In my last installment, I nominated three actors as avatars for chapters I had read to date, but noted that I did not expect my taxonomy to remain comprehensive. I admit that I expected it to take a little longer to break down completely, so allow me to introduce a fourth avatar to represent the four chapters I read after crafting my immediately incomplete chapterology:
IV. MANDY PATINKIN.
I expected weirdness in upcoming chapters, but did not particularly expect a play to break out, beginning with the first line of Sunset: “The cabin; by the stern windows; Ahab sitting alone, and gazing out.” Stage directions! Melville, you tricky bastard, you. The rest of the chapter is a total stage-hog soliloquy, in which we find out that the fearsome captain is actually a little bit emo and would probably have been secretly but deeply into Conor Oberst if their timelines had overlapped (or maybe U2, given the shared Jesus complex). Then, naturally, we get Starbuck’s monologue (he’s still a total pushover), then Stubb’s (I’m getting a Jonah Hill vibe here), and just when I’m preparing for poor old Flask’s moment in the sun, BAM! A full-on fucking musical breaks out. Because of course it does.
Look, Mandy Patinkin has played a lot of wonderful dramatic roles, but when you see him, you need to be prepared for it to get all HMS Pinafore up in this bitch at a moment’s notice because it’s probably going to happen at some point whether it fits the plot or not.
It’s a bit jarring when the next chapter (forebodingly titled Moby Dick) actually returns to Ishmael, because we’ve barely heard from him, and he makes it worse by saying basically, oh yeah, all that stuff that just happened? I was totally there, too! Yeah, no, I was in the back, maybe you couldn’t see me. I’m starting to wonder if I’m being Lennay Kekua-ed here. This chapter is a Joaquin Phoenix, but even the weird digression about the titular whale/philosophical ideal feels more familiar than whatever just happened. Plus it’s all about how badass he is because most whalers are too lame to even hunt regular sperm whales, let alone big Dick (who may be able to teleport/be immortal/possess superhuman intelligence/probably also has perfect pitch for the next musical number – I see you in the corner, Patinkin).
James Franco returns in The Whiteness of the Whale, in which he’s like, dude, things that are white are totally creepy, and proceeds to give a bunch of examples that don’t all make sense. But dude, creepy, right? Even though a West Side Story rumble nearly broke out a few pages ago over black things being creepy (the harpooners are obviously the Sharks in this scenario). There’s more Joaquin a couple chapters later (The Affidavit) where it sounds like Melville is getting a bit defensive about how dangerous whales are, and tells more stories that provide little to no evidence to back up his claims (well they thought it was just an earthquake, but I bet it was totes a sperm whale!). At this point he’s like the guy at the party you really wish you hadn’t started talking to.
I confess that I stopped reading here a few weeks ago and haven’t felt compelled to pick it back up yet. So much fore- (-boding, -shadowing, -casting, -shortening, so much of it on the -deck), and not so much of what’s been fore-whatevered. Still, it’s just like a long whaling voyage, right? Plus, I feel like I at least need to keep reading until I get to the whale vocabulary word search.
Jake Bartolone: Exactly That Kind of Person