Moby-Dick: Dear Guys On The Crew, You Might Want To Take Some Precautions Captain Ahab goes full-on crazypants as we continue our book-club reading of Moby-Dick and ask the question: What would the Dave Eggers version of this story look like, anyway?
NPR logo Moby-Dick: Dear Guys On The Crew, You Might Want To Take Some Precautions

Moby-Dick: Dear Guys On The Crew, You Might Want To Take Some Precautions

3D rendering of a sperm whale

What we read this week: Chapters 111-125

What we will read for next week: Chapters 126 to the end!

Linda: I get the sense that Captain Ahab is not stomping with a full leg.

Marc: Please elaborate on this provocative theory.

Linda: Dude has gone loony-tunes.

Marc: That's not so much "elaborate on" as it is "restate in '50s-hipster lingo."

Linda: This is what I am saying: I am getting the sense that he loves this whale a little too much. If you love something, set it free, Ahab. Is all I'm saying.

Marc: I think Ahab is more of the "If you love something, chase it down and jam a harpoon as deep into its heart as your strength will allow" school of romance.

Linda: Ah, I think I've known guys like that.

Marc: It's now that I would like to share with you a note I left myself on my phone's voice recorder for use as a discussion-starter: "So, there are indications that Ahab is crazy."

Linda: So you didn't NEED for me to elaborate on my provocative theory, as you had the same one.

Marc: I had forgotten. Which, appropriately enough, is why I left myself a note. The first prong of this theory involves his specially-made Moby Dick harpoon that he had literally forged in the blood of savages.

Linda: I was just going to say, I'm almost sure that's an OSHA violation. That and not having a proper eyewash station when your employees handle chemicals.

Marc: OSHA, the ACLU, the NAACP... There are a couple of organizations that might want to get their hands wet here.

Linda: I like how he meets The Bachelor's captain, and the captain is like, "Hey!" And Ahab's like, "Hey! Whale?" "No! But come hang out!" "I WOULDN'T HANG OUT WITH YOU JERK!"

Marc: Boy, the Bachelor sure hasn't changed in 150 years.

Linda: Zing!

Marc: The Bachelor, meanwhile, brings me to another topic that I felt important enough to yap into my phone, which is that this particular section of the book features, in reasonably rapid succession, three opportunities for the Pequod to turn back, none of which are taken. There's the Bachelor's request for a hot-tub date, Starbuck debating whether to just murder Ahab already, and the reversed polarity of the compass after the typhoon. The latter seems especially noteworthy, considering that the heavens literally interceded and basically used lightning to say, "No, you should go this way," and Ahab was all, "Nuts to you, God!"

Linda: That is an excellent point. Not to mention the fact that Ahab has now fully embraced this sort of "Broken mast? Here, use this pencil!" approach to problem-solving on the ship.

Marc: Also: "No pad? Use this ivory leg!"

Linda: Well, he's becoming very improvisational. Which is not what you want a maniac to be doing.

Marc: Also something you don't want your maniac captain to be doing? Hoisting a harpoon OF FIRE (and forged in blood) in the middle of a typhoon that's currently destroying your ship. Apparently Melville didn't just invent the American novel, he invented heavy-metal album covers.

Linda: I was just going to say: you know at that moment, Ahab was really wishing that waterproof disposable cameras existed.

Marc: "You are NOT GOING TO BELIEVE what happened on our Japanese cruise, Maude."

Linda: "The one that got away was the length of a football field."

Marc: "I don't know why that nice Starbuck man didn't just shoot him. I don't think he would have minded, honestly."

Linda: Yeah, Melville can claim credit for a lot of things, but subtlety in presenting the blood-forged fire harpoon is probably not one of them.

Marc: I would like to hear your thoughts on subtly introducing the blood-forged fire harpoon.

Linda: Perhaps accompanied by a soothing Arcade Fire song.

Marc: I see. So you view this scene in slow-motion, written by Dave Eggers and starring John Krasinski as Starbuck.

Linda: Yes. When the book is remade as this particular movie I envision, it will be retitled A Few Assorted Thoughts About Whaling.

Marc: Boy, that'd be an understatement.


Marc: Whereas my mind just flipped back to Mistakes We Knew We Were Making.

Linda: That would also work. So what I sense here is that the guys on the ship have gone from willingly boarding the ship while admittedly making whoo-whoo twirly motions with their fingers next to their ears whenever Ahab walks by to legitimately fearing for their lives and feeling that, as they are trapped on a ship with him, their options are limited.

Marc: And yet, as the captain, he continues to garner respect. And by "respect," I mean "not being shot in the face with his own musket by his first mate, who decides that he's willing to die rather than return to his wife and son because, hey, that's the sailor's life for you."

Linda: Well, you do kind of wonder what it takes to get a mutiny up in here.

Marc: Well, the bar's clearly higher than "considers whales more valuable than crew member," "considers looking for a specific whale in a whale-stack more important than the general whale-hunting mission of the actual journey," "refuses general offer of cross-ship partying," "demands the actual blood of his men to make his cutlery" and (because it can't be said enough) "BRANDISHES A BLOOD-FORGED HARPOON OF FIRE IN HURRICANE CONDITIONS TO INTIMIDATE A CREW THAT PROBABLY JUST WANTS TO SURVIVE THE STORM AT THIS POINT." Combined.

Linda: And they're all sitting there like, "Okay, but if he does one more thing..."

Marc: "I'm going to blog so hard about this."

Linda: Well, and the somewhat serious part of this is that Ahab is traditionally the nutbar of the piece, but you have to ascribe some of the madness to the crew, which ignored more than a few signs that perhaps they and their many guns and large muscles should try to overpower the one-legged senior citizen to reduce their chances of being eaten/electrocuted/sacrificed for an arts and crafts project.

Marc: "He seems to know what he's doing."

Linda: "He is the captain. I don't want to be rude. Also, I really want him to give me a good reference."

Marc: So apparently Melville invented interns as well.

Linda: Yeah. Bad working conditions.

Marc: Lousy-to-nonexistent pay.

Linda: Little hope of advancement.

Marc: But three biology credits!

Linda: Also, you get to keep your scars, both physical and psychological.

Marc: And the stories! Like this one guy, who told this story in Lima...

Linda: Oh, man. Living to tell the tale isn't the half of it.

Marc: Well, there may be an extra peg-leg that's just lying around. Barely used!

Linda: Barely!

Marc: We promise it's not haunted or anything that would turn its owner cuckoo-nuts. That's our Pequod Liquidations guarantee!

Linda: Yeah. Who would even realize you needed to get an artificial leg certified as non-haunted prior to purchase?

Marc: It wouldn't occur to me to ask.

Linda: And you would end up with Ahab's haunted leg, and then you would be doomed to roam the sea forever, and so forth.

Marc: That thing's whale-bait.