This is a reading of the classic American novel Moby-Dick, as interpreted by Jack Pendarvis. To embark at the beginning, please click here.
“I’ll tell you something else about Captain Ahab. He’s also got to think about… the crew. He’s workin’ with sailors. And let me tell you somethin’. And I’m Ishmael, and I’m a sailor, so I can say it. Sailors are not the most… put together. You know, they, they, they, they’re a bit… uhm… I don’t want to say ‘unreliable,’ but prone to… excitement.”
“They get, uh… they’re a moody bunch. And, uh, what do you call that? They’re like—not prima donnas, but… they’re high-strung. No! That might be the wr—th—th—the opposite of that! They’re, uhm, ‘sordid’ is, I believe, a word that comes up. In the text. And sooner or later, well, there’s a couple of things. Yes, w—when I made that speech, I, Ahab… when I—now, now I’m Ahab. When I made that speech, uhhh… and got ‘em all frothy at the prospect of… stickin’ Moby Dick with a… stick… oh, yeah, they were all excited. But, you know, we can’t just go on and on like that without them thinking, ‘Uh, am I gettin’ paid? W—where’s my money?’ You know, we gotta do some other work so they—so they know… that… they’re gonna get paid at the end of the… trip. You can’t just… you can’t go along on pure ideals. You know, you can’t get a bunch of… rascally, uh, bearded…”
Uh, I don’t know why “bearded.”
“You can’t get a bunch of, uh… hard-livin’… [bird tweeting outside] uh, morally questionable sailors to just—th—whuh—[unintelligible] for your ideal, nor should you expect them to! They need to eat! They need to get paid! All right. And not to mention which, what I’m doing—I’m still Ahab—is kind of… mmmmmmmnh! You know, it’s not one hundred percent… I’m kind of… I could be thrown in jail for it, really, or, or worse! I mean, uhhh, I’m not really concerned—I’m supposed to be out here makin’ money for those two old Quakers, uh… and… instead, I’m just… s—you know, stewing away in my cabin…”
“Thinkin’ about ways to find Moby Dick and kill the hell out of him.”
“That’s not a good business plan! And… the sailors rightfully could decide, ‘We’ve had enough of this shit!’ And, uh, you know what sailors do when they get upset. It’s not pretty.”
[Coffee gulping. Sniff.]
And I feel as if the chapter ends with another, uh, sweeping… with another swoop. Another… but I’ll be damned if I can remember… what it is. Uhm… the question arises. Should I pause and look it up? Should I peek at the last paragraph? That doesn’t seem within the spirit of the… experiment. So let me try to…
[Very long pause.]
Oh! I know what it is! And I didn’t peek, either.
“Well, so, bearing all this in mind, Ahab… was on a constant lookout for whales. For whatever reason! And many, as I said, many of his reasons are too complicated for me to even comprehend, or, or express verbally, even though I can run through them in my capacious noggin.”
[Sigh. Throat clearing.]
“So! With no further ado, let me tell you this. We’re about to get into some whale-killin’, and that’s all there is to it. So… yehhhhrrrrrrr… the more… uh… Children under this tall may not ride this ride! You know! It’s… here we go! Whale-killin’.”
[End of recording.]
Queequeg and Ishmael are dreamily em—employed… at the, uhm…
[Pages flipping. Throat clearing.]
I was just checking to make sure—I’m losing track of what chapter… I’m on. It is Chapter Forty-Seven!
You know, this is, uh… March 27th, 2019, as I speak these words, and it’s the first day…
Time is very, uh, shifty. Uh, both in Moby-Dick and in my heart.
This is the day that the… uh, this effort, this project will begin to be serialized in weekly installments of about one thousand words apiece.
Uh, I heard from my editor that she wants to dispense with the first two… which i—which—wisely. Wisely, I should add. Which were me ramping up to reading Moby-Dick, and she wants people to get right into it. I find, uh, her assumption [stifled laugh] that people will read this touching and heartening, really. But, uh, I do miss… uh… the only thing I miss about those first two segments, which will now never appear, is that I inadvertently started the whole thing by saying, “Some years ago…” which is the beginning of the second sentence of Moby-Dick. Something I didn’t consciously realize.
Boy! That’s… boring. To talk about.
But I was just thinking. If this part—if we ever make it this far together, you and me… uh, this will be… I haven’t done the math. But something like eight months in the future, at least, I think.
Queequeg and Ishmael… work together weaving a mat. Everything is gauzy. Uhh… sweetly trancelike. Nothing happening. Quiet.
There’s a lot of quiet in Moby-Dick! And, in fact, I remember objecting when Ahab threw his pipe overboard and you could hear it sizzle when it hit the… ocean, but now I kind of believe it, because… there is so much stillness and quiet in this novel.
As promised at the end of Chapter Forty-Six, some commotion ensues, as Tashtego… from his position… on the masthead, cries out, “There she blows!” Those exact words. Fabled in story and song.
“There she blows.”
There are some whales. And, uh, let the killing… begin.
But! We are spared for a moment whatever gruesome descriptions await.
Because the chapter ends on a… cliffhanger, as… you know, this is our first… uhhh… we’re goin’ out there and gonna murder some whales for the first time.
Suddenly, everyone looks up and sees Ahab on the quarter-deck… and surrounding him, as if formed from… the air… are… five phantoms! The mysterious… you’ll recall that…
Oh, you know. You know. You know the—who are you? If you’re reading this, you aw—you’ve already read Moby-Dick. I don’t even believe you exist. You! You! Reader, you are my whale.
[Recorder is turned off.]
Chapter Forty-Eight: Racism Abounds.
Batten down the hatches and set sail into the next thrilling chapter!
Jack Pendarvis is a writer who lives in Oxford, Mississippi. In this weekly transcription, we join him as he reads Moby-Dick.
Please follow the original text of Moby-Dick here, if you like (highly recommended).