Category Archives: forthcoming in the print Remaking Moby

the print version of Remaking Moby-Dick is almost to galley stage

Hello, readers and writers and lovers of Melville and Moby-Dick.

All of the print submissions for 2013 are in, the gates have closed, and we are reading and editing (and formatting) the book that you have made.

It is beautiful. The submitted work is gorgeous in its interpretive energy and range. We love it. Thank you.

If you are a contributor and remaker: we will send electronic galleys in late October for your happy eyes.

If you are a follower of the project and want to get your hands on a copy: we expect to release the book in very early December and will share information here and at Twitter.

 

In the meantime, whale on!

chapter 57. Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet-Iron; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars. remade as a poem. Linda Lee Harper.

A whale is a whale is a whale

is a metaphor is an obstacle
is blubber is ambergris is night oil
inspires scrimshaw makes sea song
wreaks havoc, wreaks mission,
defies oceans defies heavens
makes madness madness flensed
is a whale is a ship is obsession
is impossible is a whale makes
tsunamis white death breath
makes madness makes legend
is inspires makes wreaks defies
makes silence legend.

chapter 52. The Albatross. remade as short fiction. Emily Coon.

Bird and Whaler Street Race

By Emily Coon

“In tormented chase of that demon phantom that, some time or other, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed.”

– Herman Melville, Moby Dick

 

Edie felt like she was going to puke before the race even started. Standing at the side of the road, she cupped her hands under her cantaloupe belly and swayed, choking bile back down. Peg-legged and pregnant, there’s a laugh. She balanced on her homemade prosthetic.

Trash pockmarked the gulleys five miles up from the state highway on Skunk Hollow Road. It was senior year, the last dusk of Memorial Day weekend, first street race of summer. Bonfire smoke suffused the air. Lite beer and bottled strawberry daiquiri mix, stolen from parents, sweated in closed coolers in the backs of pickups.

Brandon turned the key, revved his engine. On his keychain, a foam cow defecated brown pellets as he squeezed it with sweaty palms. It made a constipated mooing sound. He looked across the starting line, where the pavement turned to dirt, at A.J, who leaned on his elbow out his driver’s side window to talk to his friends. Brandon’s chest tightened every time he slapped A.J. on the ass as they walked into the dugout: pitcher, catcher. Sometimes, at night in his room, he got a semi thinking about the pileups they had — all the guys on top of one another after a championship game. Grossed-out, he torrented girl gangbangs and watched them until he fell asleep.

“Hello dudes! This is the Whaler, going around the world! Tell them to address all future letters to the Atlantic Ocean, fool!” Brandon broadcast from a mike mounted to the top of his car. Usually he used it to catcall women, with his friends, in downtown Burlington on the weekends.

On one shoulder of the road, A.J.’s friends gave Brandon’s friends the side-eye. A.J.’s friends repped Sunnyside — his more-drunks-than-dads neighborhood down the back of the big hill past the elementary school. Brandon’s side returned the glares: Edie with her baby-belly pressed against her pink tank top, the fat pair of Fandon twins with the steel-toed boots they used to kick ankles in class. One twin yanked on the other’s long beard. Marcus adjusted his camo cap and hooted at A.J.

Brandon found the can of beer that was in the cupholder in the center console, fondled the rim, and took a swig. He revved his engine again. Where the hell was Michelle? Let’s go already! He looked out over the course: a straight slope downward into the valley, with a sharp turn near the finish line. The curve hugged a white boulder two guys’ tall, spraypainted with winking eyes and pursed lips, nicknamed the White Whale.

###

Skunk Hollow’s been a point of debate in Bethel for close to thirty years: to pave it or to leave it dirt. Old people needed something to argue about. Yesterday, machines had graded the road. Scattered gravel made for more exciting racing. A.J.’s car (Pequod, nicknamed Whaler due to A.J. being a fatty) was blue, with racing stripes down the side; on the left, Brandon’s car (Albatross, nicknamed Bird due to Brandon being a thin guy with high, hollow cheekbones). A.J.’s weird little sister, an assistant clerk at the town library, named the cars. Albatross was a white rustbucket traced with long reddened channels, handpainted to cover up the rust spots, with a thick spoiler made from the trunk of a maple. Brandon poured his summer little-league-umpire money into this car. After a night shift unpacking toys for a chain store, A.J. bought a donut and deposited his own earnings into a special bank account.

“Earth to Michelle, earth to Michelle, come in Michelle. Michelle, where are ya? Miiiiichelle, we need ya!” Brandon broadcast over his mike.

Edie gave Brandon a wan smile, but he was looking away. He had told her after he pulled out that he’d been wearing a condom, but it was broken. Are you going to be like my dad, she said, a deadbeat? Real shocker. Leave your kid here to grow up alone. I was just telling my friends they have to stop calling me a queer now, he’d said. Look at how I made you come. She hadn’t, just squirmed, uncomfortable.

Michelle waltzed out from the woods, flicking her roach into the drainage ditch. Her muddy rainboots left splattered leg under her denim cutoffs. She stood in the middle of the road and waited for the assembled kids to make some noise. After a few seconds, she pitched her arm high, then swept down the flag: part of a flannel shirt tied to a stick. With that, the race was on.

A.J. mashed his accelerator to the floor and pulled away, spattering gravel over Brandon’s pockmarked windshield. As A.J. peeled off, Brandon glanced at the portrait photo of his grandfather tucked in-between the inside part of the windshield and the dashboard. Grandpa liked a good race. Brandon’s muffler rattled, the exhaust spewing from the line.

Once the cars were off, their friends ran toward the finish. Edie tried to run, then stopped and walked.

As they flew down the slope, Brandon shifted into a higher gear, his foot on the clutch. A field strewn with Morgan horses stretched away on his righthand side. As he rode by, some of the horses lumbered along with the car. One chesnut horse tried to keep pace. Her sturdy chest muscles flexed in the sunlight, her hooves outstretched as she ran. She tossed her head and buckled down, sprinted alongside the electric fence.

As Brandon kept his hands steady on the wheel, his stomach twisted. What to do this summer, after he turned eighteen. His parents already sat him down in the living room, which reeked of secondhand cigarette smoke, to tell him that he was on his own after his birthday. Maybe he’d finally get out of here, back only on weekends maybe to check on Edie and the kid. Out there, at sea, and long absent from home. See ya, shitheads.

A.J. rammed the accelerator. He caught up to Brandon. Then, he rolled down his passenger side window.

“You think you’re better than me?” he said. “Better than me, huh? Well I’ll show you, you motherfucker! I’ll show you who’s boss now!”

Brandon rolled down his drivers’ side window, strained to hear. Ears perked for an insult that could spur excitement; a fight. Most of it lost over the engines.

Another few long seconds.

“Yeah well your mom’s so fat that when she gets into the pool everybody says ‘Ship ahoy, have you seen the white whale?’”

Brandon’s epithets also lost in the roar, pounding surf. They sped on.

Something fell off of the bottom of Brandon’s car. A large metal tube, connected to a smaller tube. The muffler and exhaust. Smaller pieces rolled off of it into the dirt. Didn’t he need that? As the dust cleared and the assembled friends could see up the road, dread sprouted in their bellies. The girls screaming for Brandon fell silent, then took up screaming again.

Edie watched as the horse running next to Brandon’s car turned and sprinted in the other direction. Some kind of omen. She paused, hugged her arms to her chest. The smallest things are meaningful, she thought.

A.J.’s car slowed as he hit the just-graded washboard potholes on his side of the road: thump thump thump thump. Made your teeth chatter. Just behind Brandon, catching up. Almost to the finish line. Now just gotta take this curve, a little slower, then speed up for the finish.

Just before the curve around the boulder, Brandon started veering back and forth. He’d pulled shit like this before: heading straight toward the White Whale, scaring everyone, then pulling out of the way at the last second. But this time was different. He kept his foot on the pedal and held his hands up in a V. Fists wound tight as clocksprings.

A.J. looked over. “Watch out, dude! Watch out, Brandon! Slow down!” He honked his horn, beep beep beep bebeep beeeeep.

Brandon flipped him off. The gravel caught under his tires, spinning, spinning.

Oh, shit.

Brake-screech and smash, Brandon’s car an accordion against the White Whale. Then the awful silence.

A.J. slammed on his brakes, then they locked and he went off the road and rolled twice, three times, barbed wire from the pasture caught in the axle of his car. Still conscious, he hung dazed, suspended upside-down in his seatbelt, staring at the backsides of the fleeing horses.

Edie turned and puked on Michelle. Her vomit pooled inside Michelle’s rainboots. Michelle took her boot off, tried to shake it out.

As Brandon faded from consciousness, he listened to the throaty noises of contented chickens, a neighbor’s thwack of axe on wood. He imagined the big, white whale, gliding through the depths of the dark ocean. His engine clicked as it cooled.

I’m out of here, he thought.

chapter 50. Ahab’s Boat and Crew. Fedallah. remade by Malaika Favorite.

THE TELL-TALE

Malaika Favorite

 

The tell-tale swung from the beam in the ceiling.

The tale we must tell swung in our hearts

as days marched past weeks to the Azores,

Cape de Verdes, Rio de la Plata, St Helena.

The tale we must tell swung from the beam

where the ocean met the land and swung back

to Cape de Verdes. The tale untold sold us

our silver, took in our gold and goaded us on

to the Azores, there she blows to Cape de Verdes.

Captain tell us your tale as the tell-tale announces

the desire of moon and the stunsail spread.

Take the helm, climb the main-mast head

where the tell-tale hangs as the moon in heaven.

And around our necks the shuddering wind,

a wind that speaks to men in one language

and to whales in another, we each in our own way answer.

The whales reply with a silvery jet of bubbles.

The men with a shivering cry of shifting sails

longitudes and latitudes, and the moon back-lit night.

The tell-tale shifting as the sea-ravens perched

on our stays, and clung to our hemp the new crew

come to replace us the almost living.

Cape of Good Hope grant us aspiration

that we may pretend ourselves fish and swim

with the sea to seek consultation on a blue-black horizon.

As our captain meditates on the tell-tale compass,

and we ruminate on the unseen spirit-spout

spouting out our dreams and delusions;

Somewhere beyond Cape de Verdes, Rio de la Plata

Carrol Ground, St Helena the blue-black night.

 

 

chapter 47. The Mat-Maker. remade by Jon Steinhagen.

CHAPTER 47: THE MAT-MAKER

By Jon Steinhagen

We do what we’ve been doing for a few hours when I say to him “It just occurred to me that this weaving, requiring two, is actually ‘we’ve-ing,’ because ‘we’ve’ been at it now for a few hours and probably could be at it for a few more hours. It also occurred to me that everything we do is a repeat action. Back and forth, countless times, to produce a finished product. Not, perhaps, countless time; if we start again or when we start a new one, I could keep count of the back and forths and then we’d know how many of them make up what we will have. We’re doing this, we’ve been doing this, back and forth, we’re used to it, the motions, you look out at something and I look out at something, both of us looks away from the work at hand for a

brief period, but not at the same time, and that looking away we’ve been doing is, I think, our way of following our thoughts, as if to suggest our thoughts aren’t always on the work at hand and the ones that aren’t manage, somehow, to flutter off into the wind, and we watch as they escape. And what are those fluttering thoughts? Anything and everything. It’s impossible for me to know what you are thinking at any given moment, especially since you never say much at all, and that’s possibly because I say a great deal about what I’m thinking, observing, feeling…why is that? That is a thought, too, a thought that will drift away, because there are a hundred answers for the question or possibly only one. Or none. There is no answer. Or there is no reason to answer it.”

On we go. I say “What we’ve been doing is, if you think of it one way – the way I’m about to tell you – killing time. Yes, I admit that what we’re working on will be useful, to some degree, when it’s finished, but it isn’t exactly a necessary thing. We could live without out it. I think that could be said about any repetitive task. Don’t you? We’ve been engaged in one thing, those over there are engaged in another, those we’ve never met are engaged in yet another – all around, repetitive tasks, each designed to create something from nothing, a bigger picture, if you will, made up of repeated actions. And I said we’ve been killing time, but in a way we’ve also been creating time, too, of our particular design, because the way you’re handling your part of the creation is a bit erratic – I’m not criticizing you – I’m sticking to a fairly traditional methodology in the sense that I’m also reacting to the way you’re handling things, and so while you and I know how this is supposed to come out, we’re going about it in different ways, repeating actions but slightly varying each action in response to each other, variations upon variations that have, however, a structure imposed upon them, because we didn’t embark upon this particular task with no design or purpose in mind; no, we knew what we wanted to end up with and we went about it in the way we knew how, and eventually we’ll be done.”

He continues, I continue. I say “What we’re doing is waiting for something else, another event, something bigger, something we’ve been anticipating or told to anticipate. That’s the ultimate goal of the work, I think – it’s a way to stay occupied until the bigger something happens. And it may not happen, true. But there’s a possibility it could, or so we’ve been told, and so why not believe it or, if belief is too strong for you, why not play along or have enough curiosity to see if it will happen? If it comes or not, at least we’ll have something to show for it. Again, this is time, and this is chance, and in a way it’s also choice, because we could choose to do what we do or we could choose to not do it. Not unlike the way I’m choosing to follow your erratic style of endeavor within the rigid framework of the product we’ve set out to create. And of the three, time, chance, and choice, I’d say time is the greatest, as it’s only a matter of time before someone else – someone not engaged in what we, specifically, are doing, but someone engaged in looking out for the bigger something – it’s only a matter of time before that someone else tells us what is next.”

We continue. Someone else tells us something bigger is upon us.
We stop what we’re doing.
I say “We’ve not finished what we’ve been doing, but that doesn’t matter now, does it?

We will either return to it later or not at all. What we’ve got now is a different set of tasks to attend to, tasks that are also repeated actions, actions that we don’t make as often as the ones on which we were so recently employed, but that’s because we’ve been working on the smaller picture, and the bigger thing requires broader gestures performed by more than two people, which means that you and I are now going to be part of a larger effort requiring everyone here or at least everyone who has knowledge of the things that go into achieving what it is we want to do, and we only want to do it because someone else has made us believe that it’s something we want, and what has made that someone else want the bigger thing? Where did the wanting begin?”

We see the something that is something bigger. We fall to action. We’ve been prepared.

chapter 42. The Whiteness of the Whale. remade as a poem. Michael Lythgoe.

Michael Lythgoe

 

On Melville’s White Chapter In Moby Dick

…Lima has taken the white veil; and there is a higher horror in this whiteness of her woe. –-Herman Melville

 

Every hunter tracks his obsession.

I once was a sailor who learned the sea

is rituals & knots. To survive was my compulsion–

to listen, to read the harpoonist’s skin, study

Queequeg’s tattoos like a nautical chart;

I was blind; Ahab’s goal was not oil.

Jonah prayed as prey–swallowed by the dark.

Our predator sought vengeance the color of wool:

A white battering ram; whale as holy

Sepulcher, sacred buffalo, albino

Flame, a ghostly hole, albatross–ivory,

Not ebony. Ahab’s dreams wore a marble

Pallor; like Lucifer he hunts his  prey.

Lucifer’s peg-leg broke in breakers today.

chapter 42. The Whiteness of the Whale. remade as a poem. Mary Bast.

Despair of Whiteness 

In marbles, japonicas, pearls,
royal preeminence in hue,
ascriptions of dominion,
even  joy – innocence of brides,
benignity of age, in higher mysteries
the white forked flame held holiest
on the altar, Jove himself a white
bull, associations sweet, sublime. 

Yet lurks the innermost idea, the thought
of whiteness striking panic, not
the fierce-fanged tiger in heraldic coat
so staggers courage as bear shrouded
in fleece of innocence, white shark’s gliding
ghostliness, The albatross, a regal,
feathery thing – inexpressible, strange eyes –
cries in supernatural distress. 

The quality in aspect of the dead
which most appals – lingering marble pallor,
the shroud –  we throw the same mantle
round our phantoms. This thing of whiteness
exerts sorcery: Whitsuntide marshals
processions of pilgrims, down-cast,
hooded with snow, a White Nun
evokes an eyeless statue in the soul. 

Tearless Lima, the saddest city, has taken
the white veil, spread over her broken ramparts
the rigid pallor that fixes its own distortions.
The mariner, called from hammock, sailing
through midnight sea, feels a superstitious
dread, shivering, half shipwrecked, views
what seems a boundless churchyard grinning
with its splintered crosses, lean ice monuments. 

Behold instinct of demonism in the world:
muffled rollings of milky sea, bleak
frosts of mountains, desolate prairies
all formed in fright. Incantation of whiteness
with strange, portentous power
stabs us with thought of annihilation.

White the absence of colour, a dumb
blankness full of meaning. All other earthly hues –
sweet tinges of sunset skies and woods – 
but subtle deceits laid on from without.
Nature paints like the harlot whose allurements
cover nothing but the charnel-house within. 

chapter 42. The Whiteness of the Whale. remade as a poem by Leslie Anne McIlroy.

The White Poem or What To Read at the Chapel

Leslie Anne McIlroy

Oh bride, oh bride, oh bride of the cloud’s veil, so many kinds of white you wear. I am painting the walls in the big white room where the rats live through the experiment, eggs neatly nested, and the men, too, wear white shoes. I am the whale, belly up, shining, buffing the tongue. Oh linen, oh vanilla, oh pearl, what color the lie, the sheets? The blood is always red, the bad girl in white patent leather and the good, magnolia/corn silk/seashell — ghost. The factory is white and all the little brides are crying, lamb lost in the salt mill, the tiny distances/betrayals/deceits, Lanikai sand, and in the end, the cake/flesh/garter, the spotlight following the groom’s feet as he moves, 1-2-3, the child’s breath as she sleeps, rice swollen in the dove’s belly, the pillow/promise/paper, the ring of bone, the teeth.

chapter 41. Moby-Dick. remade by David Rutschman.

Ishmael himself participates, which is generally admirable (tales of sacrifice, and take one for the . . . and there is no I in . . .) with some caveats, and yet Ishmael participates in a fixed and murderous delusion, which is generally deplorable (cultists with wild eyeballs, and terrorists and Deutschland, Deutschland über alles . . .) with some caveats, and this creates a certain tension, wouldn’t you say?

And this tension calls to a more basic tension–maybe the basic tension–in The American Way: require and fear the we-voice on the one hand, worship and avoid the I- voice on the other.

And the particular expression of this tension aboard the Pequod tightens and moves something in my body as we read, and opens and moves something in our bodies as I read.

“The whale! The white whale!”