This is a reading of the classic American novel Moby-Dick, as interpreted by Jack Pendarvis. To embark at the beginning, please click here.
Uh, so they go in and they’re gonna—uh-oh! There’s a squall! And let me tell you something. I’ll just tell you right now. I’ll have to check with the authorities. But I don’t know. Is this a real squall? I guess it’s real. It seems real. I ca—part of it is just the whale… uh… churnin’ up the water. But it’s combined with what seems, if I’m reading it correctly, to be an actual squall that comes up. Starbuck says, “I think we can get the whale before the squall hits.” Or something like that. So…
Doesn’t that sound like it’s a real squall? In any case… there’s a… ruh, a, uh, uh, an action sequence that’s pretty intense! And, you know, water’s flyin, and harpoons are… uh, brought to bear.
What a sad man you are. I’m speaking to myself as I hear my feeble… oh, you should hear the contempt. [Laughter.] It’s real!
And, uh, everybody’s whoosh, whoosh! They’re… floppin’ around and fallin’ out of the boat, and, uh, this isn’t going… too well.
Queequeg just grazes the whale, I believe. Which… I’m shocked. Come on, Queequeg. You know? We—we’ve heard how great you are for four-hundred pages and now you’re just gonna graze the whale?
And, oh! Thank goodness. Here comes the Pequod to the rescue.
[New recording starts.]
“Hello, it’s me, Ishmael, and I’m in Chapter Forty-Nine of my… novel I like to call Moby-Dick. It’s a true story of my adventures.”
“And I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy tellin’ it to you. Because let me say this. There comes a point… in every life when one—the liver of that life, that is, the person living it… thinks, ‘This seems like a big joke, and the joke’s on me.’ And, while, if you… fancied yourself the victim of a cosmic practical joke, you might think it would enrage you and drive you to excesses of… you know, existential a—anguish and lashing out at the blind forces that… toy… with your… body and spirit. Nope! Wrong again, jerk.”
[Laughter. Big sniff.]
“It just makes you laugh! You’re just like… ‘Well, fuck it. Guess this is… the way my life turned out.’”
[Extremely long pause. Slurping of coffee.]
“And so it was with me. As they fished me out of the sea, and after my harrowing… whale encounter, my very first… and, uh… and, I, and I said, th—I saw old Stubb over there, smokin’ his pipe in the rain. He always had a pipe, just like Popeye.”
“I said, ‘Hey, Stubb!’”
“‘Yes?’ Stubb replied.”
[A groaning sort of sigh or exhalation. Long pause.]
“‘Hey, you told me that Ahab was the… I mean, uh… not Ahab. You told me that Starbuck was, like, the most prudent of whalers. In fact, I repeated as much in an earlier chapter! What are people gonna think of me now? Now that Stubb—uh, Starbuck took his boat—I’m in it, by the way—and rows it right into the middle of a storm…! Uh! Just to, uh, so Queequeg can graze a whale. Uh, what’s that all about? I don’t see what we got out of it, and then the boat’s splintered into pieces and the whale got away and I almost drowned! Huoouh—is that…? You call that prudent?’ To which Stubb replies… ‘Yes.’”
“And that’s it for Stubb. He’s not—you know, Stubb doesn’t care. Stubb’s seen it all before. Okay, let me ask Flask. The, uh, third mate, who resembles Danny DeVito.”
I’ll never get tired of comparing Flask to Danny DeVito. It’s one of my go-tos! That was me, your—Ishmael’s intermediary, uh… interrupting. I now hand things back over to everyone’s favorite… uhhh… vagabond of the sea, Ishmael. Take it away!
“So, what was I saying? Yes. Flask. ‘Hey, Flask?’ Uh… ‘You wouldn’t…’ I mean… I’ll tell you the truth, folks. I can’t remember my conversation with Flask. It was, uh, extremely similar to my conversation with Stubb. Uh… Flask, as I recall, uh, said, ‘Yes. Everybody should look a whale right in the face. That’s your job! Your job is to go out there and head-butt a whale. That’s your… job! It’s right there… in your…”
“Well, I can see I’m not getting anywhere with these guys. ‘Hey, Queequeg! You and I need to hang out… more.’”
“‘Listen, uh, Queequeg. Let’s… come on down. I wanna make out my will, because I’m pretty sure I’m gonna die in this—from this irrational occupation that thought was gonna be a, you know, a fun time. I could…’”
“I thought it was gonna give me an interesting personality!”
“So, instead, it’s gonna kill me. So I’m gonna make my will out. Making your will is a… an occupation that many sailors are obsessed with and do it over and over—in fact, this was my fourth time making out a will, and let me tell you what, it’s great therapy. It really works! Because after I… did that, I felt great. You know what I felt like? I felt like Lazarus. If you haven’t read the Bible lately, uh, he’s the one that Jesus brought back to life after he was dead, and he must’ve thought, ‘Hey! I’ve got a… this is… you know. A bonus. This is like a Christmas bonus. Every minute I live now is just, uh, gravy, man!’”
“And that’s how I was feelin’ too. I was like, ‘Well, here I am. I was dumb enough to go out hunting whales, and aside from any moral considerations, uh, I almost died once, and… I didn’t die! So. I consider that a personal… achievement.’ See you all in the next chapter. This is Ishmael saying…”
[Stomach growls and churns.]
“You know. God bless the United States of America.”
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).