This is a reading of the classic American novel Moby-Dick, as interpreted by Jack Pendarvis. To embark at the beginning, please click here.
Chapter Fifty-Eight: The Sea Is Fucked Up!
“Uh, watchin’ these…”
Oh. I wuh, wohh, I don’t know why I was stalking toward… you while I recorded.
THERESA: Uh! Especially saying “the sea is fucked up.”
JACK: I know. I’m gonna go back to my end of the hallway. Do I need to take this… let me take this off the door.
THERESA: No, no.
THERESA: Because if they need to come back…
JACK: Okay, you’re right.
THERESA: Or if we have people over… just leave it.
“Watchin’ these… I’ll start out with a nice thing. I—you know, we’re not killing these right whales. We only kill sperm whales on the Pequod. Watchin’ these whales. There’s this yellow stuff they eat called ‘brit,’ lying on the surface of the water, and here they come in orderly rows, like… and they’re makin’ a sound like lawnmowers! And they’re just like, ‘Zzzhhheeeeeeee.’ And they’re, uh, eatin’ up the yellow stuff, and… they sound like… lawnmowers, and as they pass by they… the sea behind them is blue again as they gobble up their dinner. Now! As I was standing here watching this spectacle, I was thinkin’ about how fucked up the sea is, and it will kill you without thinkin’ twice. Some of these scientists think… ‘Oh, the sea… the land… the… creatures of the sea and the creatures of the land have their, their equivalence.’ You know? But I say, hmnhhmnnhuh, there’s no sea animal that’s as nice as a dog.”
He really says that.
“I mean, show me a sea animal that’s as nice as a dog.”
Uhm, this is despite the fact that in an earlier chapter, way back, way back in our… I can’t even remember, uhh… oh! You know, it’s the big whale… it’s the chapter that stops the book dead as he tells you what a whale is.
“Show, don’t tell, Herman Melville!” That’s what they would tell him in the workshop. Yes, thank God he didn’t have to present Moby-Dick to a workshop.
Oh yeah, but he talked about how happy porpoises are, and how they make everyone ha—feel happy and alive. So, I think he forgot porpoises for a second, when he claims that the shark is the only sea animal even close to being like a dog, and it’s nothing like a dog.
“Oh, no, don’t forget, the sea is always weird and alien and deadly and it always has been and it’s the same exact… don’t feel safe because you think you’re part of humankind, who has invented boats, because the sea will crush your boat without thinking twice, just the way it did the very first boat that went out. It crushed boats last year with no difference in its methods. It just does the same thing it always does: kill, kill… kill!
“And everything inside the sea kills everything else inside the sea. And… the land is… pretty… docile by comparison.”
Uhhhm… I’m forgetting something about how murderous… blindly… murderous the… raging… sea… oh, yes!
“You know what else the sea will do? The sea doesn’t care if you’re a whale! The sea… will dash you on a rock, even if you’re a whale. So, even, don—eh, so… if you’re a whale, don’t think you’re too… don’t think you’re so hot, either.”
“Do you think Noah’s flood has subsided? Wrong. It’s all around us. It’s all over the world. The sea covers most of the world. The sea wins, you lose! All—and, yuh, you! You yourself, you’re like that. You’re a little spot of land inside yourself, and all around is the horror… of the sea. So suck on that.”
[Pendarvis records after reading Chapter Fifty-Nine of Moby-Dick.]
“It’s the whale! It’s the white whale we’ve all been… dreaming about,” yells Daggoo.
Ahab says, “Wooooooo! Yeah, baby! This is my—this is Ahab’s [stifled laugh] time to shine. Let’s… get out there and—come on, boys! Let’s rustle us up a whale!”
Down they go, into the boats.
It’s not a whale. It’s a… squid!
A squid of a… and this is a quote from the novel, a glancing… “of a glancing cream-color.” I really liked that. Uh, I don’t know why. I think I just like the word “cream,” maybe. Why…? What’s wrong with me? “Of a glancing cream-color,” this “vast, pulpy mass,” which I believe is also a quotation, but… I’m not as certain. “A vast pulpy mass.” Dot dot dot. “Of a glancing cream-color.”
It’s just a squid.
“Okay. Damn it. Let’s go home, boys. That’s a squid.”
[End of recording on the subject of Chapter Fifty-Nine.]
All right, I’m gonna do Chapter Sixty really quickly.
[Crazy piano arpeggios.]
Oh. Yeah. It’s about the whale-line that they use to, you know…
[Wind instruments join piano.]
Reel in the whale.
And we learn about the tar content. G—you know, he likes to…
[Dramatic stinging chords of piano and winds. Throat clearing.]
I’m going to turn down this music.
I have a lot to do today. Not really. [Unintelligible.]
You know, hoouh, that depends on what you mean by “a lot to do.”
Anyway, whale-line. Uh, tar content. He likes to rev up the… he likes to start slow.
Oh! “Once again, it’s me, Ishmael. Uhhhhh, you know, if you’re really gonna understand some of the stuff I’m layin’ down on ya, I wanna, I’m gonna set it up a little bit. I wanna tell ya…”
[Harsh blowing sound.]
Oh, a spiderweb. [Unintelligible] this house is filled with spiders.
That’s an unpleasant sensation.
Well, now I’ve lost my train of thought. Whale-line. Tar [laughter] content. Stop saying “tar content.”
“Whale-line used to be made of hemp. Now we use Manila rope. It’s much more attractive. Because you do have to take into consideration how nice your whaling vessel looks as it bobs upon the heartless… depths.”
Onward to the next! Oof, this thing is getting really intense.
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).