This is a reading of the classic American novel Moby-Dick, as interpreted by Jack Pendarvis. To embark at the beginning, please click here.
Is Stubb a murderer? Perhaps he is, Melville says, echoing thoughts I had during the last couple of chapters about the death of the poor whale.
Uh, Melville says, “Well, so what? The first guy that killed a cow was a… the first guy who killed an ox was a murderer. Was he, uh, guilty? He—if, if, if a bunch of oxen had, uh, been his jurors, he would have been executed! Who’s not a cannibal?” Melville rants a little defensively.
Or Ishmael, I should say. “Who’s not—you show me… you want to see a cannibal? Look in the mirror, there’s a cannibal.”
“Go… go you there, sir! Go forth to the market with you!”
You know, Melville’s much, uh, he’s not so… formal and stiff in his language. He’s pretty direct for the most part. He doesn’t say it in any of the ways I just said it. I think he just says, “Go, go to the market and look at the live bipeds pondering the corpses of the dead quadrupeds, and tell me who’s not a cannibal.”
I don’t know why I try to put that…
He’s obviously influenced by Shakespeare. Uhm… and I thought about “whale”… the use of “whale” in Hamlet recently, because I was, uh, this goes way, way back, to, I don’t know, Chapter Eight or Nine. Or so. The story of Jonah and the whale. Maybe…
[Sigh. Lip smack.]
I’m… I’m not gonna get into it. Anyway, I thought about Hamlet. Good for me. You’re a good boy! You thought of Hamlet! Why don’t you go [laughter] throw yourself down a flight of stairs, Mr. Smart Ass?
[Recording is terminated.]
Ishmael’s horrific vision of…
I—I can’t think about it because AT&T is so terrible.
Really, they—the service, and you name the different thing: internet, uhhh, landline… the worst. The worst customer service… the worst… of everything.
Is it as horrific as Ishmael’s vision of… the ocean as… a giant wheel of cheese and sharks the maggots within it?
Well, right now, yeah. [Laughter.] It’s that horrible. In my… sinking… anxiety-ridden… hull.
[Inhalation. Rattling sigh.]
[Very, very long pause.]
I just can’t…
Okay, get it together.
Well, this is really a chapter to take your mind off of things. Isn’t it?
Chapter Sixty-Six. Sharks!
“Hey! Let’s go down there and stab some sharks! ‘Cause they’re eating our whale, and we want—this is our whale that we murdered. So… let’s go down and murder some sharks. Okay!”
Stubb and Queequeg get down there and take some sharp object and start stabbing sharks.
“You gotta get ‘em right in the brain! Nothin’ else…”
They’re like zombies. Nothin’ el—they, they are like zombies! In, in, in multiple ways. Uh, according to Ishmael, they keep biting after they’re dead, after the “individual life,” quote-unquote, has left them.
Uh, still some sort of monstrous life remains. So Ishmael would have us believe. A reflexive life. A biting… a never-ending…
Well. Get ‘em in the brain. That’s the only thing that’ll kill a shark.
“Oh, I missed! I got him in the… entrails. Well… now, another shark is eating his entrails.”
It’s quite a horrific…
“Oh, really? Look at this! You think that’s bad? Uh, hey. Take a gander over here. This shark is… uh, like, doin’ yoga and eating its own entrails! So…” Ishmael paints the picture of… well, I mean, what [unintelligible], what can I say?
[A long silence precedes the termination of the recording.]
Chapter… Sixty-Seven is just about them… peeling the whale like a giant orange. Really, uh, that’s it. They’re just… in a spiral motion, as oranges are peeled, says Ishmael, which reminds me, I was reading some of John McPhee’s book Oranges the other day. Uh…
I have nothing to say about that. Except that, you know, it is the…
[Very long pause.]
I’m gonna go back to my idea about having noth—about… having nothing to say.
[Recorder goes off.]
See how many chapters I can do while I’m waiting to… see how… AT&T screws me over this time. You should hear my brusque and… whining… [big sniff; throat clearing] my brooding, sullen… petulant tone. I’m the Captain Ahab of AT&T.
I mean, AT&T is—I guess reliable internet service is my [laughter] white whale. Do I want to kill it? No, I want to… Fuck this. I’m not gonna start ov—wait, yeah. Fuck it.
Now I’m tempted to, yes, let the world see my…
I don’t know if you can hear that, but I hear geese…
[Loud honking of geese.]
Geese… making quite a ruckus going overhead.
[Sigh. Long, silent pause.]
Now, I should remark on it, since I believe, now, when we come to the end of this dissertation, we have reached… we’re halfway done with Moby-Dick if you go by chapters.
I don’t know! Just eyeballing the place where I have the book marked, it looks like we’re a little over halfway done.
It’s all about the blubber.
Blubber, blubber. He’s so interested in blubber. Man, I wish you could be as happy as Ishmael is when he thinks about blubber. Look at…
Get a man that looks at you the way Ishmael [laughter] looks at blubber. That’s—I’m referring to a meme once popular [throat clearing], now, perhaps, forgotten.
Hauueuhhhh. Lord help us all.
I don’t know what happened. You know, the AT&T guy… of course, they go somewhere else to do their magic, after fiddling about. Will he ever come back? Who knows? AT&T is much like—they really are like Moby Dick. You know? They swim the vast seas…. taking their own mysterious routes.
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).