzly in an enormous hollow tree, sucking on its own paws for solace. That’s what it’s like to be old! Old age is the winter! The howling winter in which the soul hibernates. You know?”
[Recording is over.]
I’m really tearing through these. I read, uh… it’s only been a few day—well.
[Loud stomach growling.]
I’ve lost track of time. Like a… sailor.
I do recall that my dad told me when he was out on a shrimp boat as a teenager…
[Sudden burst of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, which will continue throughout.]
He would… at times you’d… you would be working so much that at times you would see the sun and not know whether it was rising or setting.
Ucch! I read two pages of Chapter Thirty-Five and I thought, ucch, I can’t—I’m doin’ it too much. I am isolated. “Isolato,” as Melville would call me.
[Emphatic chords, as if in dramatic punctuation. Sniff. Lumbering music.]
And kind of obsessively… you know what? This is very forced. It’s not forced, it’s true, but if I read it, I’d think how forced it was—if I read it on a book flap. You know…? “Oh, the tale of a man who…”
You can—you can fill in the blanks.
I don’t see anybody. I—I see Theresa, of course. I mean I don’t see people socially anymore. [Laughter.] Since we moved. Uh… I see my… friends at work, who are on a screen. Hanna in Sweden. Kate and Adam in Burbank.
[Dotted eighth notes are prominent.]
And I probably talk too much!
[Dotted eighth notes. The stomach squeaks.]
But I started reading Chapter Thirty-Five and I thought, “I gotta—okay, I can’t go past this.” Because once again, Ishmael…
Okay, Ishmael is back! I mean, this chapter is definitely narrated by Ishmael, after, I don’t know, five or six chapters where the voice is… mmmmmmnh…
Uhhh… vaporous, and…
I know the word I’m tryin’ to… I don’t know the word, obviously. Okay, this ranting…
Look. Ishmael’s back. And I was like, “Yeah! There’s Ishmael for sure!” ‘Cause he’s like, “Oh, no! I’m gonna have to climb the mast! Ha—had to climb the mast for the first time!”
Uhhh, and then he starts talking about researching masts. And… uh, standing on the mast, and, uhhhhhrrrh, tracing it back to the ancient Egyptians, and, yeah. There are both Ishmaels, now, at once. The Ishmael we know, who’s in the process of having the adventure, and the Ishmael who is reflecting on the adventure from some far-removed state.
[Lazy, sophisticated dance music from Beethoven.]
Jack Pendarvis is a writer who lives in Oxford, Mississippi. In this weekly transcription, we join him as he reads Moby-Dick. Please read the original novel here, if you like (highly recommended).