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 read another chapter this morning, and then we had a work meeting, and I’m afraid it’s mostly gone out of my head. It’s Ishmael tied to a rope and at the other end of the rope is… Queequeg, naturally, and—because they are wed, “wedded,” as it’s remarked again in this chapter, and Queequeg’s, uh, workin’ on stickin’ a big hook in the whale, and—the dead whale, and—this is sort of a flashback, because we’ve seen… the aftermath of much of the whale… the “cutting in,” as it’s called, and all that, but as Ishmael remarks, “Hey! Being—taking apart a whale is a lot like being a writer.”
That’s giving one of those professions a lot of credit.
Also, being tied to a rope is like—to another person, that’s exactly the way life is! Everything Ishmael does is exactly the way life is. You know?
Is that all I’m going to say about Chapter Seventy-Two? It might well be.
I’ll say this about Ray Bradbury’s memoi—oh. Novelized memoir of working on the screenplay for Moby-Dick: he sure cries a lot.
I don’t think that’s an exaggeration, even though most of the book is disappointingly not about Moby-Dick. It’s about, uhm, you know, Irish blarney, you know. Not real Irishness, but, you know, quaint, uhh… pennywhistle… tootling of the literary variety. But if you took all those chapters out and just left the chapters about John Huston directing Moby-Dick, or trying to get Ray Bradbury to finish his screenplay, you’ll notice that Ray Bradbury weeps… [stifled laugh] constantly.
That might be a… uhh! He’s as sturdy as meringue.
Not that there’s anything wrong with crying if you’re a man. Feel free to cry, Ray Bradbury. I’m sorry if I seemed to…
Well, let’s just say I’m sorry for everything.
[Recorder is turned off.]
Who can account for my bewildering moods? Yesterday I read five chapters of Moby-Dick. That’s not my plan! Now they’re all just lyin’ there, like a… mighty bouillabaisse. [Laughter.] And I’m gonna try to… without… peeking—it’ll be like a magic trick. I’ll try to remember what they were about.
“Hey, remember when I said we only kill sperm whales? We don’t kill right whales, that’s a different kind of whale? Well, I lied.”
Because suddenly Stubb and Flask are out there: “Hey, Flask. How come we’re goin’ after this…”
“How come we just murdered a… right whale? That’s not our kinda whale. I’m disdainful of this inferior sort of whale.”
“Me too! This… kinda whale is just a turd. I wonder why we killed it.”
“Oh, but didn’t you know that…”
I’m doing two parts of dialogue, so—that’s a note to myself. I’m doing both voices.
“It’s really good luck to hang a—it’s like your ship has earrings, you put a sperm whale head on one side… mismatched earrings! You put a sperm whale head on one side of your ship and you hang a right whale head off the other side of your ship, and your ship will never sink.”
“Yeah? Who said that?”
“Oh, you know, Fedallah. Mm! I think he’s the devil,” says Stubb.
“Do you mean literally?” Flask… queries.
“Yes, damn it! I’m talkin’ about the devil! What’s—what don’t you understand? He takes his long red tail and pokes it down the back of his pants so nobody can see it. At night he takes it out and coils it around in the…”
“Among the ropes and… sleeps in a big…”
“Nest. You know, he’s the devil.”
Now. Are Stubb and Flask being literal? Do they—I, wuh, wuh, I would say they probably literally believe in the devil. At least Stubb probably does.
Does he really think Fedallah is the literal devil? Maybe he’s stretching things a little bit there. But, hey, people believe in the devil. Even… in my childhood in Alabama, uh, we were quite convinced of his… literal existence. And if you had asked me, yeah, I would’ve probably… said, sure! He might have a tail.
Okay, the next chapter, we’re gonna talk about the sperm whale’s head. Now, the sperm whale’s head is hanging off the side of the b—ship.
Uhm… one thing is, “Think about their eyes, man!” says Herman Melville. Or Ishmael.
“They got one eye over here and another eye on the other side over there! They’re like those two dogs in, in Goodfellas, in that painting that Martin Scorsese’s mother has, where one dog’s lookin’ this way and one dog’s lookin’ the other way. And this guy’s like, ‘What do you want from me?’”
“Well, that’s what this whale is like. You know, the only reason you have a front,” says Ishmael, with college-dorm intensity, “is because you have eyes… eyes on the front of your face. That’s the only reason you have what you think of as a front. Whoa! Think about it. A whale doesn’t have a front, man. A whale’s just got… two fronts!”
Eh, or whatever.
That’s that chapter.
I should’ve paid m—I should’ve…
Next chapter, “Well, I’m gonna tell you about this other whale’s head. You know the kind I’m talkin’ about. The right whale. He’s got these things in his mouth that are long… uhm… like the teeth of fine—you know, you remember, these are the… uh… guys that go through the sea like lawnmowers, on the great lawn of the… ocean. Chompin’ away. Or just, uh, suckin’ up stuff through their… big, bony… blade-like filtration system, or whatever the hell it is, uhhh…”
Ishmael compares them strikingly to Venetian blinds!
“Well, these are the same parts that are extracted and used to be used in the women’s corsets, the famous whalebone undergarments of our cherished ancestors.”
“Come right out of a whale’s head! Like all good things.”